British holidaymakers have been quick to snap up the array of UK cruises on offer this summer. Nearly every major cruise line has announced fresh itineraries, from Viking Cruises launching the maiden voyage of its newest ship, sailing from Portsmouth, to Virgin Voyages offering at-sea “staycations” this August. Those with a ticket to sail might find themselves exploring Edinburgh Castle, tracking the Beatles’ rise to fame in Liverpool or spotting guillemots on Rathlin Island (Northern Ireland’s largest seabird colony). Some lines will require passengers to be vaccinated against Covid-19, for others a negative test PCR test will suffice. Saga Cruises was one of the first to announce that inoculation will be mandatory. Guests will join one of two ships, the brand new Spirit of Adventure or the still fresh Spirit of Discovery, on which I sailed around the British Isles pre-pandemic. I’d taken river cruises, small ship cruises and joined a large ship on a Caribbean sojourn – but this was my first taste of sailing in home waters. Here’s what I wish I’d known beforehand: Map out your meals Veteran cruise passengers will have revised the itinerary and committed the ship’s layout to memory. As such, once on board, they’ll likely hot-foot it to book a dinner table for each night of the voyage. Follow their lead to ensure you sample all your ship has to offer. Saga’s vessels, for example, have a main dining room, where dinner will never disappoint – but also a selection of specialist options. A favourite on Spirit of Discovery was East to West, for a mix of Asian-inspired cuisine. Dig out your black tie outfits Lockdown has left the most fashion proficient living in jogging bottoms or pyjamas, with unruly hair to match. Cruise evenings are the perfect opportunity to break out the sequins. Floor-length frocks, jazzy bow ties and elaborate up-dos add to the old school glamour of holidays at sea. Really indulge with a trip to the on-board salon – a blow dry, followed by a manicure. After all, it's the most socialising (at least with strangers) many will have experienced since last March. Age puts no limit on wanderlust (but it can slow things down) Keen cruisers who’d usually set their sights on the Mediterranean or Caribbean may be taking a punt on British Isles sailings this summer. This could well skew the UK cruise cohort to younger than average. But the stalwarts, typically 70-plus, may well dominate some sailings. Indeed, when I joined a Saga voyage, many of my fellow passengers in their eighties. If you’re joining any fully-vaccinated voyage, it’s likely 50 will be at the bottom-end of the age range. Be aware that somewhat reduced mobility might slow down the process of getting on and off the coach during excursions. If you’re able bodied and raring to explore, sit up front: this also lets you eke out the last photo-ops before heading back to the ship (the Scapa Flow and Giant’s Causeway quickly filled up my phone’s camera roll). Plan your sea days around the deck views Cruising among the Inner and Outer Hebrides was a highlight of my voyage. It offered a reminder that venturing to the far corners of our isles can offer up views that feel oddly exotic. On a balmy July afternoon, I was longing to dive from the deck and wander along the empty beaches and clamber the craggy, vivid green, grass-carpeted hills. You might also be lucky enough to spot whales swimming nearby (some lines will provide binoculars; check beforehand and pack a pair if not). If your daily itinerary doesn’t provide timings for where you’ll be passing and when, then quiz your crew. As new sailors soon learn, you’d be hard-pressed to find more helpful hospitality staff than on board a cruise ship.