How Long Does It Take a Cruise Ship to Cross the Atlantic? Well it all depends – on a lot of things!

By Alan
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Filed Under: Transatlantic

Imagine embarking on a grand adventure across the mighty Atlantic Ocean on a transatlantic cruise. These voyages have captivated the imaginations of travelers since the days of the ocean liners, offering an array of exciting experiences and the chance to truly unwind as you cross the ocean. But if you are considering a Transatlantic cruise yourself, one question you might be wondering is “How long does it take a cruise ship to cross the Atlantic?”

Cruise ships typically take between 6 to 8 days to cross the Atlantic, but this depends on a number of factors including the speed of the ship and the route taken. 

This article aims to look deeper into that question and explore the various factors that can influence the duration of what is still regarded, even in modern times, as an epic journey.

Starting from the moment you step onboard and sail away, we’ll examine how travel times, itineraries, and even weather can impact the length of your voyage.

Of course, not all transatlantic cruises are the same, making it essential to research and choose the one that best suits your preferences and schedule.

Whether you’re seeking a leisurely two-week sail or are looking to book a more expedited trip, this article will provide insights to help you find the perfect cruise for your next transatlantic adventure.

So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, sit back, and let’s dive into the captivating world of crossing the Atlantic on a cruise ship.

Oh and full disclosure here. I have a personal interest in this as well, as Morag and I will be taking two Transatlantic cruises this year, but more on that later.

Alan on the deck of Carnival Pride in the middle of the North Sea
Yours Truly In the Middle of the North Sea on Carnival Pride

Factors That Affect the Duration of a Transatlantic Cruise

The duration of a transatlantic cruise can vary depending on several factors, such as the speed of the ship, the distance traveled, and the ports of call along the way.

In this section, we’ll explore some of these factors in more detail to give you a better understanding of what to expect on your cruise across the Atlantic.

Speed of the Cruise Ship

The speed of a cruise ship plays a significant role in the duration of a transatlantic crossing. As an example, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 – a true ocean liner – boasts the ability to cross the Atlantic in just seven days, spending the entire journey at sea.

To put things into perspective, the average speed of a modern cruise ship is around 20 knots, or 23 miles per hour. This means that cruise ships can typically travel 400 to 500 nautical miles in one day.

Ships funnel of Carnival Pride
Full Steam Ahead!

Distance Traveled Across The Atlantic

The actual distance of a transatlantic voyage also has a considerable impact on its duration.

For instance, the distance between New York and Southampton is approximately 3,000 nautical miles. At the average cruise ship speed mentioned earlier, this translates to a journey lasting roughly 6-8 days at sea.

If you were instead traveling between Miami and Southampton, that journey extends to 3800 nautical miles.

Ports of Call

The ports of call included in your cruise itinerary can significantly affect the duration of your transatlantic crossing.

On repositioning cruises – which take place in spring and fall when cruise lines move their ships between seasons – you can normally expect a leisurely journey lasting anywhere from two weeks to a month as they will usually include some ports of call at the beginning and end of the crossing. 

Some Transatlantic crossings are more direct. For example, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has no other ports of call, traveling directly from Southampton to New York.

In fact, the first Transatlantic crossing we are doing is also direct.

We will be sailing on Norwegian Joy after its scheduled Dry Dock in February. It is sailing directly from Southampton to Miami and that crossing will take 11 days.

Now if you are following along closely you might now be asking – how come it takes 11 days to travel 3800 nautical miles?

This then makes us assume that the Norwegian Joy will only traveling around 345 nautical miles per day at a cruising speed of 14.5 knots per hour. (i.e. 3800 nautical miles / 11 days / 24 hours = 14.39 knots)

Well, this leads us to the next factor that we need to consider for a Transatlantic sailing.

Sunset from a Cruise Ship Deck
A Stunning Evening At Sea

The Different Routes Taken Across the Atlantic

The distance can also vary depending on the route taken by your cruise ship. 

Our Norwegian Joy crossing is in Mid-February. I believe that the route our Cruise Ship Captain will be taking will be more a Southerly route, to get us into warmer waters earlier. 

So if we are still working on the assumption that the average cruise ship will travel at 20 knots, that would then indicate our particular route is going to be about 5000 nautical miles. (i.e. 20 knots x 24 hours x 11 days = 5280 nautical miles). That’s quite a diversion from the direct route.

Our return cruise in April is on Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas. This is a 14 night crossing, but includes 5 ports of call at the end of the cruise. 

So, when calculating how long it takes a cruise ship to cross the Atlantic, we need to take a good look at the ship’s speed, the distance it needs to travel, any ports of call on the itinerary, and the actual route taken across the Atlantic.

What to Expect on a Transatlantic Cruise

Onboard Amenities and Activities As You Cross The Atlantic

Transatlantic cruises are not just about traveling between destinations, they offer an incredible experience with onboard amenities and activities that cater to every taste. 

You can indulge in fine dining and entertainment options, such as live shows, music, comedy, and lectures.

These longer voyages also provide ample opportunities to relax and unwind, with spa and leisure facilities like pools, jacuzzis, saunas, and massages.

Many ships feature fitness and sports facilities, including gyms, yoga classes, basketball courts and even surfing simulators.

For those in search of personal growth and cultural enrichment, many cruises include educational programs like language classes, art workshops, and trivia games to keep your mind engaged.

To round off your onboard experience, treat yourself to some retail therapy at the various boutiques and duty-free shops available, or try your luck at the casino with slot machines and table games.

Destinations and Cultures

Apart from the amazing onboard amenities and entertainment options, transatlantic cruises also offer a unique travel experience by allowing you to explore different destinations and cultures along the way.

The cruise voyage you choose might include various ports of call, each giving you a chance to experience the local culture, food, and sights.

By planning your transatlantic cruise with these amenities and destinations in mind, you can make the most of your time on board, ensuring an unforgettable experience. 

A photo of a choppy sea taken from a cruise ship balcony
Be Prepared For The Possibility of Rough Seas

Tips and Advice for Planning a Transatlantic Cruise

Choosing the Best Time and Season

When planning your transatlantic cruise, consider the season and weather conditions. Generally, the majority of repositioning cruises cross the Atlantic between April through May and October to November.

During these months, you’re likely to experience mild to warm temperatures and calmer seas.

However, for budget-conscious travelers, off-peak times like early spring or late fall might offer better deals, despite the potential for cooler weather and choppier waters.

Selecting the Best Cruise Line and Ship

With several cruise lines offering transatlantic itineraries, it’s essential to select the one that fits your preferences and needs.

For instance, if you value luxury and traditional cruising, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is an excellent option. If exploring unique destinations is a priority, consider cruise lines with more diverse port stops.

If you are more flexible on dates, take a look at the various repositioning cruises – there can be some incredible deals available.

Be sure to research the ship’s amenities, entertainment options, and dining choices to ensure they match your expectations. Don’t forget to read reviews from past passengers to get a first-hand perspective on the cruise ships themselves.

Booking the Best Cabin and Deal

Finding the perfect cabin on a transatlantic cruise involves balancing your budget and preferences. The location, size, and amenities of the room affect your overall experience.

To minimize motion sickness, choose a cabin that is centrally located and on a lower deck.

For picturesque views, consider booking a balcony stateroom. But think about whether you really need a balcony – after all, the majority of the crossing all you will see is an expanse of water.

Even then it might be colder than normal and you might not make as much use of your balcony.  This can therefore present an opportunity to save some money.

Transatlantic cruises, especially repositioning cruises are often heavily discounted, so that can be some great deals available. 

The two Transatlantic cruises we have booked (Norwegian Joy and Oasis of the Seas) is costing us only a little bit more than a standard return flight would have cost us!

Beautiful sunset taken from a cruise ship with no land in sight
Your View For the Next 7 Days!

Preparation for the Transatlantic Crossing

Practical Packing Tips:

  • Pack layered clothing for potential temperature fluctuations
  • Think about additional entertainment options like extra books, games, movies downloaded to your iPad etc
  • Don’t forget seasickness remedies, just in case

Preparing for potential challenges is crucial when embarking on a transatlantic journey. To combat seasickness, pack remedies like ginger tablets or acupressure wristbands.

One thing you won’t need to worry about is jet lag, which is a major benefit of cruise travel over flying. I suffer so badly from jetlag, especially when traveling West to East, so I’m really looking forward to traveling to and from the States by Ship rather than Air.

So How Long Does It Take a Cruise Ship to Cross the Atlantic? I Really Don’t Mind LOL

In conclusion, the time it takes to cross the Atlantic on a cruise ship can vary significantly depending on factors such as the vessel’s speed, chosen route, and the number of port stops.

Generally, a transatlantic cruise takes between six to eight days to cross the Atlantic, with most cruises lasting around 10 to 14 days, including at least six nights at sea.

A transatlantic cruise offers an unforgettable cruising experience, with numerous relaxing sea days providing ample time to enjoy the ship’s amenities and fully disconnect from daily life.  

The undeniable benefits of a transatlantic cruise are the unique opportunities it provides to:

  • Unwind and rejuvenate during multiple sea days
  • Socialize with fellow passengers
  • Immerse yourself in onboard activities and entertainment
  • Explore different cultures and fascinating destinations on each side of the Atlantic

All of these factors contribute to the blissful experience of taking a transatlantic cruise.

It has always been a bucket list item for me, and the two journeys across the Atlantic Ocean that we are doing this year is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and really does feel like an epic adventure. I can’t wait!

But before we sign off – let’s get the views of someone who has done it, courtesy of the inspiring Rebekah and her “Limb-it-less” Family on YouTube.

The Pros and Cons of Transatlantic Cruising Courtesy of The Limb-it-Less Family

So, what about you? Are you ready for a memorable adventure that combines the best of both worlds – leisurely sea days and exciting port visits?

If you’re considering a transatlantic cruise for your next vacation, just remember to research your preferred itinerary, ship amenities, and desired travel dates carefully. 

And of course, don’t forget to share your own transatlantic cruise stories or questions in the comments section below.

Happy cruising!

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Alan took his first cruise in 1991 and has been cruising ever since. When he is not writing articles for you'll find him either on a cruise ship (he's the guy in the kilt), or on the golf course!

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