A transatlantic cruise ranks high on many travelers’ bucket lists, especially those who love the camaraderie and adventure of a voyage by ship. Today’s roughly 4,000-nautical-mile transatlantic crossing is more akin to the pre-aviation “Grand Tour” enjoyed by wealthy Americans than the immigration journeys many of our European ancestors made from the 17th to early 20th centuries.
Leisurely and luxurious, a one-way sailing offers fine dining, wellness-oriented pampering, enlightening lectures, glamorous nightlife and plenty of time to relax. Transatlantic cruises are also a solution for travelers who prefer not to fly and a tempting option for cruise lovers seeking a longer itinerary at an affordable price.
Is a transatlantic cruise right for everyone? Not necessarily, especially for anyone prone to moderate to severe sea sickness. But for those who love sea days — and many cruisers do — a crossing can offer an uninterrupted “floating resort” experience with the added bonus of delivering you to Europe or returning you home without a cramped transatlantic flight.
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Here’s everything you need to know about cruising the Atlantic — plus a selection of the best transatlantic cruises you can book in 2023.
Which cruise lines offer transatlantic crossings?
While Cunard Line is most famous for its weekly crossings between Southampton, England and New York City, which sail from April to December on its ocean liner Queen Mary 2, pretty much every major cruise line offers transatlantic crossings. These generally take place in the spring (late March to early May) as ships are repositioned from the Caribbean to Europe and in the fall (September to November) when vessels sail from Europe to the U.S. to begin Canada/New England and Caribbean itineraries.
Also known as repositioning cruises, these sailings are usually longer than a traditional crossing and often include several port calls beyond the city of embarkation and disembarkation. Even better, cruise fares for these itineraries are typically one-third to one-half the price of a cruise of the same length that visits a new port every day. This makes them a great deal for travelers looking to settle into shipboard life rather than just sightsee.
These types of transatlantic/repositioning itineraries are offered by Azamara, Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, MSC, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Seabourn, Sea Dream Yacht Club, Silversea, Star Clippers, Windstar, Viking and Virgin.
When is the best time of year for transatlantic cruises?
The best time to take a transatlantic cruise depends on what you’re looking for: great weather, smooth seas, the best price or specific ports of call.
Generally speaking, May, June and July are recommended for warmer weather and gentler seas — before the Atlantic hurricane season peaks in August, September and October — although storms can arise any time of the year.
March, April and November, while not ideal due to cooler temperatures that can limit on-deck and poolside enjoyment, are a good option and a terrific value, especially if the ship’s route is a southerly one between Florida and the Mediterranean rather than between Northern Europe and New York.
As noted above, the best prices are generally in spring and fall for repositioning cruises. These itineraries may also visit several appealing ports in the Mediterranean or Caribbean as well as call on the Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands, Iceland or Bermuda in the Atlantic.
How long does the crossing take?
It varies. The classic nonstop transatlantic itinerary aboard Queen Mary 2 is a seven-night voyage between New York and Southampton (and vice versa). On the other hand, transatlantic repositioning cruises generally range in length from 11 to 21 nights, with an average of 14 nights (seven or eight of them typically sea days).
Will the seas be rough?
It’s up to Mother Nature. At times the Atlantic can be smooth sailing, even in spring and fall, and yet unpredictable wind and water current patterns can create rough seas seemingly out of nowhere any time of year.
Captains can generally maneuver around storms — and try to do so whenever possible for the comfort of all onboard. In addition, modern cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers that reduce a ship’s rolling motion due to wind or waves.
However, if you’re even slightly prone to seasickness, don’t throw caution to the wind. You’ll be better off on a larger ship (pick a cabin located midship on a lower deck) and be sure to pack medication, patches, bands or whatever works best for you. While it may seem counter-intuitive, having a window or balcony actually helps offset seasickness since it offers fresh air and a horizon view, so opt for an ocean-view or balcony cabin over an inside one.
Which side of the ship is best for a transatlantic crossing?
It honestly doesn’t make much difference whether you book a cabin on the port (left) or starboard (right) side of the ship since most daytime views will be of the ocean. If, however, you’re departing from a Mediterranean port, say Rome or Barcelona, for a southerly crossing, booking a starboard cabin might offer a view of the Rock of Gibraltar if your ship transits between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic during daylight hours. For a U.S.-to-Europe eastward crossing, you’d want the opposite, a port-side cabin.
Similarly, if your crossing takes you from Northern Europe on a northerly route to the U.S. and you want to be among the first to spot land, perhaps Greenland or Newfoundland, book a starboard cabin. But if you are cruising into New York Harbor just before dawn and want to see the Statue of Liberty from your cabin, you’ll need to book on the port side.
More important for an Atlantic crossing location-wise is the deck your cabin is on and whether it is situated forward, midship or aft. In general, the ship’s movement as it cruises through any rough seas will feel less severe if your cabin is located midship and is on one of the lower or middle decks versus the top-most decks.
Which ports do transatlantic cruises visit?
Where you embark and disembark will determine your route and the ports you potentially call on. Ships repositioning to or from the Baltic and the British Isles generally take a northerly route and vessels sailing from the Mediterranean cross on a more southerly route, especially if they are repositioning to or from a winter homeport in Florida.
On a northerly crossing, you can expect to embark in a port such as Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Southampton or New York and, depending on the length of the cruise, call on ports in Ireland (Dublin or Cork), Iceland (Reykjavik), Greenland (Qaqortoq or Nuuk), Atlantic Canada (St. John’s in Newfoundland or Sydney or Halifax in Nova Scotia) and Bermuda (King’s Wharf).
On a southerly crossing between Barcelona or Rome in the Mediterranean and Miami or Fort Lauderdale, typical ports of call include Madeira, Grand Canary or Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Ponta Delgada in the Azores, and one or two islands in the Caribbean, such as St. Maarten or Puerto Rico.
Is it better to book an eastbound or westbound cruise?
Which direction you book really depends on whether you’re aboard for the experience or you’re using the crossing as a substitute for a flight to get to or return from a European vacation. Just keep in mind a few factors:
Aside from Queen Mary 2 crossings, westbound transatlantic repositioning cruises (from Europe to the U.S.) take place in the fall during the Atlantic hurricane season, although some are scheduled for mid-to-late November when storm formation has generally diminished. Eastbound cruises (from the U.S. to Europe) happen in spring, a season also often known for periods of gray skies and rain.
When considering westbound versus eastbound crossings, factor in the time change. While a transatlantic cruise is a terrific way to avoid the jet lag caused by flying across multiple time zones in a single day, you will be subject to almost daily reminders to reset your clock.
On westbound cruises, you’ll have to set your clock back at night, thus gaining an extra hour of sleep on most days. On eastbound cruises, you’ll set it ahead an hour and lose an hour of leisure time or sleep.
Another factor to keep in mind is that unless you plan to return home on another transatlantic cruise, you’ll also need to book a one-way flight. Before committing to a specific eastbound or westbound itinerary, always check your flight options because one-way tickets can sometimes be more expensive than round-trip fares.
Best transatlantic cruises for 2023
There are dozens of opportunities to cross the Atlantic by cruise ship, but here are some of the best itineraries in the coming year:
Cunard’s transatlantic crossing on Queen Mary 2 (April to December 2023)
There’s nothing quite like it. Cunard’s weekly transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton (or vice versa) aboard the 2,691-guest Queen Mary 2 celebrates the grand age of ocean liners. These seven-night voyages are all about the sea, with interludes of culinary enjoyment and evening entertainment designed for travelers who appreciate formality and glamour.
A typical day might include time in the library perusing the largest book collection at sea, an illuminating astronomy lesson in the onboard planetarium and traditional afternoon tea.
The evening lineup generally starts with a multi-course dinner (same table and same waiter nightly) followed by a Broadway-inspired show, an abridged Shakespeare play or even a magic act. The ship is also famous for its Gala Evenings capped off with Champagne sipping and dancing to a live orchestra. Yes, pack those ballgowns and tuxes.
Cruise fares start at $949 per person for an inside cabin and $1,276 per person for a balcony cabin.
Virgin Voyage’s 15-night Miami to the Med cruise (April 22–May 7, 2023)
The ship’s 20 excellent dining venues, cutting-edge entertainment (campy and a bit naughty — think drag queen bingo), impressive lineup of wellness classes (from yoga at sunrise to On-the-Upswing bungee aerobics) and fun activities (‘90s boy band dance class anyone?) provide plenty of ways to pass the time.
This sun-seekers itinerary heads from Miami to Virgin’s Beach Club at Bimini in the Bahamas, followed by a leisurely eight-day Atlantic crossing and calls on Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; and Palma de Mallorca before guests disembark in Barcelona. A Sea Terrace cabin with a balcony starts at $2,378 per cabin—or less than $1,200 per person.
Disney’s 13-night eastbound transatlantic cruise (May 7-20, 2023)
For certain Disney fans—namely childless adult couples and empty nesters — who love the brand’s storytelling and Imagineering but who prefer not to share a two-week cruise with hundreds of kids and teens, this 13-night eastbound transatlantic cruise itinerary from Miami to Barcelona aboard the 2,500-guest Disney Dream is a solution. It happens when almost everyone ages 5 to 18 is still in school. Yes, some kids will be on board, but not in overwhelming numbers.
On top of the crossing’s seven sea days — when Disney Cruise Line offers all kinds of immersive entertainment, excellent onboard dining and plenty of pool time on this southerly route in spring — the sailing includes six culturally rich ports: Ponta Delgada, Azores; Lisbon, Portugal; and Cadiz, Malaga, Cartagena and Barcelona in Spain.
With fares for verandah staterooms starting at $4,237 for two adults (or about $2,118 per person), that’s a brand immersion that’s far more affordable than any two-week Disney theme park vacation.
Holland America’s 20-day Viking Passage (July 2-22, 2023)
For a northerly transatlantic cruise taking place in summer and visiting 12 ports in six countries — making it a true hybrid of an ocean crossing and traditional cruise — check out Holland America’s 20-day Viking Passage aboard 1,964-guest Zuiderdam.
The ship departs from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and visits Norway, Iceland, Greenland and Canada (Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia) before calling on Portland, Maine and concluding in Boston. There are only seven sea days and three of those include scenic cruising.
There are, however, a few caveats. Even in July, temperatures will be on the cooler side in most ports and Holland America passengers, especially on longer sailings, tend to be mostly older retirees. For sea days, Zuiderdam has an indoor pool with a retractable roof and onboard programming that includes HAL’s BBC Earth in Concert, Billboard Onboard and a lineup of shows on the World Stage with its 270-degree LED screen.
At $2,799 per person for an inside cabin and $5,299 per person for a balcony cabin, fares are on the pricier side, mainly because it’s mid-summer and a three-week itinerary.
Celebrity’s 14-night Italy, France & Bermuda Trans (Oct. 30–Nov. 13, 2023)
Celebrity Cruises’ transatlantic crossings are timed to seasonal ship repositioning. Its Italy, France & Bermuda Trans sailing offers 14 nights aboard its newest ship, Celebrity Beyond, as that ship switches from its summer homeport in Rome to Fort Lauderdale ahead of the winter Caribbean cruise season.
The sailing features port calls in La Spezia, Italy (for Florence/Pisa); Nice, France; Malaga, Spain; King’s Wharf, Bermuda; and Nassau, Bahamas, along with eight sea days.
Accommodating 3,260 guests, Celebrity Beyond is a megaship designed with grown-ups in mind. You’ll find multiple hot tubs but no waterslides, as well as contemporary décor, 32 sophisticated food-and-beverage outlets (including Voyages, the first Daniel Boulud restaurant at sea), an indoor Solarium pool and a glittering Grand Plaza housing the line’s signature Martini Bar.
Inside cabins start at $1,499 per person and balcony cabins at $2,329 per person.
Viking’s 14-day Atlantic Ocean Passage (Nov. 3-16, 2023)
Guests aboard Viking Sea’s Spain to West Indies sailing will cross the Atlantic from Barcelona to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship will call on the Spanish coastal cities of Valencia and Cadiz, Funchal on the scenic Portuguese island of Madeira, and Phillipsburg on the beach-rimmed Dutch-Caribbean island of St. Martin.
The 930-passenger Viking Sea is an adults-only ship featuring a sleek Scandinavian design. Viking guests can enjoy elevated (and complimentary) dining in eight venues, as well as daily activities that include lectures by guest speakers and resident historians, unlimited access to the thermal suite at the Liv Nordic Spa, a main pool with a retractable roof (plus an aft Infinity Pool and hot tub), and complimentary beer and wine with lunch and dinner.
Better still, the transatlantic cruise fare is almost half that of a typical two-week Viking itinerary, with balcony cabins starting at $3,299 per person.
Princess Cruises’ 15-day Tropical Passage (Nov. 10-25, 2023)
To snag a great deal on a Princess cruise and enjoy a southerly November crossing that culminates with a five-day swing through the Caribbean, check out the 15-day Tropical Passage aboard the 3,660-guest Sky Princess.
The sailing begins in London (Southampton) and ends in Fort Lauderdale. In between, the ship will visit Ponta Delgada in the Azores and Antigua, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk in the Caribbean, with a total of nine days at sea.
Sky Princess, which debuted in 2019, features three pools, a glittering Italian-style Piazza (home to Alfredo’s Pizzeria — some of the best pizza at sea), a main dining room with menus that change daily and include delicious Chocolate Journeys desserts, four specialty dining venues (at an extra cost), poolside Movies Under the Stars and original production shows in the Princess Theater.
Inside cabins start at $948 per person; balcony cabins are priced from $1,478 per person.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 21-night Rome-to-Miami cruise (Nov. 13–Dec. 4, 2023)
Regent’s 21-night Rome to Miami itinerary on the 750-passenger Seven Seas Splendor begins with a low-season jaunt around the Mediterranean and continues with a visit to the scenic Canary Islands. After a five-day Atlantic crossing, the luxury ship calls on a pair of Caribbean islands before reaching Miami.
While not a bargain by any means, this three-week cruise aboard Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ newest ship is an all-inclusive splurge. Business-class airfare, transfers, five-star cuisine and unlimited beverages, gratuities, Wi-Fi and most shore excursions are all included.
The first week takes in the beauty of Rome, Tuscany (from Livorno) and Cinque Terre (from La Spezia). Then it’s on to Nice and Toulon in France and Palamos, Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona in Spain. Seven Seas Splendor will call on Lanzarote and Santa Cruz de la Palma in the Canary Islands before heading across the Atlantic to the islands of St. Maarten and Puerto Rico before disembarking passengers in Miami.
All-inclusive fares start at $14,099 per person.
No matter your reason for considering a transatlantic cruise, you’re guaranteed to experience the secret magic of sea days, with ample time to relax and unwind. With no land in sight for roughly a week, you can enjoy the ship’s amenities without feeling rushed. Make new friends over coffee or a game of bridge, watch movies in your cabin, learn more about the world during lectures by onboard experts or treat yourself to rejuvenating massages and facials in the spa.
Even better, per-night rates are typically lower on crossings than on round-trip, port-intensive cruises, so you can enjoy a longer sailing at a fraction of the usual cost. No matter which transatlantic cruise you deem best for your travel style and interests, it is sure to be a memorable bucket-list trip.
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