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.
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.