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Best Cruise Ports in the UK for Your Next Break

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Come discover the best cruise ports in the UK! Start planning your trip and see what destinations you can visit from these UK ports.

cruise ports in the uk

When it comes to booking a holiday, I always think it’s very easy to get ahead of yourself. I know I’ve started planning trips to places like Australia and Thailand before the practicalities start to kick in. Flight prices (very expensive), flight times (very long) and time off work (very short) sometimes makes long-haul holidays just impossible.

As something a little different which I bet you hadn’t considered before – what about a cruise from the UK? Then you can have some of the creature comforts of long-haul travel on a short-haul trip.

You can visit places like France, Portugal and Spain very easily. And if you want to experience a cruise without actually going anywhere, you can do that sailing around the UK too.

That’s what I did on my Royal Caribbean cruise and it was actually really good fun!

uk cruise ports
You can still experience all a cruise ship has to offer without long-haul travel

The best thing is the holiday starts the moment you get on board. You don’t have to go to fly to the Mediterranean or the Caribbean to go on a cruise!

With that in mind, here are some of the best cruise ports in the UK for your next break. Ports like Southampton and Liverpool are so easy to get to, and I bet you’ll be surprised with where you can go from here! Right, let’s dive in and start planning your next cruise adventure.

Why go on a cruise from the UK?

cruising in the uk
Surprisingly this is actually sailing around the UK, not the Caribbean!

So why would you want to go on a cruise from the UK? It’s a good question! Here’s the sales pitch. The major advantage of no-fly cruises from the UK means you’ll avoid busy airports and all the queuing. This is ideal for families or those with mobility issues. There are no complicated travel connections, baggage limits or checks; it’s all very easy breezy.

Another major bonus is you can usually park very close to the ship you’re boarding as opposed to really expensive airport carparks. Honestly, it can save you a fair bit before your holiday has even begun!

Finally, those of you looking to get away for a short time can enjoy a mini cruise. This is usually between one to three nights where you can soak up the luxury amenities onboard before returning to port again.

Cruise Ports in the UK


southampton port
This is the view of Southampton from a cruise ship

Did you know Southampton is the port that the ill-fated Titanic set sail from in 1912? I used to think it was Liverpool where they helped build the ship until it came up in a pub quiz. That one really caught me out!

Anyway, Southampton is the biggest and busiest cruise port in the UK. In fact, it’s one of the largest ports in Europe with five terminals and over 2.5 million travellers annually.

The port here is known as a turnaround port – this is where cruises either start or end their journeys. Because of that, there are so many different destinations on offer, the most popular being the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands and even the Caribbean.

As you’d expect from the UK’s biggest port, all major cruises lines depart from here. This is where I got my Royal Caribbean cruise for a two-day trip sailing around the English Channel.

Among the most exciting cruises from Southampton in 2024 is Cunard’s Queen Anne, launching in May 2024. The 3,000-passenger ship’s inaugural sailing will depart Southampton on May 10 for the Canary Islands. You can see all the cruises from Southampton here.


dover port
These are the gorgeous views of the White Cliffs of Dover

On the other side of London and also on the south coast of England is Dover. Known for its iconic white cliffs, it is so quick and easy getting to France from here. That’s why over 200,000 passengers use this port each year.

A ferry ride from Dover to Calais is just 1 hour and 30 minutes. This makes it such a popular destination for those looking to explore Europe with their own car. It also means you can hop over to France for a weekend break or an old school booze cruise – I know I’ve done my fair share of both over the years!

Another reason why Dover is one of the most popular cruise ports in the UK is it being the gateway to the Garden of England. Nearby you can climb to the top of Dover Castle for some incredible views along the coast. Or a little further afield, you can visit the picturesque towns of Canterbury and Rochester, so there’s plenty to do nearby too!


liverpool port
This is the iconic dock at Liverpool

Liverpool has one of the most historic ports in the world with the Old Dock being built in 1715. This was actually the world’s first enclosed commercial dock and it completely changed the city forever making shipping such an important industry moving forward.

Today, cruises leave from the Liverpool Cruise Port, and from here you can set sail to the Norwegian Fjords, the Baltics and to destinations around the UK.

Overall, these three destinations offer a range of experiences for those looking to embark on a UK cruise. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply relaxing on board, there is something for everyone.

In the city itself, I’d really recommend visiting the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Situated within the historic Albert Dock complex, this captivating museum offers visitors a fascinating journey through centuries of maritime history, exploration, and innovation.

One of the highlights of the Merseyside Maritime Museum is its exploration of the Titanic disaster. Visitors can delve into the fateful voyage of the Titanic through personal accounts, archival footage, and authentic artifacts salvaged from the ocean floor, gaining insight into the lives of passengers and crew aboard the ill-fated ship.


port of leith
The Port of Leith is just outside Edinburgh

Edinburgh is by far one of my all-time favourite cities in the UK. It just has everything going for it – beautiful architecture, an amazing food scene, a banging nightlife. It also has a pretty cool port just up the road in Leith too.

Leith Docks offer modern facilities for cargo ships, ferries and cruise liners, making it a versatile and bustling port. While smaller vessels and ferries primarily operate from Leith, larger cruise ships also dock here, allowing passengers to easily access Scotland’s vibrant capital city of Edinburgh.

From Leith, visitors can explore Edinburgh’s historic landmarks, cultural attractions, and scenic beauty with ease. Whether strolling along the iconic Royal Mile, marvelling at the grandeur of Edinburgh Castle, or immersing oneself in the city’s rich history and vibrant arts scene, Leith serves as a convenient and welcoming gateway to all that Edinburgh has to offer.

Saying that, I think it’s well worth checking out Leith too! It’s very up-and-coming, so there are some incredible restaurants like The Kitchin perfect for tourists.


portland lighthose
This is the lighthouse at Portland

It was when we were staying at Athelhampton House & Gardens that I stumbled upon Portland as a popular port for cruise ship passengers. There I was, sitting outside having a scone, when this classic country house was all of a sudden overrun with American tourists.

Apparently they had the choice of visiting Stonehenge (a two hour drive away) or Athelhampton House (a 40 min drive away). I actually found it fascinating seeing cruise tourists like this, and it showed first-hand how important they are for local businesses.

Anyway, Portland has recently undergone a £26 million renovation project making it easier and more accessible for cruise ships to dock, so this is a place that’s growing in popularity. 


harwich port
Harwich is an alternative UK cruise port destination!

I grew up in Colchester, so Harwich was just done the road for me. I remember how handy it was when a friend from Australia came to visit me, and her first port of call was Harwich. Not the most glamourous place to arrive into the UK but it’s a very underrated port!

Situated near the mouth of the River Orwell and the North Sea, Harwich offers convenient access to major shipping routes. If you’re looking at visiting the Netherlands or Scandinavia by ferry or cruise shop, then this is the port for you.

I’ve been on the ferry over to the Netherlands a couple of times now and it’s such a great way to travel. I know Harwich isn’t at the top of people’s list but it’s definitely different!

So there you have it, a little glimpse at the best cruise ports in the UK for your next trip. Hopefully this article shows why you don’t need to travel to the Caribbean to go cruising. And honestly, a cheeky little weekend cruise around the UK is damn fun. Sometimes it’s nice just letting your hair down and enjoying the cruise life for a few days.

Are you planning on cruising from the UK? You can let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

About the Author

  • Macca Sherifi

    Macca Sherifi is the founder of the multiple award-winning blogs An Adventurous World and the Great British Bucket List. Every month he inspires over 200,000 avid readers to travel the world.

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