If you have a spare weekend for a trip away but don’t want to waste your time in airports, mini weekend cruise deals let you start your holiday as soon as you step onboard. They’re also great for venturing on your first cruise experience so you can dip your toe in the water, so to speak.

With weekend cruises ranging from overnight UK trips to five nights in Europe across the Bank Holiday weekend, they’re also ideal for smaller budgets. It makes sense to sail from the UK so you have maximum time onboard, with all the major cruise lines offering weekend cruises from UK ports.

A weekend cruise is also the ideal way to celebrate a special occasion in style – such as a birthday, anniversary or even a hen or stag do – if you’re looking for an interesting and relaxing alternative to a standard weekend away. Read on for some of the top weekend cruises from the UK.

Top weekend cruise destinations

The British Isles

City hopping around the UK and taking in its beautiful landscapes has never been so easy as when you’re on a mini cruise over the weekend. From western UK ports, such as Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol you’re ideally situated to take in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. And from the large southern port of Southampton you can start round-Britain voyages or head to the Channel Islands.

Three nights to Ireland

To give you a flavour of Ireland, Cruise & Maritime Voyages leaves Liverpool for its three-night Dublin & Cobh weekend cruise starting on a Friday. You’ll get a full day in the capital Dublin with excursion options that take in the castle, cathedrals and other historic buildings, as well as chances to stop off for Irish coffee.

Cobh is the gateway for Ireland’s second city Cork, where you can see the 17th-century naval base, Blarney Castle and take trips into the scenic Cork countryside. In between ports you can enjoy the MS Marco Polo’s bistro and buffet restaurants or visit the fitness and wellness centres.

A long weekend exploring Scotland

For more seclusion and scenery, head on a five-night Lochs, Highlands & Islands cruise from Liverpool with Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines. The traditional Black Watch ship will take you to the Orkneys to visit the capital Kirkwall’s St Magnus Cathedral and Skara Brae Neolithic settlement. Then it’s on to the Isle of Mull, with its brightly coloured harbour-side buildings, as well as Greenock, the port for cultured Glasgow. For a small ship, Black Watch still manages to fit in two pools, golf nets and a tennis court.

The Channel Islands and beyond

Branching out to the more exotic of the British Isles, Princess Cruises takes you for three nights, starting Saturday, to the Channel Island of Guernsey, with the bonus of a day in the pretty French town of Cherbourg. From Guernsey’s St Peter Port you can choose to be taken on a narrated driving tour of the island including Sausmarez Manor, or even travel by horse-drawn carriage.

And Cherbourg throws up varied activities, from visiting the medieval abbey at Mont Saint-Michel to seeing the D-Day landing sites. Onboard the mid-size Sapphire Princess ship, with a spectrum of facilities, this cruise acts as a good tester for longer cruises in the future.

Overnight experience to Newcastle

If you want to get a feel for cruising and only have one day on the weekend to spare, try the Saturday overnight Edinburgh to Newcastle cruise on Fred.Olsen’s Balmoral – their largest ship. Indulge in the dinner and entertainment, or get pampered at the Atlantic Spa before bedding down for the night and, the following day, taking your time to explore Newcastle’s museums, shops and bars at your own pace.

Europe

It’s surprising how far you can cruise in Europe on a weekend. You can take a three-day cruise across the end of week to explore the rivers of France, Germany’s Christmas markets or Belgium’s beautiful cities complete with fine chocolate and beer. Or take a little longer to indulge in the stunning surroundings of Scandinavia in the best way – from the water.

Bruges’ delightful architecture and delicious cuisine

To experience Europe from the luxury of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, a weekend break is an affordable option. This 12-deck ship offers everything from high tea with jazz in the Queens Room to wine-pairing dinners, a shopping arcade and casino nights. The three-night Thursday to Sunday roundtrip from Southampton stops in Bruges where you can see its canals, try its chocolate and gaze on Medieval buildings, or you might prefer the tour that takes in Belgian beer tasting.

River cruise to take in scenic France

Travelling on Fred.Olsen’s mid-size Balmoral ship, you get to explore ports and rivers that larger ships can’t reach, while still getting facilities like pools and a walking track. The three-night River Seine Sojourn will take you from Southampton to Hornfleur where timber buildings dating from the 15th century stand along the pretty harbour. Then it’s along the meandering Seine to Rouen to visit its beautiful cathedral in the Medieval and Renaissance old town.

Get festive from London Tilbury

There are so many atmospheric Christmas markets in Europe to explore. That’s easy to do without rushing around catching flights when you cruise with Cruise and Maritime from London Tilbury. Travel onboard the Columbus, for four nights starting Thursday, to Amsterdam’s markets then on to Hamburg. The ship’s restaurants, nightclub and show lounge are among the areas newly refurbished for 2017. Shorter, single destination Christmas market options from Tilbury also cover French and Belgian markets.

Take a long weekend to the fjords

Drifting across the North Sea from Newcastle you can easily take in the majesty of the Norwegian Fjords in a long weekend. Fred.Olsen’s five-night cruises are conveniently scheduled over Bank Holiday weekends in May and August, meaning minimal time off work.

The Balmoral ship sails you through Lysefjord’s waters alongside cliffs, mountains and waterfalls before stopping at historic Bergen with its UNESCO-listed Bryggen Wharf. You can go on excursions taking the funicular up Mount Floyen or further afield to see ‘Norway in a nutshell’. Norway’s second longest fjord, Hardangerfjord, is next, where you can opt to kayak or sample the produce at a juice and cider farm. This leads you to the beautiful fjord village of Eidfjord, before heading back to the UK.

If you’re itching to get away on a mini weekend cruise, take a look at our latest cruise deals.

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