Whether you’re new to cruising or only have a night or two to spare, mini cruises offer a way to enjoy all the excitement of a sea voyage on short-haul European journeys. These shorter cruises give you a little taste of the high seas, departing from a number of UK ports like Southampton, Dover, Portsmouth, Greenock, and Tilbury. Spot marine life or just enjoy on board entertainment as you cruise to ports like Dublin and Amsterdam. Some mini cruises are traditional, while others will involve a theme for a floating party atmosphere.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Kingston upon Thames, England
Take a jump back in time to the Dutch Golden Age when you visit Amsterdam, with its charming gabled houses and network of pretty canals. Don’t miss Dam Square with its imposing Royal Palace. The city’s home to over 50 museums, including the Van Gogh Museum, Rijksmuseum, and Anne Frank’s House. Hire a bicycle (or have a wander on foot) for a day of exploring its quirky shops, outdoor cafes and verdant parks!
Kingston upon Hull was 2017’s UK City of Culture, celebrated for its maritime history and artistic future. It’s long been the main port on England’s east coast. The bustling waterfront and Old Town have been refurbished, with art studios and trendy cafes flourishing around the Fruit Market district. Visit Hull for its transport-focused Streetlife Museum, or explore its marine life in the hands-on The Deep aquarium.
Tilbury offers a strategic location that makes it one of the world’s busiest ports! The Port of Tilbury is just 25 miles away from central London, and it offers convenient transport links both to the capital city and all across the South East of England. You’ll be able to see iconic sights like Big Ben and the Tower of London, all within easy reach from Tilbury. Take a ride on the London Eye for the best views!
Bruges is most famous for its perfectly preserved medieval old town, all cobbled lanes and photogenic canals. You can take a trip back in time by wandering its streets lined with whitewashed alms houses. Relax in its market squares, including the central Markt with its outdoor cafes for people-watching. Visit the historic Belfry of Bruges bell tower, or admire artwork from Michelangelo at the Church of our Lady.
Bristol has transitioned from a maritime center to cultural hub, particularly in areas like the Harbourside with its M Shed Museum. Former warehouses have been converted into art galleries and restaurants, but you can learn more about the city’s past with a visit to the SS Great Britain or Clifton Suspension Bridge. See street art from Banksy, explore the music scene, or relax in the hot springs at the Bristol Lido.
A recently regenerated waterfront gives the historic coastal city of Dundee fresh appeal. It’s located on the east coast of Scotland overlooking the Firth of Tay, with highlights including the artworks of McManus Galleries and the brand-new Victoria and Albert Museum of Design. There are also two nautical museums to get a feel for the city’s maritime heritage, including the HM Frigate Unicorn and RRS Discovery.
From Victorian architecture to an association with beloved poet Robert Burns, Greenock is a hidden gem just 25 miles away from Glasgow along the Firth of Clyde. Pay a visit to the Custom House Museum to learn more about its maritime past, or explore the McLean Museum and Art Gallery and Old West Kirk to admire its ornate stained glass. Take a stroll along the Greenock Cut aqueduct to admire panoramic Clyde views.
The White Cliffs of Dover are world-famous for their chalky beauty, but these imposing cliffs have also been an important barrier to protect Britain from invaders. Pay a visit to Dover Castle and its Secret Wartime Tunnels to learn more about the area’s defensive history over the past 2000 years! You can also explore the wildlife and scenery at Samphire Hoe Country Park, with its seabird colonies and channel views.
The beauty of mini cruises is that you can take them at any time of year. Summer is always a prime time for cruising around the British Isles or northern Europe, allowing you to enjoy warmer temperatures and fewer rainy days. Yet winter can be just as appealing if you take a mini cruise over to Bruges or Amsterdam to shop in the Christmas markets and see the festive, twinkling lights! Spring offers mild weather and fields of Dutch tulips while autumn gives you the chance to see the changing leaves or enjoy popular cities like Amsterdam without the summer crowds.
One of the main highlights of a mini cruise is the ship itself! Take advantage of live shows, dancing, theme nights, and casinos for a little getaway at sea. Most short breaks also include a stop-off at the destination port (or two) of your choice, one of the most popular being Amsterdam with its verdant canals and museums. Rotterdam is another top port just a stone’s throw away on an overnight cruise, filled with modern art and maritime history. Explore the medieval architecture and waterways of Bruges, or venture over to France to visit romantic Paris or picturesque Rouen.
Another benefit of taking a mini cruise is that it doesn’t involve too much paperwork or fuss in comparison to long-term journeys. Visa requirements will depend on your cruising itinerary – many ships stay within the British Isles so all you’ll need is a picture ID or passport if visiting Dublin. For mini cruises over to the European mainland, at the moment you can enter visa-free provided you have a valid passport. UK citizens can travel freely in top destinations like France, the Netherlands, and Belgium, so all you really need to worry about is packing your bags!
You’ll have the opportunity to dine in style aboard your cruise ship’s restaurants, many of which will offer regional dishes as part of the cruise. When in port, do try local delicacies like syrupy Stroopwafels in the Netherlands! If you’re visiting Belgium, you can’t miss a plate of moules-frites, consisting of steamed mussels and Belgian frites. Be sure to pick up a box of chocolates or two on your journey as well. Mini cruises around the British Isles give you the opportunity to explore variances in regions, whether you taste haggis in Scotland or a cream tea in Plymouth.
"Mini cruises are a great way to dip your toes in the water (excuse the pun), and whether it is a 2/3/4/5 night mini cruise across the Sea, definitely worth it."
"Mini breaks should be about re charging your batteries and seeing some stunning places. If a mini cruise has the right itinerary, then why not?!"
"Great atmosphere on board, Good for meeting people on board as the ships are small its a great way of socialising on a cruise"
Rhine River Cruise
"Rhine Gorge is simply breathtaking the castles and buildings we saw along the way were picture postcard perfection."
Suzer the Cruiser, Bournemouth on 3rd Dec 2018
The assistance men were extremely helpful and friendly. So we have no complaints. As usual, Fred was wonderful. We have been on all their ships, in total around 20+ times.
Bates, Chippenham on 16th Oct 2018
We decided on this Mini Cruise just for a weekend break away and not specifically for the ship or the itinerary. Having said that, Ventura to Zeebrugge was an excellent choice.