P&O Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean is all about the "wow" factor, with high-tech entertainment and activities, a vast array of dining choices and an emphasis on family fun.

P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises offers a very British experience and does not go in for flashiness, so expect Afternoon Tea, excellent cuisine, good drinking venues -- and on certain ships -- Strictly Come Dancing.

P&O Cruises has long dominated the U.K. cruise market, with a history dating back almost 180 years. In fact, for a long time it was the only line for U.K. cruisers wishing to sail out of the U.K. Then along came U.S. lines, among them Royal Caribbean, which currently has two ships based out of Southampton seasonally -- Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

Where P&O cruises offers a traditional cruise experience, with an emphasis on food, wine and low-key entertainment, Royal Caribbean offers what could be described as a more typical modern cruise experience with waterslides, simulated surfing, rock climbing walls and big West End-style shows.

Of course, you can always hop on a plane to the Mediterranean or Caribbean and jump on a Royal Caribbean or P&O Cruises ship there, but what we'd like to do is establish how P&O Cruises versus Royal Caribbean's two U.K.-based ships stack up for passengers departing from these shores.

Compare by: Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Onboard Fun | Entertainment | Family Focus | Pricing | Bottom Line

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Who are you going to meet?

Royal Caribbean International

  • Families, plus couples and singles in their 30s to 50s

P&O Cruises

  • The adults-only ships attract a 55+ crowd, while the family ships attract a 55+ clientele in the off season and families during the holidays.


Where are they based, and where do they go?

Royal Caribbean International

  • Royal Caribbean has two ships based in Southampton -- Independence of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas

  • Both offer cruises to the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.
  • Navigator also goes to Norway, while Independence visits France, Belgium and Northern Spain.

P&O Cruises

  • From March to November, ships sail from Southampton to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.
  • Ventura and Oceana offer fly-cruises around the Mediterranean from Venice.
  • Ventura and Britannia reposition to winter homeports in the Caribbean from November to March. Arcadia offers world cruises.


What's the accommodation like?

Royal Caribbean International

  • The ships are family focused and include many family-size cabins with extra rooms and bathtubs.
  • On Independence, family options include 300-square-foot inside cabins with room for up to six; family oceanview cabins and Royal Family Suites which hold up to eight.
  • 81 inside cabins on Navigator have "virtual balconies" (HD screens showing sea views)

P&O Cruises

  • Has a range of interconnecting and family cabins onboard the family ships (Britannia, Ventura, Azura, Aurora and Oceana)
  • Britannia also includes the line's first solo cabins with balconies.
  • At 184 square feet, cabin sizes are on par with other modern mainstream cruise lines.


What are the dining options?

Royal Caribbean International

  • On Navigator of the Seas: wide array of for-fee specialty restaurants, including popular favourites, Izumi, for sushi and Hibachi; Chops Grille for steaks and Italian-themed Giovanni's Table
  • On Independence of the Seas: For-fee options include Portofino's for upscale dining; and Johnny Rocket's, the popular burgers n' shakes joint.

P&O Cruises

  • Chef partnerships include Michelin-starred Atul Kochhar, whose Sindhu restaurant is onboard most ships, and celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, whose White Room (on select ships, not Britannia) offers high-end French cuisine.
  • Cook with James Martin and Eric "Cake Boy" Lanlard in the first Cookery Club at sea on Britannia.


What's each line's idea of fun?

Royal Caribbean International

  • Independence has three pools, including H2O, a kids' splash area and waterslides. Navigator has two small pools and four whirlpools
  • Independence has a FlowRider, which is a surf simulator; and a rock climbing wall.
  • Both ships have a basketball courts and a mini-golf course.

P&O Cruises

  • P&O Cruises' ships offers traditional sports, such as short-tennis, mini-golf, basketball and cricket, often in a dedicated sports area (on the family ships); on the adults-only ships you'll find shuffleboard and quoits.
  • All ships have pools; on the family-friendly ones, expect water games like volleyball and deck fun including dancing with the exuberant entertainment team.


What's the nighttime entertainment like?

Royal Caribbean International

  • Independence of the Seas has ice skating shows, a nightly parade in the Royal Promenade and a big revue show in the main theatre
  • Navigator also offers classic revues and nightly parades, as well as Movies Under the Stars.
  • Both ships have a large number of pubs, bars and clubs to choose from

P&O Cruises

  • Features the in-house entertainment team Headliners, who perform a series of revues and shows
  • Strictly Come Dancing dancers and judges appear across the fleet on selected sailings.
  • Plenty of bars, including the Crow's Nest and the Glass House
  • On Britannia, the Limelight Club offers intimate dinner shows with stars


How well are families catered for?

Royal Caribbean International

  • A dedicated kids area (Adventure Ocean), with rooms and age-appropriate activities and entertainment for all ages
  • A DreamWorks tie-up means character parades, DreamWorks movies and character meet-and-greets are on offer most days.
  • My Family Time Dining serves children their meals first; kids are then picked up by kids club staff so parents can have the rest of dinner to themselves.
  • Royal Babies and Tots Nursery on select ships; diapers, wipes, cream and baby food available through the Babies 2 Go program
  • Child-friendly options include water parks and indoor activity centers with bumper cars, roller skating and amusement arcades.

P&O Cruises

  • On the family-friendly ships, the range and quality of the children's facilities are superb, with excellent staff, outdoor space and a top-notch kids program; tie-ins with Mr. Men and Little Miss means kids get to meet Little Miss Sunshine and Mr. Bump on most cruises.
  • All the family ships have kids pools and splash areas for toddlers.
  • Family ships have dedicated areas for family dining.
  • Also on the family ships, family-friendly movies are shown during the day.


How does pricing compare?

Royal Caribbean International

  • Tips add up at $13.50 per person, per day ($16.50 for suite passengers).
  • Prices are in US dollars and with the current exchange rate, costs can add up quickly.
  • Beware the additional line for an additional tip.

P&O Cruises

  • Gratuities are low, compared to those on U.S. ships (just £5 per person, per day).
  • Bar prices are the same as you'd pay on land or, in some cases, cheaper.

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P&O Cruises vs Royal Caribbean: the bottom line

Both lines are completely different, and so appeal to different types of cruisers. If you're young, fit, like having a ton of things to do in the day and enjoy a wide choice of evening entertainment, then Royal Caribbean sounds like the line for you. If, however, you're a Strictly Come Dancing fan, enjoy good food and fine wine in pleasant surroundings, and you prefer your entertainment more low-key, then go for P&O Cruises.

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