A Closer Look: British vs. American Cruises

March 3, 2014 | By | 15 Comments

I’ve just returned from a Caribbean cruise on P&O Cruises’ Ventura. It’s been a year since I was on a British ship and in between, I have found myself on a lot of U.S. ships (Carnival Sunshine, Royal Princess, Norwegian Breakaway and Getaway).
While on Ventura, I realized how different the traditional U.K. cruise experience is, compared with a U.S. one. Here are six things that struck me:
1. The People
We Brits are still a reserved lot (unless we have several pints of beer in us). We find it hard to applaud the live bands; do not get up and spontaneously dance at the Sailaway; do not immediately ask “Where are y’all from” when we get into a lift (elevator); nor swap addresses/emails/phone numbers minutes after meeting. We also try not to say hello/smile too much or greet each other in ships’ corridors. Oh and our average age is 60+….
Whereas Americans WILL do all of the above and when I’m on a US ship, I do the same. I recall at the Norwegian Getaway inaugural it was hard to get people to sit down at the dueling pianos bar. And I collected a wad of email addresses after just 2 days on board (I’m already planning a visit to see Randy and Nancy in Arkansas this summer).
2. The Atmosphere
A UK ship is, in short, more subdued. The cruise cirector will come on the PA at the most twice a day, and announce, almost apologetically, that there will be a bridge game shortly in the Card Room and guests are very welcome to attend, or Miss Nicola Jones will perform a one-off solo performance tonight. Similarly, the Captain will tell us the history of St Lucia as we cruise past, and chat a bit about the weather (inevitably) …
Whereas on a US ship, the CD will be on the PA telling everyone “THE SAILAWAY PARTY IS ABOUT TO START SO GET UP YER BUTTS UP TO THE LIDO DECK AND GET YER DANCIN’ SHOES ON FOR A FABULOUS NIGHT.” Someone from duty free will be exhorting us to buy emeralds today as they are 10% off. And someone from shore excursions will be telling us to take advantage of the fabulous zip-lining opportunities in St Lucia, buy a painting at the art auction, go to the spa.…You get the idea.
3. The Casino
On U.S. ships, you can’t miss the casino: It’s huge, in your face and you have to walk through it. On Breakaway and Getaway, the casino takes up most of Deck 7 and smoking is allowed throughout, permeating the areas nearby.
The casino on Ventura by contrast, is about the size of the library, tucked discreetly behind The Exchange pub. I saw a handful of people in there during the course of a week.
4. The Ship
Ventura is a like a fine five-star hotel – lots of plush carpet, tasteful décor, lounge bars. The upper decks have a good range of sports, but there are no dodgems (bumper) cars, zip lining, planks, ice bars, dueling piano bars, waterslides, sliming…
It’s a simpler cruise experience, where you’re encouraged to have fun, but not too much. Read a few books. Do a few lengths of the main pool, look at the view, go for a stroll round the promenade deck, take in the sea air. Don’t worry about learning to surf or rock-climb. Oh, and on UK ships there is a kettle in every stateroom. We need our tea!
5. Dress Code
There were two formal nights on our Ventura week-long cruise, and that means black tie (tux). On other evenings, the code read  “elegant casual,” – which, while jeans are allowed, really means  “You’d better put on a jacket and a shirt with a collar, and if you don’t want to be stared at, put on a pair of suit trousers rather than those jeans.” And everyone stuck to this.
On most U.S. ships, if someone gets a T-shirt on in the buffet or remembers not to wear flip flops in the MDR on formal night, that’s an achievement.
6. Kids
As a dad, I fail to see why this is such a controversial topic on any cruise line, but there we are. Ventura is billed as a family-friendly ship. We were on over half term (vacation). Our six-year-old is extremely well behaved and yet some of the passengers still managed to find offense. It’s not a shock: Children jump in pools! They make noise! They run down corridors! Sadly, we were made to feel slightly uncomfortable a lot of the time.
Whereas, I have found on most US ships, children – as they should be – are welcomed with open arms. Clearly there’s a limit; dancing with babes in arms on Norwegian Epic’s club at 1 a.m.  is a bit extreme. However , that was a Mediterranean sailing full of Spanish passengers and a whole separate blog topic in itself…
What do you think? Do you agree? We’d love to get your thoughts below.
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    15 Responses to “A Closer Look: British vs. American Cruises”

    1. Barb
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 10:42 am

      Interesting reading! I’ve wondered about the P&O ships. We sail on “US Ships”, having done one Carnival and now found our home in Celebrity. The one thing I miss sailing from the US is the lack of a kettle in the room. Celebrity puts them in the rooms when sailing from the UK, then packs them away when they cross the Atlantic back to the US. Additionally, there is generally only one announcement per day, with the exception of the announcement that the ship has cleared and we can go ashore. The subdued atmosphere and kettle in the room might be enough to get us to try another line at some point, however!

    2. anthony smith
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 10:50 am

      I think you’ve got it spot on Adam, I worked on the QE2 back in the late 80’s doing both US and British cruise’s and found it to be the same too. The biggest thing we noticed as bartenders onboard was that we made a lot more money on US cruise’s as they tipped better.

    3. PAH
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 11:05 am

      I would imagine that on British ships when guests walk on the deck, they walk on the left side of the area whereas the Americans walk on the right side when they take a stroll.

    4. Dawn Mansour
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 11:12 am

      I totally agree! Last summer I did two back to back cruises! first was on the Queen Mary II, If we were back in Titanic days it would fit in nicely….it still has a class thing going on which I found distasteful…the entertainment was DRY ! and difficult to make friends, after disembarking , we immediately went to Crystal Serenity, WOW what a difference, you were immediately welcomed and felt at home like you had been on the ship for years and new the staff like friends lol…great experience!not at all stuffy, and made some lovely friends on board.Go USA!

    5. PEGGY
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 11:21 am

      On the last 5 cruises were all american..now looking forward to a British ship.

    6. nick sully
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 11:21 am

      Love this blog. We are Brits but love a good time and we are over 60. Love kids, have 14 grandkids and 4 great grandkids (not taking them with us, phew) Going on Ventura next week and rci splendour in November. Will let you know.

    7. Richard Cole
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 11:48 am

      Having recently returned from a 2 week Caribbean cruise on Venture I would disagree with a couple of points. Having cruised with both Princess and Celebrity and Fred Olsen I would rate the Ventura more as a 3 star. The food was not well prepared or served well. The waiters never seemed to smile and the service was what I would expect from a high street restaurant.Either the CD or a member of entertainment staff was on the PA several times a day. The library was tiny and only open for short time each day. Apart from the 4 formal nights the dress at night was open shirts and casual trousers. Yes a kettle is needed in the cabin,an early cup of coffee is always good.

    8. AudalSomerset
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

      We have cruised both US and British ships but have settles for Princess a US ship but not one with rock climbing walls and bumper cars. We think it very nice to be greeted in the lift and corridors. Have never found it intrusive and we have never ended up with loads of email addresses. We find the food is better on US ships as generally the Americans demand a higher standard than the Brits. In fact the worst food we ever encountered was on a very British ship Cunard Queen Mary 2. Also Princess loyalty club is streets ahead of P&O.

    9. albean99
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

      Really interesting. We’ve only been on U.S. ships. I think I like the friendly, more boisterous cruises. We’re not much for the formal attire so won’t rush to try a British ship. We’ve gotten spoiled on Norwegian & freestyle. We’re planning a European cruise next year so imagine it will be a bit of a different atmosphere and should be fun.

    10. Sue Hurley
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

      I prefer the American ships overall , quality of food seems to be better especially steak and beef.
      As a person born in USA but having lived in Britain for 50 years and having two passports by the way ,I do find the British ships passengers ( which are mainly British) to be rather insulting about Americans .
      I also think that the sail aways with British flag waving and land of hope and glory belting out to be unnecessary ,nothing similar happens on American ships and if it did the Brits would be the first to complain!!
      I really am at a loss to understand the general dislike of Americans by the British in recent years , when asking Brits why this is they say Afghanistan ….I’m bewildered.

    11. Carolyn
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

      We’ve only been on US ships, but cruise a lot. We find any Brits on those ships all seem to stick together. I love the way Americans will include anyone and everyone in their fun. Go USA!

    12. Deedee
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

      Excellent comparison. I appreciate that it is written is a very matter-of-fact way. The point is that there are differences… not that one way is better. It is always good to know what to expect and to try new experiences!
      Thank you!
      p.s. I’d love to see similar articles on Italian cruises and Costa.

    13. Trish Coppock
      March 3rd, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

      I’m a Brit, I have to give the thumbs up to American cruise lines, especially Celebrity & Princess. We have also cruised with Regent & Oceania, both fabulous but a little more subdued. The British lines we have cruised with, P&O & Fred Olsen, were horrendous, the food on P&O was like school dinners, in other words inedible & boring.

    14. Pam
      March 4th, 2014 @ 8:27 am

      I’ve finally settled on Holland America as the American line that doesn’t have the over-the-top things that you seem to disdain on many American ships. That said, there’s nothing wrong with any of that, it’s just not for everyone and there’s no reason to pretend that your examples are the norm.

    15. ALAN
      March 4th, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

      Agree 100% unfortunately some people dont know how to unwind and enjoy a cruise holiday. As for kids we were all kids once and my parents made sure that we all went on holidays every year regardless of what kind, my own kids have travelled with us everywhere also including cruises, international fly away holidays etc.


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