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P&O Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?
P&O Cruises vs Royal Caribbean (Photo: P&O Cruises | Royal Caribbean)

P&O Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?

P&O Cruises vs. Royal Caribbean: Which Cruise Line Would Suit You?
P&O Cruises vs Royal Caribbean (Photo: P&O Cruises | Royal Caribbean)
Adam Coulter
U.K. Executive Editor
Sue Bryant
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Where P&O Cruises offers a more traditional style of cruising -- geared towards British holidaymakers -- with a focus on food, wine and entertainment, Royal Caribbean offers action-packed fun you would associate with a more modern cruise experience. Think fast-paced waterslides, surf simulators, skydiving, rock climbing walls and big West End-style shows.

Royal Caribbean bases most of its ships in the U.S. and Caribbean, with just Anthem of the Seas sailing out of Southampton in 2022.

Whereas, P&O Cruises has five ships operating from Southampton in 2022 -- brand-new flagship Iona, Britannia, Ventura, Aurora and Arcadia. Arvia, P&O Cruises' next new ship, will debut in Southampton in December 2022, offering a short season of Canary Islands cruises before repositioning to the Caribbean.

Vaccination policies differ for these two popular cruise lines, too. While Royal Caribbean has not yet determined its health and safety protocols for 2022 sailings departing from Europe, but for all U.S. and Caribbean departures, passengers over 12 must be fully vaccinated and under 12s need to show a negative test before embarkation.

P&O Cruises vaccination policy differs from Royal Caribbean’s in that all passengers aged 18 and over must be fully vaccinated. Five to 17 year olds must either be fully vaccinated or provide a negative PCR result prior to departure, while those aged four and under can travel providing parents/guardians meet the vaccination requirements

(Note: Vaccination policies change all the time, for the most up to date information visit the <a href="https://www.pocruises.com/cruise-with-confidence/booking-with-confidence#vaccination-policy>P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean websites.)

On This Page

Who are you going to meet?

Royal Caribbean ships hosts lots of families (Photo: Royal Caribbean International)

Royal Caribbean

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

P&O Cruises

  • Families in the holidays and a mix of couples of all ages.

Where are they based, and where do they go?


Royal Caribbean

  • A combination of two-night "Weekend Getaways", seven-night Spain & France and Norwegian Fjords cruises are offered from Southampton on Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas.
  • A number of Royal Caribbean cruises in the Mediterranean are available in 2022, including on Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.
  • The majority of Royal Caribbean ships are based in the US and Caribbean. Among the options are Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas, sailing a mix of Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises; Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas sailing Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries and Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, also offering Caribbean itineraries.

P&O Cruises

  • P&O Cruises from Southampton to the Baltic Sea, Norwegian fjords, Canary Islands, Spain & France and Mediterranean are available in 2022.
Related: Which Ships Will Be Cruising From U.K. Ports in 2022?
  • P&O Mini-cruises from Southampton offer two- and three-night sailings to France and Holland on P&O Cruises Arcadia cruise ship.
  • P&O Cruises Caribbean cruises are available in 2022 on Azura, Britannia and Ventura.

What's the accommodation like?

Royal Loft Suite on Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean

  • The ships are family focused and include many family-size cabins with extra rooms and bathtubs.
  • Anthem comes with some of the finest accommodation in the Royal Caribbean fleet, two-storey Loft Suites, as well as cleverly designed Family Junior Suites that sleep five. Of the 2,090 cabins in total, 1,570 have private balconies. All 373 insides have 'virtual balconies' and there are 28 studio cabins for singles.

P&O Cruises

  • Iona has 95 conservatory mini-suites, with floor to ceiling glass that opens to create a balcony separated from the cabin by a sliding glass door.
  • Britannia has the line's first solo cabins with balconies.

What are the dining options?

Wine expert ‘Jolly’ Olly Smith, the mastermind behind the Glass House a wine bar on select P&O cruises (Photo: P&O Cruises)

Royal Caribbean

  • Royal Caribbean ships feature an enormous variety of dining options, including favourites like Johnny Rocket's, Chops Grille and Izumi, as well as the spectacular Wonderland, for high-class molecular cuisine. If you were a fan of Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Italian chain before it vanished from the high street in 2019, you're in luck with a venue onboard UK-based Anthem of the Seas.

P&O Cruises

  • Food on P&O Cruises is geared towards British tastes, with a range of included and speciality (for a fee) options, including popular Indian restaurant Sindhu and the supper club-style Limelight Club.
  • Newest ship Iona features up to 30 drinking and dining, and Arvia will offer a similar amount when it debuts in December 2022.
  • P&O makes much of its 'Food Heroes' partnerships. These include celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, who designs the gala night menus, and master patissier Eric 'Cake Boy' Lanlard. Both chefs offer cookery classes on Britannia and Iona.
  • Wine expert 'Jolly’ Olly Smith masterminds the Glass House across the fleet.
  • New Food Heroes with a presence on Iona include renowned Spanish chef Jose Pizarro and Norwegian chefs Marie Forsberg and Kjartan Skjelde.

What's each line's idea of fun?

Anthem of the Seas' FlowRider surf simulator (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean

  • Royal Caribbean goes all out to create exciting daytime activities. During the day you can ride dodgems in SeaPlex. FlowRider at the back of the ship allows you to try simulated surfing. RipCord by iFly allows you to try simulated skydiving.
  • Take a ride in the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule attached to a mechanical arm that rises 300 feet above sea level.

P&O Cruises

  • P&O Cruises' ships offer 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.
  • You could also attend a cookery class or wine-tasting session tied in with the line's Food Heroes.
  • On Iona there’s a four-screen cinema, Ocean Studios, and Arvia will debut a brand-new Deck 19 activity zone, Altitude, featuring a tropical island-themed mini golf, a water play zone, and the line’s first ever high-ropes course.

What's the nighttime entertainment like?

Gary Barlow P&O Cruises Ambassador Performs at LSO St Lukes

Royal Caribbean

  • Anthem of the Seas is currently showing We Will Rock You in its theatre, among other shows, and has a beautiful aft lounge, TwoW070, where you can see musical and acrobatic performances with stunning effects on giant LED screens or soak up more live music at the two-deck Music Hall. while Spectra’s

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.
  • Entertainment is geared to British tastes, especially offerings like stand-up and tribute bands.
  • Plenty of bars, including the Crow's Nest and the Glass House
  • On Britannia and Iona the Limelight Club offers intimate dinner shows with cabaret performances by well-known singers.
  • On Iona Take That frontman Gary Barlow is musical director of the 710 Club.

How well are families catered for?

Royal Babies and Tots Nursery (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean

  • A dedicated kids area (Adventure Ocean), with rooms and age-appropriate activities and entertainment for all ages, much of it highly creative.
  • 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

  • The line's family ships feature dedicated, age-appropriate kids clubs for 2-17 year olds.
  • On deck there’s plenty for families, from sports activities like archery, mini golf, football and basketball to a splash pool.

How does pricing compare?

Tipping on Ships: An Australian Culture Clash (Photo: svershinsky/Shutterstock)

Royal Caribbean

  • Tips add up at $14.50 per person, per day ($17.50 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.
  • Wonderland Imaginative Cuisine, one of Royal Caribbean’s most upscale speciality restaurants, is $45 per person.
  • Royal Caribbean’s drinks package, including wines by the glass, a selection of draught beers, single-measure spirits, soft drinks, bottled water, mocktails, premium coffees and teas, cost from $63 - $89 per person per day.

P&O Cruises

  • Gratuities are included, though for a P&O all-inclusive cruise you'll need to add a drinks and dining package to your P&O Cruises personaliser.
  • Bar prices are the same as you'd pay on land or, in some cases, cheaper.
  • Epicurean is the most expensive and upmarket speciality restaurant onboard, costing £28 per person.
  • P&O Cruises drinks package the Ultimate Drinks Package, including a selection of beers, single-measure spirits, cocktails and wines by the glass up to £6.95, Unlimited draught soft drinks, mocktails, small bottled water (500ml only), Primo Costa coffees, Teapigs teas, hot chocolates costs £39.95 per person per day.

Is there a loyalty club programe?

Royal Caribbean

  • To join Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society programme you'll just need to cruise with the line for three nights or more.
  • The six-tier programme will then earn you points for every night you cruise.
  • Benefits kick in from the bottom tier, including priority check-in, breakfast in the line's private departure lounge, exclusive member events and access to the members-only section of the cruise line's website. More top-tier perks include * behind-the-scenes galley tours and -- eventually -- free cruise certificates.

(*Temporarily suspended to meet health and safety protocols.)

P&O Cruises

  • P&O Cruises Peninsular Club offers rewards and discounted prices for members, including five percent off Select Price bookings on selected cruises, onboard discounts, a dedicated magazine, welcome gifts, through to Champagne, priority check in and onboard events.
  • P&O Cruises Peninsular Club has six tiers and to enter the Pacific Tier (base tier), you’ll need to spend at least 15 nights on board (garnering 150 points). Loyalty points are added to your account upon completion of a cruise, with 10 points given for every night onboard.

How do each line's dress codes compare?

Royal Caribbean

  • Royal Caribbean ships adopt a more relaxed dress code, though some formalities are in place, especially on designated formal nights when passengers like to go glam with glitzy dress, high heels and suits. 
  • Smart casual means shirts, dresses, skirts and blouses, blazers and jackets, while casual means jeans, polo shirts, sundresses and blouses are all suitable options. 
  • Swimwear is restricted to the Pool Deck and shorts are allowed at breakfast and lunch.

P&O Cruises 

  • P&O Cruises dress code is more traditional, with set nights for formal wear. 
  • Dress code is cocktail dress, ball gown, tuxedo or dinner jacket/suit and tie on gala evenings and Black Tie nights. 
  • On other nights it's smart/casual, with the line advising passengers to dress as you would for dinner in a nice restaurant. Smart denim jeans are permitted, along with trousers and shorts, skirts and tops or twin sets. Tailored shorts are also permitted in areas such as the buffet restaurants and open deck bars. 
  • Shoes should be worn inside and no swimwear in the ship’s lounges, inside bars, restaurants or reception. 
  • Fancy dress and novelty items of clothing are not permitted on P&O Cruises ships.

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 high-energy evening entertainment, then Royal Caribbean sounds like the line for you.

If, however, you're a Strictly Come Dancing fan, great music and enjoy good food and fine wine in pleasant surroundings, and you prefer your entertainment more low-key, and geared entirely to British tastes, then go for P&O Cruises.

Updated January 08, 2020

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