If you’ve ever dreamt of exploring the UK but couldn’t quite decide which city to fly into, a multi-destination cruise just might be your perfect match. Earlier this year, I ventured on a Norwegian Cruise Line roundtrip sailing from Amsterdam that provided full-day visits to Edinburgh and Invergordon in Scotland, Belfast in Northern Ireland, Dublin in Ireland, and of course the metropolis of London, England. Depending on the length of your cruise, you may find a sailing that incorporates overnight stays or includes visits to Norway, Belgium, and/or France.
My spouse and I first explored the streets of Edinburgh on a solo adventure, opting to walk into the city center and then bus back to the terminal. Throughout our stroll, we visited museums and took in architecture along the Royal Mile—a lively neighborhood in Old Town. Here we spent time at Edinburgh Castle, visited Holyrood Palace, and shopped all along the High Street. In this district, you’ll have access to legendary local shops like Waterstones Books, Marks & Spencer, and John Lewis. While you’ll find plenty of treats to munch on in Old Town, I recommend saving some of your appetite for nearer the cruise terminal. That’s where I discovered The Fishmarket in Newhaven. Order up a traditional serving of fish & chips and dine at the picnic tables outside for a relaxing bite before heading back on board.
In Belfast, one attraction you won’t want to miss is the Titanic Quarter, home of the Titanic Belfast museum. Here you’ll see the shipyard where RMS Titanic was built, while taking in spectacular local maritime history. For a gorgeous architectural tour, visit St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast Castle, and Belfast City Hall. I also really loved wandering through St George’s Market, where local artisans and vendors shared fresh produce and baked goods, handmade crafts, and more, all set amid background music provided by local live entertainment.
While you’ll have a full day to explore Dublin, it’s impossible to visit every attraction so choose an area to explore widely. On foot, my spouse and I enjoyed wandering the city center, home of the Irish Whiskey Museum, National Library of Ireland, and The Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin. From here, we easily explored the High Street shopping district, exploring local retailers and artisan shops, picking up well-known mittens and scarves at the Aran Sweater Market. Beverage seekers will want to make a stop at the famous Temple Bar, which has been serving since 1840. Be sure to seek out the James Joyce table! Joyce fans may also want to pay a visit to Lincoln’s Inn, a fabulous little pub where I enjoyed fish & chips, and legend says this is where Joyce first met his wife, Nora Barnacle.
Finally, the cruise port in Tilbury is a bit of a distance to London so you will want to sign up for an official cruise excursion to make the most of your time in the city. We opted for a “London on your own” bus ride that dropped us off and picked us up at a great location alongside the Thames River. From there, it was easy for us to navigate our way to landmarks including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Covent Garden Market, and Buckingham Palace. If your schedule allows, I suggest witnessing the changing of the guard ceremony at the palace, which occurs at 10:15am daily. If you find yourself passing a Coffee Republic, stop in for a coffee and slice of Queen Vic—a delicious layered sponge cake with raspberry jam and whipped buttercream.
For us, half the fun of the cruise was in the destinations themselves, exploring ports throughout sunny days and seeing incredible landmarks up close and personal. The other joy of our trip, though, was in sailing this incredible itinerary with Norwegian Cruise Line. We sailed on a mid-size ship perfect for feeling like we had ample choices in dining and entertainment, yet not quite so big as to feel overwhelmed. From our well-appointed cabin room we had easy access to the pool deck and dining rooms, while also having a quick access to the gangway for port days.
During our culinary tour of our ship, we ate in the main dining rooms and buffet quite often, never tiring of the daily selections. For added variety, we had a night out at Moderno Churrascaria—a delightful Brazilian steakhouse where meat masters serve selections tableside, so you’ll have an unlimited fill of beef tenderloin, ribs, sausage, and chicken in addition to the never-ending salad bar and traditional Brazilian sides. We also enjoyed the fine dining experience at Cagney’s Steakhouse, with its traditional take on American fare in a contemporary setting. One of our favorite dinners out, though, was at Teppanyaki. Here we embraced a shared table experience while our dedicated chef entertained us with flying shrimp, dancing eggs, and the occasional song as he prepared our meal tableside at this authentic Japanese Hibachi restaurant.
On sea days, we loved exploring a grand selection of fine arts, being entertained by stage performances of song and dance, and lounging poolside. On those warm sunny days, it was great to take advantage of rotating Drink of the Day specials. During my voyage, that included Bahama Mama, Moscow Mule, Mai Tai, and Daiquiri selections. What a perfect combination to have a gorgeous craft cocktail while chilling at the pool.
Prior to this vacation, my spouse and I knew we had several destinations on our bucket list so we wanted to maximize our visit in the best way possible. That led us to exploring the UK and Northern Europe itineraries offered by Norwegian Cruise Line, and we’re so grateful for the experiences we had on this packed itinerary. We wouldn’t otherwise have made it to so many dreamy destinations in such an efficient time frame. For more information on planning your own cruise to the UK, visit NCL.com.
Lori A. May is a Seattle-based travel writer.
Photography @loriamay, @cruisenorwegian, and @visitlondon.