CRUISE company Fred Olsen is increasing its number of short taster experiences to attract first-time cruisers, including departures from Southampton.

But the firm will be using Liverpool, rival to the Hampshire port, as a turnaround port next year.

Fred Olsen hopes the short minicruises will attract those who have never tried that type of holiday and will start their season from Southampton in May of next year.

For anyone new to cruising, a minicruise, says the cruise line, of just two or three nights’ duration, is the perfect way to experience life at sea, and enjoy a few days away, without a major commitment of time or money.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines offers its biggest programme of mini-cruises, a choice of 13 itineraries, aboard all four of its ships – Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca, pictured, and Black Watch.

They depart from a wide choice of regional ports – Southampton, Dover, Newcastle, Greenock (Glasgow) and, new for 2013, Liverpool, Harwich and Belfast.

The company says the new itinerary means more than 90 per cent of the UK population will be within a 90-mile radius of a Fred Olsen departure port.

Itineraries are also varied, visiting popular weekend break destinations, such as Amsterdam and Dublin, or beautiful French ports, like Honfleur.

You can cruise north, right up to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, or south, to Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, visiting St Peter Port.

The first 2013 departure is a spring cruise to the Channel Islands and France, with a “foodie” flavour; Guernsey Gastronomy and Boulogne Beer.

This is a three-night Black Watch cruise that departs from Southampton on May 4. The cruise visits St Peter Port, the capital of Guernsey, for a full day, followed by a visit to France’s most northerly point, Boulogne-sur- Mer, for another full day, with a latenight departure, allowing for some evening time ashore. The cruise then returns to Harwich.

Prices for this spring break start from £299 per person.