Adventure of the seas cruise ship dining room
Europe 4

Mini cruise, Southampton to Le Havre

A two night short break onboard a luxury cruise liner is the perfect way to find out if you’d be suited to a cruise holiday: Johanna Payton spent two nights onboard Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas on a round trip from Southampton to Le Havre.

You don’t have to fly to the Caribbean to get a taste of luxury onboard a cruise liner. In fact, if you just fancy giving the whole cruise experience a whirl, without committing to a long stretch at sea, a mini cruise is the perfect way to (ahem) test the water.

People always say that the best thing about a cruise is that the holiday starts the second you step onboard. This is especially true if you start your cruise in Southampton: after a short train journey from Clapham Junction, we took a taxi to the boat – there is a shuttle bus service if you prefer – and by midday our late summer mini break was in full swing.

We were onboard quickly and the first stop is lunch: the bountiful choice in the self service restaurant is mind-blowing (and particularly helpful if you have any allergies or annoying food intolerances, like me). The staff onboard are incredibly attentive and you feel the vibe of a “special experience” even before you’ve set sail. The August skies may have been dark in Southampton, but sipping cocktails (and mocktails) at the poolside bar immediately transported us to an alternative holiday universe.

Royal Caribbean cruise liner interior shopping

Our boat departed in the afternoon and sailed to Le Havre overnight. Once we’d explored the many decks, daytime entertainment options (including a climbing wall, mini golf course, spa and water slides) and restaurants, it was time to hit the tiles. Guests tend to push the sartorial boat out (do these nautical puns ever get old?), so pack a decent frock or two and get into the glamorous spirit. From a breathtaking ice skating show to more traditional cabaret acts – and a cute little nightclub playing chart hits and a few old classics – it’s impossible not to be entertained.

Just wandering through the buzzing and cavernous Royal Promenade is enough to boggle your mind, but my absolute highlight was lounging out on deck in the evening, in a bubbling hot tub, while watching a movie on the big screen. The wind off the Channel may have been chilly, but I was snug in the warm water, sipping my mocktail and deciding that I would very much like to do this for a week or two around the Med.

The all-day Saturday stop-off in Le Havre gives you just enough time to pop into town for lunch and raid the indoor foodie market – or you can book an excursion to Paris. My son took some persuading to disembark at all (everything he needed amusement-wise was on the boat), but one comic shop and a plate of steak-haché avec frites later, and he was smiling.

Back onboard, the Saturday glamour went up a notch and I made a mental note to pack a host of glitzy outfits for my first full cruise. The theatre was packed to the rafters for the star act (a British comedian) and after tucking my son in to his comfortable bunk, we savoured a drink in the piano bar and hit the casino. You will  bump into a few hen parties onboard, but everyone we met was in fabulous, infectiously good spirits and the staff are right across everything that’s going on (including the constant tidying up of your cabin), so you feel completely cared for throughout the journey.

The deciding factor for me, cruise-wise, was the sinking feeling (nope, sorry, can’t stop) that I felt upon arriving back in Southampton. I was fully sold on the idea of cruising and the only question is where will I be going next…

Windjammer cafe, Adventure of the Seas

As soon as you board, the Windjammer self-service restaurant is open for lunch: you’ll be spoiled for choice

Swimming pool onboard Royal Caribbean cruise liner

The hot tubs are well used on a Channel crossing

Theatre onboard adventure of the Seas

The theatre plays host to traditional cabaret acts – the ice show is well worth catching too

Johnny Rockets onboard Adventure of the Seas

My 10-year-old son was charmed by Johnny Rockets – and on our next cruise he’s resolved to try the kids’ club and disco


How to book a mini cruise with Royal Caribbean:

You’ll find further information on short breaks from Southampton on the Royal Caribbean UK website, with the most popular mini cruises being two night round trips to Le Havre and three night breaks stopping at Le Havre and Zeebrugge.


Writer: Johanna Payton for Feet on the Ground

Images: Royal Caribbean/Lexis

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