Where will I go on a British Isles cruise?
The British Isles is a collection of islands off the mainland of Europe, consisting of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Ireland, and a number of adjacent smaller islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Tour famous cities like London, Dublin, Edinburgh, and Glasgow, or become acquainted with the lesser-known islands of the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, and Shetland and Channel Islands.
How long does it take to get there?
Most British Isles cruises depart from London, and a few others leave from Copenhagen, Rotterdam or Amsterdam. Flights are typically 7 to 8 hours long from New York City.
When is the best time to take a British Isles cruise?
The main cruise season runs from April through October. The British Isles has a temperate, marine climate with significant moisture and higher than normal temperatures, approximately 20 degrees higher than what is expected for its geographic location. Although summer weather is mild and wet, this is the prime time to visit the area by cruise ship. To avoid larger crowds, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons in the spring (April and May) or in the fall (September and October). You may also find slightly lower prices during this time.
How long do British Isles cruises last?
These trips typically last seven to 28 nights.
Will I need a passport or visa?
Passports are required for all international visitors.
What is the time difference?
The British Isles observes Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), which is five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
What is the local currency? Where can I exchange currency?
The main currency in the United Kingdom and its Crown Dependencies is the Pound Sterling and the Euro in the Republic of Ireland. Rarely is either currency accepted outside their territories within this region. Currency exchange stations are available at most local hotels and airports, though many tourist destinations accept credit cards.
Is tipping a common practice?
Most restaurants add a 10% to 15% service charge to your bill. If the charge wasn’t added, be sure to leave a 10% to 15% tip. Feel free to tip extra if service was good.
What should I wear?
Casual resort wear, including shorts and T-shirts, is the standard daytime attire for most cruises. Bring a variety of footwear, including low-heeled or rubber-soled shoes for walking on deck, sandals for beach excursions, sturdy walking shoes for guided tours and a pair of dressier shoes for formal dining. You can check your ship's dress codes for options suitable for nighttime, but most restaurants encourage slacks and nice dresses during evening meals.
Many churches and cathedrals in the British Isles require some degree of modest attire for visitors. You may not be permitted to enter if wearing "too short" shorts, and women may be asked to cover bare shoulders (it's a good idea to tuck a lightweight scarf into your purse or tote).
What should I pack?
Most excursions offered in the British Isles take tourists on sightseeing tours of each city’s highlights and some walking may be required. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and swimsuits if traveling in summer; protective hats, good walking shoes and windbreakers are advisable no matter when you travel. Also, remember to pack all of your medications, prescription or otherwise, in a bag you can keep with you as needed.
Is the water safe to drink?
Most resorts and restaurants filter their tap water, though bottled water is available almost everywhere.
What sort of medical precautions do I need to take?
Shots aren't usually necessary for visitors from North America, but it never hurts to check with your health care provider and discuss the countries you'll be visiting.
What types of electrical outlets are used?
U.S. cruise companies use the standard 110-volt outlets. International guests will likely need converters and adapters; these same devices come in handy for U.S. citizens who plan to overnight in hotels at some point during their vacation, as much of Europe and Asia uses the 220-volt outlet.
How do I make a telephone call from the British Isles?
Resort hotels and public phone booths offer direct dialing for international calls. Calling cards also are available for sale in tourist-friendly markets. U.S.-based cell phones might not work everywhere.
Are hotel rooms outfitted with air conditioners?
Surprisingly, not all hotels in the UK and Ireland have air-conditioning, even luxury ones. Some may have partial air-conditioning, but most have none at all. If recycled air is important to you, make sure to consult your travel counselor before booking a pre- or post-cruise hotel stay.
What is the shopping like? What souvenirs should I buy? Can I haggle over prices?
Shopping areas can be found just about everywhere you stop in the British Isles. London is a shopper’s paradise where you’ll find stores ranging from upscale department stores and trendy boutiques to outlet malls and flea markets. Quality woolens, hand-knitted sweaters and tweed are particularly popular in Ireland and Scotland. Of course, you may want to take home a bottle of Scotch malt whiskey from Edinburgh, or a fine piece of Waterford Crystal manufactured in Waterford, Ireland.
The prices in most shops in the United Kingdom and Ireland are fixed. However, give haggling a try if you feel comfortable, but don't press your luck with a flustered shopkeeper. Be aware that a value-added tax (VAT) of 17.5% is added on most goods, but it’s usually included in the price. You may want to ask before haggling over price, and non-E.U. residents can receive at least a partial refund of the tax by applying for a VAT refund. There is a £50 minimum purchase required for a refund.
How do I get around?
Major cities in the British Isles have excellent public transit systems that utilize bus, taxi and train transportation to get around town. Most tourists will find the use of these systems to be safe, easy and convenient. Smaller towns and villages may be better explored on foot or by bicycle. Shore excursions purchased through your cruise line highlight top attractions and include transportation and a guide.
Can I rent a car?
Rental rules vary by country, but most companies require renters to be at least 21 years old. However, the proliferation of public buses, trains and ferries make car rentals largely unnecessary in this region.
What can I do there?
The British Isles is a region of natural beauty, culture and history. Tours offered along your cruise will allow you entrance to world-class museums, extraordinary castles and historic landmarks. You’ll have the opportunity to dine on local specialties and shop ‘til your heart’s content. You may see Buckingham Palace in London, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, or Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh. Liverpool is the former home of the Beatles so you might want to take a tour that focuses on each group member’s childhood and the early years of the band. You’ll find plenty of pubs and restaurants serving traditional meals such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, Yorkshire pudding, and Irish potato bread if you’re interested in the culinary delights of this region; and don’t forget to try an Irish coffee or a pint of Guinness.
Do you have any photography tips for British Isles travelers?
There's plenty of historic beauty to capture, so be sure to bring plenty of gear. Users of "point-and-shoot" digital cameras should pack rechargeable batteries, a charger, electric adaptors and high-capacity memory cards (1 gigabyte is recommended). If you're bringing a digital video camera, don't forget the long-life batteries, charger, adaptors and converter. Make sure photography is permitted before shooting in museums, churches and cathedrals; in some cases, you'll just be asked to turn off your flash.