The Canary Islands remain a top destination for British and European cruise travellers seeking sunshine, palm trees and sandy beaches relatively close to home. With year-round warm weather and seas, an intoxicating mix of North African, Spanish and indigenous Guanche cultures, plus modern ports and facilities, the Canaries are a natural choice for cruise vacationers.
Travellers from the UK find frequent departures from Southampton, with an average of 50 cruises per year leaving from the historic port city. Sailings to the Canaries from Southampton run between 10 to 16 nights, longer for itineraries that span a greater geographic area. They typically involve three days and nights at sea southbound, and two or three on the return, giving travellers the chance to play and relax on amenity-packed ships. Ports of call may include La Palma, Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote, and possibly some of the archipelago’s smaller ports and islands. Many include stopovers in Portugal and mainland Spain.
Here are some of the most enticing of the major cruise lines' Canary Island cruises setting sail from Southampton.
Choices aplenty and themed fun with P&O Cruises
With dozens of cruises annually between Southampton and the Canary Islands, veteran British brand P&O Cruises is the market leader for the Canaries. Ships are midsize to large, with capacities ranging from 2,000 to more than 3,000 passengers. And there are no surprises with P&O’s itineraries for the Canaries with Tenerife, Lanzarote, La Palma and Gran Canaria being the standard ports of call. Where P&O delivers is aboard ship, with great amenities, entertainment and themed sailings.
Depending on the ship and itinerary – which are divided between family-friendly and adults-only – on-board diversions might include multiple swimming pools, four kids’ clubs serving toddlers to teens, or gyms and sports decks with tennis and golf nets. Cooking classes, dance classes, stand-up comedians and other nightly shows ensure that days at sea are full. P&O is known for its theme cruises, including the popular Strictly Come Dancing sailings, which offer private dance lessons and dinners with stars of the hit programme.
- P&O Cruises 14-night Strictly Come Dancing themed cruise aboard the Ventura sails to the Canary Islands, with stops in Spain and Portugal, from Southampton from April 4 to April 18, 2020, and is priced from £1,069pp for an inside cabin, based on double occupancy (pocruises.com).
The Royal Treatment on Cunard’s Queen Victoria
The name Cunard has long been synonymous with luxury ocean liners of yore. But the company, now part of Carnival, offers a fleet of three ships, the oldest of which launched in 2004. Cunard currently offers 12- to 14-night Canary Island cruises from Southampton aboard the 2,091-passenger Queen Victoria, which debuted in 2007. Ports of call may include Funchal, Madeira, known for its dramatic scenery, gardens and robust Madeira wine. Most itineraries make their first stop in the Canaries at La Palma, where excursions include city tours and trips to black sand beaches. In artsy Tenerife, on-shore options include walking tours and wine tastings. On Lanzarote, tours might include visits to local wineries or to dormant – but not extinct – volcanic areas. Additional ports of call may include Gran Canaria island, Lisbon or La Coruna on mainland Spain.
For days at sea, daytime diversions include two pools, sundecks, table tennis and a putting green. Evenings can be spent in one of the ship’s bars, including a traditional English pub, or at numerous lounges, some with dancefloors and live music. Twice-nightly theatre performances include live orchestras and elaborate music and dance numbers. Themed gala balls are a favourite event for return guests. It’s worth noting that shipboard ambience, evening during the day, is more formal on Cunard than on most other cruise lines — this will either appeal to or turn off potential passengers.
- Cunard’s 12-night cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands aboard the Queen Victoria sails from December 8 to December 20, 2019 and is priced from £999 for an ocean-view cabin, based on double occupancy (cunard.com).
Tradition and a small-ship Experience on Fred Olsen’s Braemar
Known for its smaller ships, with the largest holding just 1,325 passengers, Fred Olsen bills its cruises as an intimate contrast to the megaship experience. Three members of its four-ship fleet sail from Southampton to the Canary Islands. A 13-night cruise on the 929-passenger Braemar makes La Coruna its first port of call, followed by Gran Tarajal on the island of Fuerteventura, known for its distinct North African influences, desert-like landscapes and fine beaches. Gran Canaria and Tenerife are next, followed by stops in Funchal and Lisbon, plus two days and nights at sea on return to Southampton.
The Braemar has five dining venues, and sailings feature one or more formal nights and a festive British Night with themed food, music and entertainment. There are two theatres for evening shows, as well as four bars. Sea days might be passed with informative lectures or arts and crafts classes, spent at one of the ship’s two heated pools or whiled away in the full-service spa. While most Fred Olsen cruises permit children aboard, the company tends to attract more mature travellers, and some sailings are adults-only.
- Fred Olsen’s 13-night cruise from Southampton to the Canary Islands aboard the Braemar sails from October 30 to November 12, 2019, and is priced from £1,799 for an ocean-view cabin, based on double occupancy (fredolsencruises.com).
Unique excursions on Saga’s Spirit of Discovery
Saga Cruises has long catered to the active over-50 set, with adults-only cruises for adventurous travellers. Aboard the 999-passenger Spirit of Discovery, Saga’s newest ship, intrepid cruisers can discover some lesser-known corners of the Canaries and other ports en route. An overnight in Funchal permits late-night stargazing, plus daytime exploring via cable-car, tuk-tuk or one of the city’s famous wicker toboggans. At later stops, passengers can opt for a forest tour on Santa Cruz, hike across the sand dunes of Gran Canaria, or explore the smouldering lava fields of Tenerife. Homeward bound, the Spirit of Discovery calls at Ferrol, Spain, the gateway to the Galicia region and a city rich in archaeological and maritime history.
Launched in 2019, the Spirit of Discovery is a luxury vessel with the feel of a boutique hotel. Every stateroom has a balcony – that’s right, no windowless inside cabins – and even standard rooms are airy and sophisticated. The ship has five restaurants, a theatre and two lounge bars, plus two pools and a chic spa. Among Saga’s generous inclusions are wine and beer at meals, all gratuities and free Wi-Fi. Chauffeured delivery to Southampton is complimentary for any passenger living within 250 miles of the port.
- Saga’s 13-night Glorious Canary Islands cruise from Southampton to the Canaries aboard the Spirit of Discovery sails from March 2 to March 15, 2020, and is priced from £2,719pp person for a balcony cabin, based on double occupancy (travel.saga.co.uk).
Fun for everyone on Princess Lines’ Sapphire Princess
Princess Cruises are known for their big, something-for-everyone ships and itineraries that are appealing to multi-generational families, fun-loving seniors or groups of friends celebrating a special event. In 2019 Princess offers one sailing from Southampton to the Canaries, on board the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess, which just went through a major renovation. The first port of call is Vigo, Spain, with excursions to Santiago de Compostela or tapas and winery tours, followed by Madeira, Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.
Days spent at sea are packed with options for fun, relaxation and, of course, eating. The Sapphire Princess has 10 restaurants, plus its traditional dining rooms. There are multiple pools and hot tubs, including an adults-only pool and sundeck, plus a putting green, kids’ and teens’ clubs, and a spa. Day or night, the ship’s three-level piazza is the meeting and entertainment hub of the ship.
- Princess Cruises 11-night Canary Islands cruise aboard the Sapphire Princess sails from Southampton from October 8 to October 19, 2019, and is priced from £1,431 for an ocean view cabin, based on double occupancy (princess.com).
The Canaries and Azores aboard the Celebrity Silhouette
Celebrity Cruises offers sailings to the Canaries from Southampton and on select itineraries, even throws in a stop in the Azores, those remote Portuguese islands in the Atlantic. After two full days at sea, voyagers arrive at Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores, where shore excursions might include city tours or transfers to the Sete Cidades, the island’s eye-popping blue and green lakes. The ship stops at Madeira, Tenerife and Lisbon before heading home, offering passengers a taste of the Canaries and surrounding destinations.
Daily life aboard the 2,886-passenger Silhouette can be either a non-stop party or full-on R&R, depending on one’s preferences. The Silhouette features a Celebrity innovation, the Lawn Club, a sundeck featuring a lawn with real grass, where guests can picnic, sunbathe and relax. All the expected trappings are on hand, from multiple pools and theatres to near-limitless choices for set or à la carte dining. Gone are formal nights, replaced by 'Evening Chic' dinners. On select sailings, ocean view staterooms include free drinks and gratuities.
- Celebrity Cruise’s 11-night Canary Islands and Azores cruise aboard the Celebrity Silhouette sails from Southampton October 13-24, 2019 and is priced from £1,799 per person for an ocean-view cabin based on double occupancy (celebritycruises.co.uk).
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