Us Brits often prefer the familiar to the foreign -- especially when venturing overseas. So it's good to know there is a mini armada of Brit-friendly ships in all shapes and sizes that can take us to all corners of the globe.
While many passengers love ballroom dancing and afternoon bingo sessions, there is a raft of other activities to fill each day. Many ships offer archaeological tours accompanied by renowned experts, or lectures from celebrated authors and political heavyweights; while others offer self-improvement courses and well-stocked libraries.
One thing's for sure, the quintessential delights of a British cruise cannot be underestimated and they appeal to guests of all ages. There are boundless opportunities for anyone who wants to explore the world on a ship where the Union Jack is not just on T-shirts.
Here is our selection of the top 10 quintessentially British cruises.
Perhaps the most quintessentially British of all lines, Cunard encapsulates the feeling of the Golden Age of cruising. And a transatlantic voyage across the North Atlantic onboard Queen Mary 2 -- the world's only ocean liner -- is a rite of passage for many cruise lovers.
Some travellers are quite content with an inside cabin that more often than not comes with a deep discount, while others are prepared to splash out more than 20 times as much for a split-level penthouse complete with butler service.
This 2,691-passenger ship is packed to the gunwales with myriad diversions to fill each day: from "Literature Festival at Sea" special event cruises, to star-gazing in the onboard planetarium; from ballroom dancing in the impressive Queens Room, to revitalising treatments in the Canyon Ranch Spa. There's also the largest Library at sea and adjoining bookshop covering all manner of topics -- and when an acclaimed author is onboard this is the place to pick up a signed copy of their books.
But its perhaps the soaring Britannia Restaurant -- possibly the most stunning dining room at sea -- that really takes you back to a bygone age of cruising. The formal dress code adds to the atmosphere.
The two other ships that make up the venerable Cunard fleet are the 2,092-passenger Queen Elizabeth and the 2,081-passenger Queen Victoria. In typically understated British style, these ships don't do glitz: Dignified calm, as opposed to rock climbing walls or zip-wires, is the refined ambiance. Luxurious furnishings and eye-catching features lend an air of extravagance to the onboard atmosphere with muted colours and lots of dark wood. The design is in keeping with the ambiance of Cunard’s ocean liners of times past, while the interior design offers the contemporary elegance of a modern luxury hotel.
2. P&O Cruises
P&O Cruises forged the sea routes of Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries, now they are renowned for offering a quintessentially British cruise experience across the globe.
There's a particularly strong emphasis on food and drink, and in particular British dishes and tipples -- fish 'n' chips at the Beach House; curry nights at the main buffet, Marmite and English bacon for breakfast. To this end, the line has enlisted the help of "Food Hero" Marco Pierre White to oversee the Gala Night menu and take the helm at Britannia's Cookery Club, the first at sea; and wine guru Olly Smith, who chooses the wines at the Glass House. Elsewhere onboard, you'll 52 varieties of British beers to choose from at Brodie's Pub (which also hosts quiz nights), and a vast variety of gins in the Crow's Nest.
This Britishness extends to the entertainment onboard too: Fans of the nation’s favourite dancing competition, for example, can don their dancing shoes and sequins as they samba across the floor on one of P&O Cruises 2019 Strictly Come Dancing cruises featuring some of the show’s professional dancers and judge Craig Revel Horwood. And in Britannia's Limelight club, you can enjoy an intimate evening with famous British dancers, comedians or entertainers while you have dinner.
A new flagship -- Iona -- due to be launched in 2020, will be the largest ship built to serve the UK market. This 5,200-passenger titan has been designed to maximise ocean views -- from three-storey high glass walls in the Grand Atrium, to the SkyDome. This feature will a world first at sea offering a unique space for relaxing in all weathers as well as providing entertainment, featuring aerial performers and a wealth of live acts. 95 Conservatory Mini-Suites will deliver a new experience for guests, offering unparalleled views and a relaxing natural environment.
3. Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines
Founded 170 years ago, this Norwegian-owned cruise line is about as quintessentially British as it gets. Fred Olsen Cruise Lines's four ships -- the 1,360-passeenger Balmoral, the 929-passenger Braemar, the 856-passenger Boudicca and the 804-passenger Black Watch -- are unashamedly British. Onboard entertainment takes its cue from the West End rather than Broadway; the currency is the pound as opposed to the dollar, announcements are made only in English and the passenger mix is pretty well entirely British.
For many years Fred. Olsen has rocked to the gentle rhythms of the status quo but times are a changing. Chefs now ensure that their menus are lighter but still at the sharp end of conscientious cuisine. The company has recently invested in “rejuvenating” its culinary offerings and menu choices now give a broader range of more contemporary dishes -- without taking away from more familiar options.
Rarely does the same routing appear twice in the carefully-planned itineraries. Overnight stays are a signature of several cruises, affording more in-depth shore excursions than is the norm, which is a welcome addition to the summer sailings bound for the Norwegian fjords. There are now two RIBs on each ship for experiential-style land tours. But perhaps more than anything else, it’s the "home away from home" camaraderie of agreeable companions that makes these ships perennially popular.
4. Saga Cruises
Offering an array of diverse sailings, Saga Cruises rarely conforms to the norm. Each voyage appeals to those for whom the sight of the sea offers a sense of optimistic adventure and boundless possibilities – all packaged neatly in an informal ambiance. Their winter sun sailings to the Canary Islands encapsulate the zeitgeist of this niche operator for the over-50s.
The British navigation officers are adept at making passengers feel welcome as well as maintaining traditional values; while the Saga Cruises' staff, available aboard every cruise, go out of their way to ensure that passengers have a cosseted cruise experience in comfortable surroundings.
With contrasting styles, both Saga Pearl II and Saga Sapphire offer a tempting array of voyages setting sail from Dover and occasionally Southampton. Activities and entertainment range from dance lessons and West End style revue shows to Internet tuition and incisive lectures. Wine tasting, deck game competitions, classical concerts, and even bingo are featured on the daily schedule.
With some accommodations designed for solo cruisers, Saga Cruises are particularly popular with senior singles. Another unique element of this cruise company is the inclusion of return private chauffeur car service, free travel insurance, and gratuities.
5. Cruise & Maritime Voyages
Cruise & Maritime Voyages specialises in sailings to locations all around the world aboard their fleet of five classically-styled vessels. In reality it’s only the 1,400-passenger Columbus; 1,250-passenger Magellan; and 800-passenger Marco Polo that will feature on the radar of most British cruisers.
With their traditional profiles and teak decks, passengers on board CMV ships enjoy a traditional, leisurely and friendly atmosphere at budget prices. don't expect glitz and glamour on CMV, but what you will find is keenly-priced drinks in the onboard pubs, traditional British food and Brit-focused entertainment such as the comedians who feature in the company's "A Laugh on the Ocean Waves" programme. Marco Polo operates as an adults-only ship, while Columbus and Magellan offer a small selection of multi-generational cruises during the summer months.
On sea days, guest speaker topics may include maritime history, broadcasting, gardens and even criminology.
In addition to an annual world cruise and line-voyages to Africa, Australia and New Zealand, there are a host of no-fly cruises from a choice of eight UK ports including London Tilbury, Bristol and Liverpool.
The line previously known as Thomson, is part of the giant TUI group, but although German-owned, it's hard to find a line that's more British in terms of food, drinks and entertainment onboard -- home comforts such as British-brand teabags and kettles are in every cabin; curries and Sunday roasts feature heavily on the menu, as does HP sauce and Marmite, as well as John Smith's by the pint in the pubs onboard.
The 1,924-passenger Marella Explorer joined the fleet in summer 2018 and brought with it a host of features new to Marella Cruises such as the first Champneys Spa at sea, new restaurant concepts, plus a gin and whisky-tasting bar. The slightly larger (1,814 passengers) Marella Explorer 2 joins the fleet in summer 2019 and will be the company’s first adults-only ship. New features include the 19th Hole clubhouse bar, Flutes Prosecco and Champagne bar, the Beach Cove with a beach-barbecue theme, plus a range of new shows and popular dining venues including Kora-La; Shake Shack -- with its typically British seaside beach hut theme -- and Surf and Turf.
And also appealing to British sensibilities (and wallets) -- all tips and drinks are included as part of the fare.
Marella operates to more than 200 destinations including the Mediterranean, Canary Islands, Norwegian Fjords, the Baltic, North Africa and the Arabian Gulf; Asia, the Caribbean and Central America. There are flights from 22 regional UK airports, as well as a wide Cruise & Stay programme that combines a cruise holiday with a stay at one of more than 140 hotels across 10 destinations worldwide.
7. Noble Caledonia
High quality service and attention to detail are the order of the day aboard the bijou trio of Island Sky, Caledonian Sky, and Hebridean Sky.
Conveying between 114 and 118 passengers, these virtually identical vessels owned by Noble Caledonia boast an onboard atmosphere that is more akin to a private yacht than a cruise ship. With a rich interior of sophisticated polished wood panelling, brass details and luxury fittings, the vessels offer a perfect fusion of indulgence and adventure.
The exceptionally spacious and well-designed suites are arranged over five decks and all have outside views. Suites on the Promenade and Bridge Decks feature private balconies. Soft hues and blended tones enhance the traditional maritime style making accommodation inviting and relaxing.
There is plenty of room in the public areas too. These include a single-seating restaurant and a large lounge for daily briefings or presentations from expedition staff. In remote areas, the ships' fleet of Zodiacs are available for excursions to deserted beaches and countryside. Noble Caledonia’s impressive roster of cruises set the compass on a course beyond the beaten track. They appeal to passengers who seek all-inclusive, experiential-style sailings.
8. Hebridean Princess
Redolent of a bygone era, Hebridean Princess conveys just 50 "house guests". Its main claim to fame is that the ship was chartered by Her Majesty The Queen for her summer holiday in 2006 -- and again in 2010. The ship sails among the breathtakingly beautiful remote islands of the Hebrides and Western Isles, as well as the intricate lochs and inlets of Scotland's West Coast, accompanied by experienced guides and knowledgeable guest speakers.
There are selected themed itineraries such as "Flavours of Scotland" and "Hebridean Symphony" cruises, as well as the highly-popular "Footloose" cruises, which cater for most walking abilities with a range of guided walks in the hills and mountains, seashores and lochs.
This eclectic vessel sails on cruises ranging from four to nine-nights between March and November, mostly from her home port of Oban. Ninety-five percent of fellow guests are Brits, all are well-heeled and the atmosphere is convivial.
9. Majestic Line
Boasting traditional wood and brass, the Majestic Line's fleet comprises Glen Massan, Glen Tarsan and Glen Etive, a fourth vessel –- Glen Shiel -- will be added in summer 2019. Accommodating just 11 guests, Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan are classic wooden fishing boats; Glen Etive and Glen Shiel are newly-constructed steel vessels and accommodate 12 guests. The boats are tiny compared with most cruise ships; this allows them to explore the hidden beauty of the sheltered lochs and islands of Scotland's western coastline.
Glen Massan and Glen Tarsan undertake three- and six-night sailings to the Inner Hebrides and Argyll; Glen Etive offers 10-day voyages to Islay, Skye, the Outer Hebrides as well as the remote island of St Kilda. All boats sail from the port of Oban on Scotland's Argyll coast and the season runs from early April to late October. Glen Shiel will offer 10-night cruises to the west coast of the Outer Hebrides, St Kilda as well as the rugged and isolated Wester Ross.
These classic fishing boats are the sailing equivalent of lovingly restored steam trains. The decor is country house style and offers a truly relaxing experience, so don't expect top-notch luxury or lavish suites. Cabins have a small shower room with a toilet and washbasin. A small number of cabins are reserved for single occupancy at no supplement. The cuisine makes excellent use of the fresh produce that is often brought aboard daily and showcases the very best of Scotland's larder. Good quality wine is complimentary at evening meals, and there's a reasonably priced bar for cocktails and nightcaps. The crew of four will do almost anything to make each guests' holiday enjoyable -- such as taking the tender to fetch the morning newspapers.