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7 JUNE 2021
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With the limited lifting of restrictions it is possible to plan ahead for summer holidays, but it comes with a warning.
Only book with travel agents (ABTA members) that you know, or direct with the provider, and by credit card. And check what the cancellation clauses are. BTN has a link to the Government overseas travel website www.btnews.co.uk or you can go direct www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. BTN also this week reports on passport problems. That also needs looking into!
The good news is that ‘seacations’ have started, mini-cruises, firstly Italian MSC with the family orientated Virtuosa out of Southampton, followed by Viking, perhaps still best known for its river ships, adults only over 18, from Portsmouth.
Up to 14 different cruise lines are now offering trips in UK waters up to the end of September. These range from three nights to seven and where there is a port visit, guests need to stay in their ‘bubble’ when on firm land. The rules will be rigidly applied although BTN has not heard of any miscreants at the time of writing. For non-cruisers this plethora of trips is a wonderful (and cheap) way of trying out a seaborne holiday for the first time.
The law for ships can change with the next target date 21 June, although an announcement is likely earlier. As things stand, ships are limited to 1,000 passengers maximum or half their normal capacity. The suggestion is you book early as the limited space is selling fast.
One thing for sure – the dates and itineraries keep changing. The following is correct as of today’s date and are the first cruises for each line.
MSC and Viking are already at sea with a regular programme.
11 June: Long-established small ship operator Noble Caledonia opens up its season from Oban, with Hebridean Sky on its way to Inverness, 9-night trip via Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Islands. The purpose-built ‘Sky’ has a maximum of 112 passengers and is best described as “intimate” with on board specialist lecturers for what will be a memorable trip.
26 June: Saga Spirit of Discovery, from Tilbury, for 15 nights completely around the UK as far as St Kilda and taking in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Belfast. Marking the maiden voyage of the brand-new SAGA of Adventure takes place 26 July. Who names the ship remains to be seen.
27 June: P&O with Britannia departing Southampton the first of 3- and 4-night cruises through to September. The brand-new Iona leaves the port on 7 August bound for the Scottish islands after which she is named with the promise of a special party into the sunset. Hermolis is the kosher supplier for P&O (also sister companies Cunard and Princess), offering generous portions but you do need to book ahead. As with all cruise operators there is always a generous vegetarian selection.
1 July: Tradewind's Golden Horizon, Britain’s newest and most environmentally friendly cruise ship, will literally ‘sail’ from Harwich bound for Leith (Edinburgh). Built in 2019 as 'Flying Clipper' she is a sailing mega-yacht (five-masted schooner/square-rigger) and ranked the world's largest ever sailing clipper. She is 522ft long compared with Cutty Sark’s 212ft.
3 July: Celebrity’s remodelled Silhouette will embark on a series of six- to eight-night itineraries around Britain’s coastline from Southampton. Guests will have the chance to explore the Jurassic Coastline from Portland, and learn about the Highlands and Lowlands. Inverness, Kirwall, Glasgow and Belfast plus the spiritual home of the Atlantic liners Liverpool.
5 July: Fred Olsen Borealis takes a 3-night maiden voyage from Liverpool. Borealis, the former Holland America Rotterdam is a quantum leap forward for the Ipswich-based cruise line that is taking a cautious programme of ship reintroductions, the popular Balmoral starting from Newcastle with a 10-day cruise. Bolette, also a maiden voyage out of Dover 16 August.
7 July: Royal Caribbean International will bring Anthem of the Seas to Southampton offering UK families a choice of 4-night Ocean Getaways in early July and 5- to 8-night British Isles cruises, starting 15 July featuring visits to Liverpool, Kirkwall and Belfast.
10 July: Marella Cruises (TUI) introduces a whole series of cruises from Newcastle.
15 July: Disney Magic from Liverpool on a 3-night ‘taster’ trip, a great opportunity to find out what Disney Cruise Line is all about. Later she also offers similar trips from Southampton, Newcastle and Tilbury.
19 July: Cunard and Queen Elizabeth departs Southampton on a literary cruise with 24/7 entertainment and food, plus plenty of deck space to sit outside. Top-rated authors are promised, and you can meet them around the ship. Queen Mary 2 leaves for New York on 14 November, her first transatlantic crossing since 2019. Queen Victoria returns into service in November.
26 July: Silversea Silver Whisper (388 guests) will embark passengers at Edinburgh (Leith) on an 11-night cruise to Tromso. The trip takes in the wonderful Norwegian fiords including Flam and goes to the North Cape and Honningsvag as far north as you can go.
31 July: Regal Princess leaves Southampton for a 3-night cruise. This is an American style cruise line, but without Americans for the most part not flying over at this time. Regal Princess and Sky Princess will offer scenic cruises and voyages with stops in UK ports-of-call including Liverpool, Belfast and Greenock, with itineraries ranging from three to seven nights.
2 August: SAGA Spirit of Discovery returns into service from Tilbury with a 13-night trip circumnavigating the British Isles, visiting Newcastle, Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin. Named by the Duchess of Cornwall in July 2019 the ship was a subject of a BTN review 3 August 2020
6 August: Virgin Voyages maiden voyage of Scarlet Lady, the ship based at Portsmouth and offering 3- and 4-night trips. Unveiled to the travel trade (and media) at Dover 21 February 2020 she left the following morning for Liverpool and thence on to New York, the crossing and high-profile arrival aborted mid-ocean due to the pandemic. BTN review 2 March 2020.
15 August: Hurtigruten MS Maud embarks on a 13-day tour of Britain from and to Dover. Upgraded for 2021 this 16,000ton expedition-style ship carries 530 passengers.
11 September: Regent Seven Seas Splendor scheduled for an 11-night voyage, round-trip from Southampton (England), visiting Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Norwegian Cruise Lines: Always a popular summer user of Southampton NCL is for this year concentrating on 'Fly-Cruise' holidays in the Eastern Mediterranean based in Athens.
Oceania is another well liked 5-star operator with a fleet of six ships. Four ships return to sail beginning with Marina on 29 August out of Copenhagen. Riviera will resume her previously published voyage schedule beginning 18 October 2021, from Istanbul. Insignia is to resume sailing on 21 December from Miami prior to embarking on her full 180-day Around the World cruise from Los Angeles to New York. Sirena is starting her schedule sailings on 22 January 2022, from Miami to Panama City, Panama.
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