For Brits: Cruising Without Flying

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You do not need to fly to cruise.

A few decades ago, most non-fly UK cruises departed from Southampton, Dover and occasionally Harwich – period.

If you lived in the North of England, it was quite a trek down South, to embark on your cruise. You may well have required an overnight stay in a hotel, pre and post cruise.

Southampton is still the biggest UK cruise port today. However there are now many other choices. Southampton still attracts the big cruise lines and the big-new ships, but the smaller players, likes of ‘Fred. Olsen’ and ‘Cruise and Maritime Voyages’ (CMV), offer many regional ports of embarkation.

CMV in particular, have a very impressive range of regional U.K. departures, offered by their five ships. These are: Tilbury, Bristol, Cardiff, Hull, Harwich, Newcastle, Dundee, Liverpool, Cobh, Dublin and Poole, Portsmouth.

Let The Train Take the Strain

The U.K. is not very far from mainland Europe, in fact there are just 24 miles between Dover (U.k.) and Calais (France), the nearest points.

Cruises depart from many European ports, such as Barcelona (Spain) Civitavecchia and Venice (Italy), to name just a few. The advantage of cruising from Europe is that it does not take you three days to cruise to the sunshine of the Mediterranean, you are already there.

Europe’s train network is very extensive and efficient. For example you can travel to France, Germany, Spain and Italy with ease.

If you can travel to London easily, the Eurostar train service allows you to travel under the Channel, via the Channel tunnel, to Paris or Brussels in just over two hours. From these two hubs you can catch trains to travel anywhere in mainland Europe.

Eurostar are also offering some direct services to the South of France and will be offing more direct destinations in the future, including Amsterdam,  Rotterdam and Germany.

It is also possible to take your car on ‘Le Shuttle’, through the Channel Tunnel. This operates from Folkstone (U.K.) to Calais (France) and only takes 35 minutes.

There is an EXCELLENT web site by Mark Smith, ‘The Man in Seat 61’, which provided information about travelling from the UK to most destinations in Europe.

In the words of Mark “Train travel is a more rewarding, low-stress alternative to flying, which brings us closer to the countries we visit and reduces our contribution to climate change. It’s time to rediscover the pleasure, romance & adventure of travel by train or ship. This site explains how to travel comfortably & affordably by train or ferry where you might think air was now the only option. For help with train travel, ask the Man in Seat 61!”

The Ferry Option

The U.K. has a number of ferries which cross to Europe. Dover to Calais is the most popular Ferry route for passengers and vehicles, with the crossing only taking an hour or so.

Some Ferry services are located further North such as Newcastle. These may prove a more convenient method of getting to Europe and picking up a train, than travelling to London and travelling by Eurostar.

The Train and Ferry combination is not the quickest way to travel and sometime not the cheapest, but it is much more fun than Airports and Planes.

National Express

U.K train inter-city fares can sometimes be eye-wateringly expensive.

As an alternative, I would recommend ‘National Express’ coaches. Their network offers very regular and reliable services, to most of the U.K.s major cities. Their fares are often half that of the train. On occasions they offer special deals for just a few quid.

The one disadvantage is that the coach journey times are longer than the direct train services. However if you are on a budget, their fares are well worth a look.