I recently took my first cruise from the UK after sailing only from US ports. When planning my cruise, I didn’t know what differences I should expect when cruising from the UK versus the US.
Once on board, I realized that while there were some slight differences, the Royal Caribbean experience was almost exactly the same whether you were sailing from the UK or the US. However, it was fun to spot the still so light differences on board, from certain foods available in the Windjammer to being able to make tea in my cabin.
After all, while you may be on a Royal Caribbean cruise departing from the UK, you’re still with an American cruise line. Therefore, you may not see as many differences on board as if you were sailing with a UK cruise line.
For example, UK cruise lines including Cunard and P&O Cruises offer an afternoon tea service, where you can enjoy a variety of teas, sweets and savory bites. This is something you won’t find on a Royal Caribbean cruise departing from the UK.
Nonetheless, let’s look at the main differences I noticed between my UK and US cruises with Royal Caribbean, and some general differences you’ll see when planning your UK cruise.
Tea kettles in the cabin
When you first enter your cabin on a UK cruise, you will notice an in-cabin electric kettle for coffee and tea. You can make instant coffee and tea right from your room, which can be nice when you’re having a relaxing morning in the cabin.
While you may encounter this on Alaskan cruises departing from the US or Canada (like I did on Ovation of the Seas last year), it’s not guaranteed.
Attitude to the weather
The most “culture shock” I had on my cruise from Southampton was on our first day at sea. As we started to travel to France, the weather was not right . The sky was completely gray, the winds were not ideal and the temperature not smell like mid June.
I had to walk from one side of the ship to the other, so I decided to walk on the pool deck. I was shocked when I came out and saw tons of passengers on the pool deck…with several even swimming outside! Some passengers used towels as blankets, others full winter jackets and some “sunbathers” in bathing suits.
I couldn’t help but imagine how empty the pool deck would be if we encountered similar weather on a cruise from Florida! I appreciated the determination of the passengers on board my cruise from the UK to enjoy their holiday whatever the weather. Luckily the weather improved later in the week, but it was a fun difference to note.
Time of year to sail
You can sail with Royal Caribbean year-round on itineraries departing from the United States. Whether it’s January, July or October, you’ll find a wide range of routes available. Although some destinations are seasonal, such as cruises to Alaska and Northeastern Canada, the majority of sailings are offered year-round.
Royal Caribbean’s UK cruise season generally runs from May to October each year. If you’re looking to sail Anthem of the Seas in, say, January, you’ll need to head to the United States.
A minor difference that UK cruise passengers should be aware of before booking a Royal Caribbean ship is that there are no Type G (UK) plugs on board, so it is important to pack a few plug adapters in your bag.
Royal Caribbean ships have Type C (Europlug) and Type A/B (US) outlets available in cruise ship cabins.
Choice of drinks
Royal Caribbean strives to tailor cruises to the demographics of passengers on board. On cruises departing from China, for example, you’ll find more Chinese-influenced food and drink options.
Likewise, one thing you’ll find on cruises departing from the UK is a menu of gins and beers available. I was surprised to find a menu of gins and beers set up on tables throughout the ship, as I had never seen this on a US cruise before!
One thing you are sure to notice on a UK cruise is the additional menu options available in the main dining room. Each evening you will find two additional menu options: an English main course (Guinness pie, chicken and leek pie, etc.) and an Indian curry.
Although you can technically order Indian food from the main dining room on cruises departing from the United States, you won’t find it on the menu. Instead, you’ll need to ask your server what Indian options are available that day.
On UK cruises, however, an Indian option is listed in the main course section of the dining room menu each evening. The curry options are also quite varied, from classic chicken tikka masala to lamb and fish curries.
You can also find English-influenced cuisine in the Windjammer, from dessert puddings to savory pies and English breakfast.
The ports cruising on a sail from the UK are, unsurprisingly, quite different from those you’ll visit on a cruise from the US.
Cruises departing from the UK visit the following destinations:
- norwegian fjords
- Northern Spain and France
- the Canary Islands
There are also several routes that visit the British Isles, although they do not usually depart from Southampton. Jewel of the Seas, for example, will offer British Isles cruises departing from Amsterdam and visiting ports in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Most cruises from the United States, on the other hand, visit the following destinations:
- Eastern, Western and Southern Caribbean
- Northeast and Canada
- mexican riviera
UK and US cruises offer a range of landscapes, cultures and history to discover. If you’re looking for a warm, sunny beach day, you can find it on a Mediterranean or Canary Islands cruise from the UK or a Caribbean cruise from the US.
Likewise, if mountains and fjords are more your style, a Norwegian fjord cruise and an Alaska cruise will both offer incredible scenery and cooler temperatures.
You will have many more options to choose a ship when sailing from a US port. Most Royal Caribbean ships depart from a US port at some point during the year, so you’ll have no trouble finding a ship that suits your cruise preferences.
You will usually only have one option when leaving the UK. Anthem of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s main ship sailing from Southampton, England.
Although there is only one ship option, Anthem of the Seas is a favorite among Royal Caribbean fans. As a Quantum-class ship, she’s designed to navigate the cooler temperatures you may experience on a UK cruise, with indoor lounging and activity areas for guests of all ages.
Among its features are the North Star observation pod, RipCord by iFLY indoor skydiving and a full musical production of We Will Rock You.
Guests and crew on board
Generally speaking, the majority of passengers on a cruise departing from the United States are from the United States, Canada or Latin America. Cruises departing from England tend to be mainly made up of UK passengers, although you will also find passengers from all over the world.
I estimated that around 80% or more of the passengers on my Anthem of the Seas cruise were from the UK or Ireland. I was definitely in the minority with my American accent!
I also noticed more staff from the UK on my cruise from Southampton compared to sailing from the US, including the cruise director and the pub singer (although that may not just be a coincidence).
Find out more about cruising from the UK: