The growing popularity of regional ports such as Liverpool -– which has just been granted turnaround status and welcomed its first cruise ship departure on Thursday –- Portsmouth and tiny Kirkwall have helped to fuel a nearly-20 percent increase in ex-U.K. cruising this year.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages, for example, made history on Thursday as the first cruise ship in 40 years to use Liverpool to embark passengers. Unfortunately, however, it soon ran into difficulties when an engine lost power in the Irish Sea, according to the Daily Mirror's cruise blogger Capt. Greybeard.
The ship was forced to make an unscheduled stop in Anglesey where engineers restored power, and it has now resumed its eight-night Jubilee Voyage to Scotland.
Seabourn Sojourn made its inaugural call to the Port of Tyne last week. Passengers were taken to see Hadrian's Wall, and Alnwick Castle and Garden (aka Hogwarts, for Harry Potter fans).
The call was a first not only for Sojourn, but for Seabourn as a line. Other firsts this season have been the inaugural calls to Dover two weeks ago of both Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas and Azamara Club Cruises' Azamara Journey.
“The main departure ports continue to be Southampton and Dover,” said Kate O'Hara, chair of CruiseBritain, which champions ex-UK cruising.
“But it is good to see the growth of the profile of ports such as Harwich, Tyne and Portsmouth. Passengers have more choice than ever before and this reflects the diversity of British attractions and the options that the country offers to cruise lines.”
The number of ex-UK cruises represents an increase of 17 percent over 2011, while there are more than 100 actual round-Britain cruises scheduled for 2012, an increase of a third over last year.
The growth can be put down to a number of factors. More and bigger ships sailing from the U.K. to the Mediterranean, the Baltic and beyond; a desire on the part of British cruisers to avoid the misery and cost of flying; and a genuine effort by a range of cruise lines, including Silversea, Noble Caledonia, Seabourn and Crystal Cruises, to bring more passengers to explore ports around Britain and Ireland on voyages that circumnavigate both countries.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor