Quick Links

There are, essentially, just two kinds of transatlantic cruises. One happens aboard Cunard's Queen Mary 2, the only ocean liner that provides scheduled crossings from May to October between New York and Southampton, England, with an optional extension to Hamburg, Germany. The second happens when various cruise lines reposition their ships between the Florida/Caribbean region, where they sail in winter, and the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, where they operate in summer.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

It means that, in the latter case, ships are being seasonally rerouted, and the cruise lines might as well have to pay guests onboard for the trip. This is why repositioning cruises can usually be booked at a bargain fare. In the case of Queen Mary 2, the iconic ship itself is the destination, and it can be an exciting way to get to the U.K. or to New York.

Because of this stark difference in intention, the cruise experiences are quite different, but the basic ups and downs of a transatlantic cruise are mostly the same.

The Best Experiences Aboard A Transatlantic Cruise

Clear your head. A long string of days at sea can be just the thing to get the cobwebs out of your head. Without land in sight for an extended period of time, there's nothing around you but the big blue sea and the rising and setting of the sun.

Related: These Are The Most Affordable Cruises, Ranked By Cost

Make new friends. Transatlantic cruisers tend to get to know each other in a way that's different from other cruises, where daily port calls have guests spinning off in different directions, rushing to catch their tour buses or gather their snorkeling gear. Crossing an ocean over multiple days means there's a captive audience, and cruisers soon begin to recognize each other and chat, join up for dinner or participate in onboard activities together.

Learn new things. The crew of the Queen Mary 2 and of all ships that make transatlantic crossings go to great lengths to make sure there is a wide range of activities for each day at sea. These can include lectures, presentations, movies, games and competitions, musical and cabaret performances, and the like. Aboard the Queen Mary 2, there's even a planetarium offering a few eye-opening shows each day.

Enjoy the quiet. Travelers looking for peace and quiet can get that, too, on an ocean crossing. Find a comfortable chair on the deck or in the ship's library, and settle down with a good book. After dark on a clear night, transatlantic cruisers can see the night sky in a whole new way, with zero light pollution.

Bring the dog. Guests aboard the Queen Mary 2 can bring along their pets. Dogs and cats can travel on the ship, which provides 24 kennels, play space, and a dedicated owner’s lounge.

The Challenges Of A Transatlantic Cruise

Beware rough seas. Cruisers who book an ocean crossing should be certain they've got their sea legs since the environment of the open Atlantic can be very different from sailing between Caribbean islands. Storms can crop up and suddenly cause rough seas, dense fog can develop, and the nights tend to be chilly and often windy. Cruisers who don't care for the feeling of a ship rolling over sizable swells could end up regretting choosing this type of vacation.

A dearth of port calls. Seven or more days at sea can become boring to some travelers, especially those who like to be busy most of the day. On a transatlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for example, to Rome, there might be an initial port call in Bermuda. However, after that, it's typically multiple days at sea until the ship reaches the Azores, off Africa.

Related: 20 Common Tips For Cruises (That Are A Waste Of Time)

Aboard the Queen Mary 2 from New York, there are no port calls until the ship reaches Southampton, England, although some itineraries have the ship calling at La Havre, France, before docking in Southampton. Either way, guests are looking at seven consecutive nights at sea.

You Can Board One Of These Ships For A Transatlantic Cruise

Cunard's Queen Mary 2 offers regular service between New York and England from late spring to mid-October. Several other cruise lines, including luxury, mid-range, and mass market lines, sell passage on repositioning cruises. Upmarket cruise line Oceania Cruises repositions its ships from Europe to the U.S. in mid-fall and offers cruises such as Barcelona to Miami in November and Rome to Miami in December.

Luxury line Seabourn markets transatlantic crossings from Lisbon to Miami and from Barcelona to Barbados in November. Carnival Cruise Line in early spring offers repositioning cruises to Europe on several ships, including the Carnival Pride, from Tampa to Barcelona.

Related: SS United States: Once The Fastest Ship Now Sits, Rusting Away

Royal Caribbean International repositions its Anthem of the Seas to Europe in the spring, sailing from Cape Liberty (New Jersey) to Southampton, England. The 11-night sailing calls in the Azores on day seven, then Cherbourg and La Havre, France, before ending in England.

Transatlantic cruise fares vary widely. On the least expensive cruise lines, they can be booked for under $100 per night, exclusive of tips, alcoholic beverages, and various port fees and taxes.