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Every cruise line has its own special onboard atmosphere, but these six offer the BEST OF BRITISH.
The Liverpool 175 celebrations have confirmed Cunard’s binding ties with the port where it first launched its transatlantic liner service, even though its three Queens – Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth – are now based in Southampton. And despite Cunard being set up by a Canadian and now owned by the American Carnival Corporation, the cruise line is everything you would expect of a British institution. All three ships have an elegant Art Deco feel with lounge bars that would not be out of place in London’s Mayfair, but each also has the thoroughly British Golden Lion pub onboard, with pub grub, British beer and cider. Afternoon tea is served by white gloved waiters every day and you can play croquet, bowls or paddle tennis on the Queen Elizabeth, take you dog with you in the kennels on Queen Mary 2 while the less well-known Queen Victoria is actually the best-seller of the three. However, Cunard does have to cater for its American passengers, too, hence onboard prices are in American dollars and the lounge bars often have more of a New York feel than a British atmosphere.
Even older than Cunard Line, P&O Cruises celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2012 when all seven of its ships were in one port together – Southampton – for the first time. It started life as the Peninsular Steam Navigation Company in 1837 and carried mail from the UK to India, China, Japan and Australia, bringing tea back from China and eventually taking passengers to outposts of the British Empire. In 1840 the company name was changed to the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company and in the 1950s P&O ships took “£10 Poms” to Australia. P&O Cruises now has an Australia fleet, as well as British, and its connections with India has led to its tradition for Indian crew members and some of the best curries at sea. Its British fleet is based in Southampton, with themed cruises particularly popular. P&O’s Strictly Come Dancing cruises are a phenomenon, with cabins snapped up by dance fans, and its new ship Britannia has Food Hero cruises with cookery classes led by British TV chefs such as Saturday Kitchen’s James Martin and queen of cakes Mary Berry.
Thomson Cruises (Rebranded as Marella Cruises)
Ironically now owned by the German holiday firm Tui, Thomson Cruises offers probably the most British cruise experience of all. With its mid-size ships and fly-cruise itineraries that concentrate on sunny destinations, there is something of the British package holiday atmosphere onboard. Thomson Discovery will join the fleet in 2016 offering more restaurants and facilities than the others, but all are totally family-friendly (except on adult-only itineraries) and have UK entertainment acts, British-themed bars and menus featuring classic British fare.
Fred Olsen Cruise Line:
Although Norwegian-owned, Fred Olsen cruises are based in Britain and passengers are almost 100 per cent British. With three small to medium-sized ships, one of the cruise line’s most popular features is its departures from Liverpool, Newcastle, Falmouth, Harwich, Greenock, Rosyth, Belfast, Tilbury and Bristol as well as Southampton and Dover. Menus always have a classic British favourite, as well as more fancy food, and the bar prices are largely regarded as the best value at sea. Fred Olsen offers very traditional British cruises, with afternoon tea, onboard lectures and formal dining nights. But those who don’t like to dress up will be glad to know that smart-casual dining is always available in the self-serve buffet – as it is on all cruise lines that have formal nights. Although Fred Olsen offers many destinations including world cruises its core itineraries are the Norwegian fjords and Canary Islands.
Saga Sapphire serves gourmet fish and chips and has a stall where you can get your favourite British sweets in its Beach Club, beside the outdoor pool. The British seaside theme was introduced when the ship was bought by Saga Cruises and totally refurbished in 2012. There are British comedy acts in Cooper’s bar, a really sumptuous afternoon tea in the Britannia Lounge (and Saga Pearl II’s afternoon tea is equally impressive), and references to the British love for exploration in the Pole to Pole restaurant, with décor that takes inspiration from all seven continents. The Saga brand is famously British and just as famously for over-50s only, so if you like cruises without children, teenagers or canoodling couples this could be the one. British passengers are in the majority, and Saga’s policy of not charging compulsory gratuities, providing door-to-door transport and offering travel insurance are all popular with Brits.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages:
A relative newcomer to the industry, CMV nevertheless offers very traditional British cruises on classic ships at very reasonable prices. The company mainly sails from London Tilbury rather than the South coast, but it also has itineraries from Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leith, Rosyth, Hull and Dundee. The small to mid-sized ships Magellan, Marco Polo and Azores use sterling as the onboard currency, and all entertainment, food and drink has a British flavour. Like Saga and Fred Olsen it offers traditional British cruising with the emphasis on relaxation interspersed with visiting interesting destinations.
we are pleased to be agents for all of these Splendid Ocean cruise lines: