The UK Cruise Industry is Officially Back!

Cruise ships are arriving in the UK to restart the industry that has been on pause for over a year. The first cruise with passengers is departing on May 20.

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With MSC Virtuosa embarking on her maiden voyage on May 20, and the UK open to domestic travel since May 17, we can now say the cruise industry in the UK is officially back. With many ships sailing around the British Isles this week, the past twelve months seem to have been a build-up to this moment.

MSC Virtuosa Will Have The Honors

This week saw the naming ceremonies for two ships in the UK. P&O Iona was named during a record-breaking ceremony in Southampton, while Viking Venus was named during a naming ceremony in the English channel.

However, the distinction of being the first ship to resume sailing after a 14-month pause in operations will be for MSC Cruises’ newest vessel MSC Virtuosa.

The company’s flagship will sail on May 20 on a 4-night voyage, bringing guests from Southampton to the Isle of Portland with a day at sea on either end of the voyage.

MSC Virtuosa
Photo Copyright: Cruise Hive

The cruise will be a significant moment for both MSC Virtuosa, her maiden voyage, and the UK, with it being the first cruise ship to sail from the country since the country was hard-hit by the pandemic. To mark this occasion, Cruise Hive will be reporting extensively from onboard the ship during this cruise.

The second vessel to resume sailings this week will be the recently named Viking Venus. The vessel will begin sailing UK domestic cruises on May 22. Guests will embark in Portsmouth for the first of five England’s Scenic Shores itineraries in May and June.

Viking Venus in Portsmouth
Photo Courtesy: Viking Cruises

After this, the luxury vessel will be sailing 8-day voyages with calls to Liverpool, the Isles of Scilly, Falmouth, and Portland. All of these voyages will be available to fully vaccinated passengers only.

As the weeks progress, there will be multiple cruise lines resuming operations in the UK. However, most have chosen to start operating after June 21. Another notable sign of a UK cruise industry comeback was the arrival of the UK’s largest ever purpose-built cruise ship, P&O Iona, on Sunday, May 12.

P&O Iona Arrives in Southampton
Photo Courtesy: P&O Cruises

UK’s Cruise Season is Open, With Limitations

The cruise lines will still need to abide by various rules and regulations. Currently, the UK is operating under step three of the roadmap that the government has set out for the country to return to normal.

So although the vaccination rates are some of the highest in Europe, the country is not there yet. Step three says the following about domestic cruises:

Domestic cruises are permitted in England under step 3 of the roadmap out of lockdown. Domestic cruises can operate with up to 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is lower. This capacity limit applies to passengers only. COVID-secure guidance applies. Groups of more than six people or two households will not be allowed to mix indoors – whether or not they originally booked in the same group.

On June 21, the government hopes to take the next step towards reopening the country, and at this time, cruises will be able to have much more liberty onboard.

The UK’s government plans to remove all legal limits on social contacts, and it also removes the maximum limit of guests on board for ships, allowing the vessels to sail at full capacity.

The last part is significant for the cruise industry as many ships have minimum operating levels that they need to adhere to to be profitable.

Often this is significantly more than the 50% level the UK government indicated for the May 17- June 21 period. That being said, many, if not all, cruise lines will still sail with a reduced number of passengers on board.

These Cruise Lines Will Sail In The UK This Summer

The following is a list of cruise lines that will start sailing this summer from the UK. We’ve included the ships that will sail, the first sail date, and the homeport(s) of the vessels.

Virgin Voyages

  • Ship: Scarlet Lady
  • First Sailing Date: August 6, 2021
  • Homeport: Portsmouth

Noble Caledonia

  • Ship: Hebridean Sky and Island Sky
  • Sailing Date: June 4, 2021, & June 11, 2021
  • Homeport: Portsmouth, Inverness, Oban, and Aberdeen

Disney Cruise Line

  • Ship: Disney Magic
  • Sailing Date: July 15
  • Homeport: Southampton, Liverpool, Tilbury, and Newcastle

Royal Caribbean

Princess Cruises

Celebrity Cruises

Saga Cruises

  • Ship: Spirit of Discovery & Spirit of Adventure
  • Sailing Date: June 27, 2021, & July 26, 2021
  • Homeport: Tilbury

MSC Cruises

  • Ship: MSC Virtuosa
  • Sailing Date: May 20, 2021
  • Homeport: Southampton

P&O Cruises UK

  • Ship: Iona & Britannia
  • Sailing Date: June 27, 2021, & August 7, 2021
  • Homeport: Southampton

Cunard Line

Fred Olsen Cruise Line

  • Ship: Borealis & Bolette
  • Sailing Date: July 5, 2021, & August 16, 2021
  • Homeport: Liverpool & Dover

Viking Cruises

  • Ship: Viking Venus
  • Sailing Date: May 22, 2021
  • Homeport: Portsmouth

Marella Cruises

  • Ship: Marella Explorer and Marella Explorer 2
  • First Sailing Date: June 25, 2021
  • Homeport: Southampton and Newcastle


  • Ship: MS Maud
  • First Sailing Date: August 15, 2021
  • Homeport: Dover

Riviera Travel

  • Ship: Seaventure
  • First Sailing Date: July 5, 2021
  • Homeport: Leith (Edinburgh) & Greenock

Tradewind Voyages

  • Ship: Golden Horizon
  • First Sailing Date: June 22, 2021
  • Homeport: Portsmouth, Liverpool, Harwich, Leith & Greenock


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