An Iberian Cruise from Southampton, England is a popular itinerary for cruise lines year-round – and it’s easy to see why with the prospect of winter sun on the Costa del Sol or a refreshing sea breeze during the height of summer. In this guide you’ll find information on typical ports of call you’ll visit around Iberia and the best time of year to cruise there.
📍 Lisbon, Portugal
What ports of call are on an Iberian cruise?
The Iberian peninsula is located in the most western region of mainland Europe encompassing Spain, Portugal, Andorra and a small part of Southern France. Cruises to Iberia from Southampton are typically between 7 and 14 nights, 7 night cruises will usually take you to Northern Spain for A Coruña, Bilbao and/or Vigo, as well as Portugal for Lisbon and/or Porto.
If you prefer a no-fly cruise you’ll need a longer itinerary of around 10 to 14 nights to visit ports in the Mediterranean – like Malaga, Barcelona, Cartagena, Cadiz and Gibraltar.
Further reading: Stunning photography spots in Malaga, Spain
Is a cruise around Iberia family-friendly?
The top priority for a family-friendly cruise is picking the right cruise line to go with before the itinerary. Having worked with cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises and MSC Cruises, I’ve been able to explore the entertainment facilities onboard their ships for children and teenagers which are so innovative and state of the art they’ll likely want to join their new friends at kids club while you go ashore. If you wish to have some family time in-port, Malaga has a nearby beach and ice cream shop, and Vigo offers a pleasant uphill walk to the Castro fortress right off the ship.
As you’d expect, the busier cities like Lisbon and Barcelona are probably less suited for younger passengers – but if you do all decide to stay onboard you may enjoy a quieter ship with prime position on the lido deck.
Do you cross the Bay of Biscay on an Iberian Cruise?
An Iberian cruise from Southampton requires crossing the Bay of Biscay which is notorious for its unpredictable conditions anytime of the year. For those who suffer with sea sickness, the best chance you’ll have of a calm crossing through the bay is during the summer months. If conditions are forecast to be turbulent the captain may decide to delay the sailing, change the ports of call or (in exceptional circumstances) cancel the cruise – remember, passenger safety and comfort is a priority.
Most large and modern cruise ships are able to handle turbulent seas and swells with their stabilisers, meaning a lot of cruises go ahead as scheduled without a hitch. If you have the luxury of selecting a cabin, opt for one that’s low and near the middle of the ship as any motion is not as noticeable here. It usually takes one sea day to cross the Bay of Biscay from Southampton to northern Spain.
What excursions do you recommend taking on a cruise around Iberia?
If you’ve visited Lisbon before, consider leaving the city for Sintra Palace or the town of Fatima – a holy place with a stunning cathedral square. For Cadiz, enjoy a self guided walk through the parks and gardens to the beach or take an excursion inland to the beautiful city of Seville.
A Coruna and Vigo are near Santiago de Compostela, a famous place of pilgrimage after walking the Camino Way. Many people visiting Gibraltar take a tour to the top of the rock for the views and to meet the monkeys – be careful if you do, they can bite and may swipe your belongings!
Further reading: A shore excursion to Santiago de Compostela from A Coruna, Spain
When is the best time of year for an Iberian Cruise?
As mentioned above, a winter cruise increases the risk of choppier sea conditions and port alterations, but if you want warm winter sunshine without having to fly from the UK then this is probably one of the easiest ways to do it – plus it’s often a cheaper time of year to cruise.
In contrast the height of summer can bring uncomfortably hot conditions in cities like Lisbon and Seville (from Cadiz) that you may prefer to stay onboard by the pool or near the sea. Late May, June and September would be the times I’d pick to cruise – after several crossings over the years the most turbulent crossing for me was in March, June has proved very pleasant for weather and it’s before the peak summer holiday season in the UK.