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P&O Cruises Arvia in Barbados ahead of the ship's naming ceremony in 2023 (Photo: Christopher Ison)

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

P&O Cruises Arvia in Barbados ahead of the ship's naming ceremony in 2023 (Photo: Christopher Ison)
U.K. Executive Editor
Adam Coulter
Sue Bryant

Sep 21, 2023

Read time
9 min read

Whereas 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 Anthem of the Seas based in Southampton for the European summer season and multiple others across the Med.

P&O Cruises has seven ships, with typically four-five sailing from Southampton and the others in the Caribbean. These include a mix of family-friendly, plus two adult-only ships, including Arvia, Iona, Britannia, Arcadia, Ventura, Aurora and Arcadia.  

While Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises do have some similarities, the mostly very different cruise lines suited to different personalities. From dining and cabins to day time fun, read on to find out which cruise line is for you.

On This Page

Who Are You Going to Meet When Sailing P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean??

Passengers on P&O Cruises Arvia watch the naming ceremony from the SkyDome (Photo: Christopher Ison)

On Royal Caribbean, you'll see families, plus couples and singles in their 30s to 50s, mostly.

On P&O Cruises, it's also families in the holidays and a mix of couples of all ages.

Where Is Each Line Based and Where Do They Sail?

Royal Caribbean has a private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, in the Bahamas (Photo: Brittany Chrusciel/Cruise Critic)

Royal Caribbean sails from the U.S., mainly to the Caribbean and Mexico, with a seasonal European presence

For a no-fly option, Brits can choose to sail Anthem of the Seas from Southampton. A combination of Spain and France, short cruises to France, Norwegian fjords, and longer Canary Islands and Mediterranean cruises are available.

A number of Royal Caribbean cruises in the Mediterranean are also available, including on Odyssey, Symphony and Enchantment of the Seas.

The majority of Royal Caribbean ships are based in the US and Caribbean. Among the options are Wonder of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Allure of the Seas, sailing a mix of Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises; Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas sailing Caribbean and Bahamas itineraries.

Royal also has ships in Alaska, including Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas and Radiance of the Seas.

P&O Cruises are available as fly- and no-fly options

P&O Cruises from Southampton to the Norwegian fjords, Canary Islands, Spain & France and Mediterranean.

P&O Mini-cruises from Southampton offer two- and three-night sailings to France and the Netherlands on P&O Cruises Arcadia cruise ship.

Fly-cruises are available to the Canary Islands on Azura; to the Caribbean on Arvia and Britannia.

What's the Accommodation Like?

Oasis of the Seas Cabins

Royal Caribbean has a slew of cabins types

The ships are family focused and include many family-size cabins with extra rooms and bathtubs.

Southampton-based Anthem comes with some impressive accommodation options, including 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 introduced the new Conservatory Mini Suites with the launch of Iona

Arvia and Iona have 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.

How Do Dining Options Compare?

A sesame-crusted crispy fried tofu at Green & Co. on Arvia (Photo: Jo Kessel)

Royal Caribbean has an enormous variety of dining options

Royal Caribbean's dining options include 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 partners with a number of celebrity chefs

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 ships Arvia and Iona features up to 30 drinking and dining venues, including plant-based option Green & Co on Arvia.

P&O Cruises makes much of its 'Food Heroes' partnerships. These include Marco Pierre White, Jose Pizarro, Kjartan Skjede and Shivi Ramoutar, while wine expert 'Jolly’ Olly Smith masterminds the Glass House across the fleet.

What's Each Line's Idea of Fun?

Anthem of the Seas FlowRider (Photo: 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 offers a mix of traditional and more innovative daytime fun -- depending on the ship

The buzzy swim-up bar on P&O Cruises' Arvia (Photo: Jo Kessel)

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.

Iona and Arvia offer the most daytime fun activities. On Iona, there’s a four-screen cinema, Ocean Studios, and Arvia has a 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 performs on board P&O Cruises Iona (Image: Adam Coulter)

Royal Caribbean has West End-style shows

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.

The line's Caribbean and Med ships have an equally impressive line up of shows, live music and family-friendly entertainment.

P&O Cruises' entertainment is fantastic

The line features the in-house entertainment team Headliners, who perform a series of revues and shows -- including the exclusive "Greatest Days -- the Official Take That Musical" on Arvia.

Entertainment is geared to British tastes, especially offerings like stand-up comedy and tribute bands.

There are 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?

Grandeur of the Seas Nursery (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean is one of the best cruise lines for families

There is 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 has some of the best kids clubs for UK families

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. Plus the high-ropes course on Arvia, cinemas and family swimming pools.

How Does Pricing Compare on Royal Caribbean and P&O Cruises?

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

On Royal Caribbean, you can expect a lot of extra

Tips add up at $16 per person, per day ($18 for suite passengers).

Since prices are in US dollars, 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 $56 to 105 per person per day.

A seven-night Caribbean and Perfect Day at CocoCay cruise in March 2024, excluding flights, will cost around £1,157 per person on Wonder of the Seas.

P&O Cruises offers more inclusions than Royal Caribbean

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.

For fly-cruises, flights are also included.

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 around £28 per person.

But let's compare fares: A seven-night Caribbean cruise on Arvia will cost in the region of £1,499 per person, including flights, based on March 2024.

Is There a Loyalty Club Programme?

Royal Caribbean has the Crown & Anchor Society

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.

P&O Cruises has the Peninsula Club

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 Does Each Line's Dress Codes Compare?

Royal Caribbean's dress code is relaxed

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 has a more traditional dress code

  • 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 tonnes 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 Take That fan, enjoy 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 September 21, 2023
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