Just Back From: A Partial Transatlantic Crossing

May 19, 2017
Exterior shot of Jewel of the Seas docked in port

"You're just getting on?" an American man asked as I hoisted my suitcase on to the security scanner's conveyor belt, where everyone else was putting their pocket items like mobile phones and purses, along with a few carrier bags of souvenirs.

He looked perplexed. I'd just boarded Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas, part way through a cruise, following the ship's six-night transatlantic crossing from Puerto Rico to Las Palmas in The Canary Islands.

"But you missed the best part," he said.

On the way to my cabin, an American woman appeared equally as confused.

"Did you miss your flight to Puerto Rico and miss the ship?" she asked. When I told her that I'd planned all along to embark in Spain, she continued. "But the crossing was fabulous."

Fabulous; it's not the first word that springs to everyone's mind when they see a transatlantic crossing on a cruise itinerary. Some cruisers are more likely to associate the concept with cabin fever and choppy waters.

However, after spending a week with 2,200 passengers, post-crossing, I came to learn the motives for choosing a cruise itinerary that incorporates almost a week at sea; and discovered the reasons why people boomerang back to transatlantic itineraries, time and time again.  

Transatlantic crossings and cost

"I've taken 15 cruises, but this is my first transatlantic," explained Judith Walsh from Minnesota, as she sunned herself by the main pool, somewhere off the coast of Africa. "I chose this one because of price and availability. The crossing was even better than I thought it was going to be. I would definitely do this again."

It's no secret that transatlantic cruises can be great value for money. Most ocean crossing voyages take place in spring and autumn. Instead of being part of the cruise line's regular features, they're part of the logistics. Many ships reposition from Europe to the Caribbean, and vice versa, as climates change, and transatlantic cruises become available as ships relocate to follow the weather. Because of this, one-way voyages are often sold at discount prices.

Shot of blue cruise wake following behind a cruise ship at sea during sunset

Transatlantic crossings and relaxation

Almost everyone I spoke to on Jewel of the Seas used the word relaxation when explaining their reasons for choosing a transatlantic itinerary.

"We were deliberately looking for something transatlantic when we were looking to book a cruise," explained Karen Gurgew from South Carolina. "We just wanted the rest that came with it. We wanted a week where we could just de-stress. This morning we're just lying by the pool, reading. It's relaxing."

Transatlantic crossings and friendliness

There's a fraternity feeling on transatlantic cruises that you don't necessarily get on regular itineraries. When passengers board, they have a moving-in mind-set. As a result, they go to extra lengths to make both themselves and their new neighbours feel at home. Some cruisers hang little whiteboards or tear-off note pads on their cabin doors and write new notes or mantras on them every day for other passengers to read.

This friendliness permeates through the rest of the ship; from mealtimes to sunbathing sessions.

"I love the social side of a transatlantic cruise," explained Ingrid Stephens from Minnesota. "When you are at sea for so long there are so many chances to get to know people. You meet people everywhere. You get chatting over your table at lunch or during activities."

The welcome mat isn't just reserved for those who embark on the first day, either. The friendliness is a bit like a pressure cooker; it intensifies with every passing day of the itinerary. On my first full day on Jewel of the Seas, I was exploring the old town of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. I stopped for a coffee and an English gentleman came over.

"Are you on Jewel of the Seas?" he asked. "My wife and I saw you on board yesterday, have you just joined?"

Bob, his wife June, my partner, and I all had a coffee together, and several nights of pre-dinner gins and conversations followed.

Another night, over dinner, a Swedish gentlemen started talking to us. He was a Royal Caribbean Diamond member, having taken dozens of lengthy cruises with the line. He explained to us that he was travelling alone. However, he used 'alone' in the loosest sense of the word.

"You are never by yourself on a cruise, and that's more true on a transatlantic crossing," said Henry Madsen.

When we asked if he'd like to join us in the bar after dinner he said;

"I will try. I would like to but I have promised to meet some German friends. There is another group I have to see. Tonight is very busy."

On my final night, I met Bob and June in the Safari Club for a farewell drink.

"There were tears over dinner," she explained. "As we said goodbye to everyone. We really have met some great people on this cruise."

--By Sarah Holt, Cruise Critic contributor