The pros and cons of exploring the British Isles on a cruise

The British Isles are not the first place you think of when planning a cruise, but while there are many reasons why this is the case, there are also many reasons why a cruise around the British Isles is a great idea. The UK and its islands have some of the most diverse landscapes and varied coastlines you will ever see, and what better way to experience it than from the sea and the waterways? If you’re new to the UK, this is a great way to get a taste of the scenery. If you already live here, it’s the perfect way to see your own country from an entirely new perspective. As with everything, there is good and bad to be said about this. Here is my take on the pros and cons of cruising around the British Isles.

Ynys Llanddwyn Island on the coast of Anglesey in North Wales (Photo credit: Helen Hotson /

Pro: see the British coast from a new perspective

With its stunning headlands, bays, peninsulas and islands, the UK offers a world of varied sights and experiences to enjoy. You won’t find a better way to enjoy this stunning scenery more than from the water, and even if you know the UK well, you’ll never see it like this. On a cruise you will experience the UK and its islands from the outside, rather than the inside, and the perspective this gives you of a country is unique. Rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, harbors and ports will all give you a view of island life you’ve never seen before. This makes cruising in the UK a totally different kind of trip and a whole new experience.

Gold Hill Shaftesbury, Dorset in the snow.
England in the snow (Photo credit: Nic Dixon /

Disadvantage: British weather is unpredictable

There’s no doubt that UK weather can be a problem. Everyone knows that the British talk a lot about the weather, but that’s because it changes so much. The changing nature of it makes it hard to know what to pack and you may end up packing something for every season. It’s certainly not easy and you could end up with bloated luggage. Luckily, there are no baggage restrictions on a cruise, so you can pack as much clothing as you need to cover all eventualities. There are also plenty of indoor activities to do on a cruise ship if the weather isn’t great while traveling between destinations; a spa treatment, take a Zumba class, have a wine tasting or go to the casino. You might catch some rain on the deck, but you can still have fun below.

Gray seal pup with adult seals behind at Horsey Gap Norfolk.
seals on the beach at Horsey Gap in England (Photo credit: Martin Charles Hatch /

Pro: Spot coastal wildlife

The coastal seas of the UK attract wonderful marine life. You can spot minke whales off the west coast of Scotland and over the Irish Sea, as well as bottlenose dolphins near Land’s End in Cornwall. Or you can spot harbor porpoises near the North Wales coast. Gray seals are also common around UK waters. On the Cornish coast, you might even be lucky enough to spot a basking shark. The UK also has a rich population of seabirds, allowing you to see birds you wouldn’t normally get to see. Cruise ships put you right in the middle of the action and give you a much better chance of spotting something unusual. Princess Cruises‘ balcony rooms give you the perfect spot to keep watch.

Pros: UK cruises are often specialist and themed

You will find that cruise ships traveling to the British Isles offer something a little different. For example, Ambassador Cruises is hosting a special Jubilee cruise this year in honor of the Queen’s Jubilee. It gives you the chance to experience something that you will never have the opportunity to experience again, which makes it completely unique. Guests can be part of a specially designed itinerary to celebrate the Queen’s 70th anniversary on the throne. Those aboard the ship, Atmospherewill not only enjoy a range of destinations, but will also be joined by royal historians Dicky Arbiter and Penny Junor, who will mingle and share stories about the Queen with first-hand accounts of who she is.

Disadvantage: specialized cruises are often not repeated

As the Queen is only celebrating her Platinum Jubilee once, it will be the only time to join this cruise. You only have one chance to appreciate the history of her reign and the country of which she is queen, in this unusual way. This particular cruise sets sail in May this year. And it won’t happen again. It’s great if you manage to book a spot – you’ll experience something totally unique – but if you don’t, you’ve missed it forever. There’s something to be said for cruise ships that deliver a seamless experience, you always know what you’re getting, so you know what to expect and you won’t miss a thing. On the other hand, one-off trips that cannot be replicated have their own charm and give you something you won’t forget.

Birmingham Canals, Wolverhampton, England.
Birmingham Canals, Wolverhampton, England (Photo credit: Kris Kuzniar /

Pros: The waterways are quiet

Navigating the UK coast is better off being stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. If you explore the UK by road you will soon discover how busy it is, how frustrating it can be to be stuck in traffic jams and how inconvenient it can be to have to find transport services. highway. Even trains can be busy, delayed and sometimes not run at all. On a cruise ship, you will have none of these concerns. From the moment you board, everything is at your disposal and you don’t have to worry about where to eat, where the facilities are and whether your transport is on time. Your ship is your transportation, hotel, restaurants and entertainment all rolled into one. And you can do it all with peace of mind. Especially in the UK, you will find cruising to be quiet and less crowded than any other means of transport.

Dunvegan Castle medieval fortress (Isle of Skye, Scotland).
Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye (Photo credit: Henner Damke /

Pros: UK cruises can go where ocean liners can’t

Specialty and local cruises, such as those organized by Hebridean Adventures, take place on a small converted fishing boat. Sailing on a boat like the MV Monadhliath means you can visit secluded and quiet sea lochs that are miles from any road, and also where larger ships cannot enter. Because UK cruises do not cross large parts of the ocean, you can see the hidden parts of the coast and you can cruise the waterways and lakes. I recommend you pick up a copy of Amelia Dalton’s book, Mistress and Commander, her story of how she converted an arctic fishing boat and organized cruises around remote Scottish islands. If you want an adventure, a cruise in the Hebrides is the perfect way to discover the seas and the islands.

Con: You won’t get sandy beaches and sunbathing

If you love cruising, but usually take Caribbean or Mediterranean cruises, this one will be a little different. If you like sunbathing on deck and dipping in the pool while the sun is beating down on you, be prepared, you won’t get that on a UK cruise. Well you could, as the weather is unpredictable, but by no means guaranteed. However, if you think you will completely miss sandy beaches, you are wrong. Some routes visit Scotland’s most pristine and largely empty sandy beaches, with sand dunes and turquoise water. And Channel Islands like Guernsey certainly offer great beaches and, quite often, sunny weather.

The Windsor Royal river cruise ship sailing along the River Thames past Barry Avenue.
Royal River Cruise in Windsor (Photo credit: Roger Utting /

Pros: It’s a more intimate experience

Cruise ships traveling around the British Isles and river cruise ships in particular are smaller than regular cruise ships so cruising feels more intimate. English holiday cruises take passengers along some of Britain’s most beautiful waterways where life moves at a slower pace. Although they have the largest hotel boat in the UK, The Edward Elgar, even this one is small and cozy. It only has 11 cabins, so you can really get to know the other passengers on board if you want. It’s a bit like a floating boutique hotel, with a generous dining room and a small, compact bar. If you like the idea of ​​cruising, but also want your getaways to be leisurely, this could be the perfect choice.

Con: It’s not a trip abroad

It really depends on what you are looking for from your cruise and your trip, but it must be said that cruising in the British Isles is not exactly exotic. As mentioned before, sun and cocktails on the beach can be in short supply and if you want an “abroad” vacation, this might not be what you are looking for. However, a British Isles cruise will introduce you to places in the UK and its islands that you wouldn’t normally see. If you’re traveling to the UK from another country for a holiday and you cruise while you’re here, you’ll be able to see a lot more countries than you would when staying in one place.

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