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Transatlantic Cruise: Before or After

Thinking of going to France and maybe Italy next fall ( September- October) spending 10-14 days there.
Would like to consider a nice transatlantic cruise from Florida either over to Europe or returning. Air flight opposite direction.
If anyone has done so; would appreciate thoughts as to advantages and/ or disadvantages of taking cruise either over or return.
Thanks for your info.

Posted by
25522 posts

aren't there more hurricanes in September than in October

Posted by
7511 posts

Pre-COVID cruises across the Atlantic were either a wide ocean liner like the Queen Mary that went weekly, or narrower cruise ships that change ports depending on the season. During spring, ships crossed from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean for summer cruises, and in fall from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean for winter cruises. So if you will be in Europe in the fall, you best bet is to take a repositioning cruise back to the States at the end. You can look on Vacations to Go dot com to see what ships are sailing transatlantic at the end of October 2021.

I sailed Bacelona to Tampa October-November 2016. It was unusual in that we hit the tail of a couple of storms. The ship sailing just south of us to Puerto Rico from Barcelona, leaving the same day, hit no rough waters. It was a wonderful experience, enhanced by reading Simon Winchester's "Atlantic" as we sailed across.

Posted by
3789 posts

Nigel, hurricane season is June to November, and though often done by October, this year they went well into November. That being said, I believe the ship route is north of the Hurricane belt (though ultimately lands in hurricane susceptible Florida).
Chris, at that time of year, there are no cruises from North America to Europe - that is the Spring itinerary. Fall trans atlantics are from east to west. The only anomaly to that 'may' be Cunard, but they sail between more northerly cities. Also, a quick check of cruise websites indicates that sails to Florida don't happen until about mid October. I suggest you look for a cruise that interests you and then work back for land travel location and dates.

Posted by
2877 posts

There are a couple of considerations, aside from the possibility that there may not be any cruising yet due to COVID .

First, the Cunard crossings from NY to Southampton may be your only option for an eastbound TA in the fall. Most of the major cruise lines do their repositioning cruises to the Mediterranean in the spring, then stay there until they return to the US or Caribbean in the fall.

Second, the major cruiselines tend to do their westbound TA repositioning cruise fairly late in the fall. It's unlikely they would have them as early as September.

Your best bet is to find a cruise travel website and see what cruises might be available for your dates. And I agree that you should bear in mind that both Sept and Oct fall squarely into the Atlantic hurricane season.

Posted by
1750 posts

As others have noted, if you intend to be in Europe during the fall, your only option is likely a cruise home to the U.S. I am totally unfamiliar with Cunard and their schedules. We have done a total of 7 transoceanic cruises: 2 West coast to Japan, 4 U.S. to Europe and 1 Europe back home ) and always included 2 or 3 weeks of independent travel on land. The westbound return from Rome in mid November ( November 2019) oddly had the finest weather of all, despite the plethora of coats and gloves I’d packed anticipating a cold crossing. My duh. All were on Holland America Line and one was with Celebrity. We were familiar with these lines and others, and we ended choosing based on price and destination.

We have always taken a balcony and once a suite but only because of a last minute deal that was offered.

We have always purchased our air and cruise together from the cruiseline...the airfares they offered packaged with the cruise were incredibly cheaper than the airlines’ own fares.
Most choices were 14 day itineraries.
We have also bought insurance with the cruiseline because we were covered not only for air and ship, medical etc, but also covered for the entirety of our independent land travel. This was the case with Holland, who told me, “ Your contract for coverage begins when you board your plane to Europe and continues until you get off the plane in the U.S.”.
With Holland we were told that we could extend our land portion up to 4 weeks and remain covered.
Don’t hesitate to negotiate with the agents, persistence and politeness pay...we have worked together to get excellent connections and incredible prices; sometimes a few perks as well, though our favorite perk is always cash.

Now, all of this was pre COVID-19 and who knows what is happening now. Someday we shall resume but no idea when that will be.
We’ve always enjoyed these trips a great deal and hope that you may do so also. Good luck, stay healthy and safe travels.

Posted by
1613 posts

hey hey chris
like others have said, fall cruises are from europe to east coast october/november. not knowing what the covid-19 will bring us at that time.
my friend found a special with new ship being built in italy and sailing back late oct. to florida. you may want to be on alert to see what's out there, know the cancellation options, and read fine print.
we did one from rome to fort lauderdale several years back. we loved it. are your plans to spend 10-14 days roaming around before the the cruise? our cruise was 16 days and we spent 5 nights in rome before cruise. the first night was at sea, was a terrible wind and rain storm, then onto barcelona with great weather the rest of the cruise. it's usually 5 days across atlantic and some stop in caribbean as last stop. be in the port 1-2 days before departing.
rome's port (civitavecchia) is over an hour from rome.
a stop in livorno is over an hour by train to florence.
NCL, MSC, Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival. check dates, costs for cabin you want, where you depart and where you arrive, maybe a NYC arrival, but most seem to be miami or fort lauderdale. what ports and if they interest you.
register on when you find a cruise go to boards/forums and see who's on your cruise. we met lots of people from different places, kept in contact until arriving at departure city, did a meet & greet, meeting at a restaurant night before, did cabin crawl (seeing other cabin categories), slot pull, shared port excursions to split costs with either private or taxi tour and to be back at ship for sailing. you learn alot here at this site.
any other questions feel free to ask or send a message. enjoy

Posted by
1197 posts

We literally just booked (like earlier today) our third transatlantic cruise, all springtime sailings. One on Celebrity, two on Royal Caribbean. As mentioned by a PP, most lines only run these repositioning cruises either once in spring and once in fall.

The benefits are, amongst many, arriving at destination relaxed and enjoying the cruise experience. The disadvantage might be the time onboard itself. If you are still working (as we are), you might prefer to spend your precious vacation time in Europe and not getting there. We generally are able to have two weeks in Europe after a two week cruise.

Many prefer the fall westbound transatlantic cruises because you get a number of 25-hour days to enjoy at sea. I'd love to do one; it's not planned that all of ours have been spring eastbound, it just happened that way.

One way airfares have generally been very good through the cruise company.

We love Transatlantic cruises. Only a handful of very rough days, and plenty of glorious days.

Go for it!

Posted by
4645 posts

We've gone in both directions on different trips. Our westbound cruise (Dover to NYC via Iceland on NCL) was in September 2008. (We learned in mid-ocean that our bank had failed, but thanks to FDIC we were fine.) You asked about pros and cons. I'd say the pros include the cruise itself (including various ports you might otherwise not visit) and avoiding the long flight (with its jetlag). The cons include probably higher cost vs. airfare, and of course the time you might otherwise be spending in Europe (though likely spending more $ in Europe than on the cruise). If you're retired the time factor is likely less important.

We live on the west coast so a transatlantic flight means 9-10 hours in the air, not much fun especially overnight. On the other hand, we still have to fly across the US to or from a cruise.

As others have noted, weather can be an issue. The Iceland route in September, crossing the remnant of a hurricane, was bumpy and cold. The NYC-Azores-Southampton route in April 2018 included several days of rain and waves big enough to close the outer decks (on one of the mega-ships). We enjoyed both, but they weren't January in the Caribbean!

Posted by
897 posts

Cunard is about the only NYC to LON cruise in the fall; however, I will warn you that we had a cruise booked with them for the summer and they were extremely difficult to deal with and getting a refund. It took months longer than they said it would.

With that being said if I had the choice I would much rather cruise to Europe and then fly home. You have that week or so on the ship to adjust to the time change more easily.

Posted by
180 posts

My wife and I have done transatlantic crossing both ways many times ... spring from the US to the Med and fall returning to the US from both the Med and northern Europe. In fact I just booked on HAL's Westerdam this coming October from Barcelona to FLL. We will fly to France for two weeks and arrive by train in Barcelona the day before embarking the ship.

We prefer the fall east to west route because we're always anxious to get our travels started and, although I love shipboard travel, two weeks at sea "waiting" to begin our travel doesn't work for us. We prefer to fly over, enjoy our time in europe, then relax and recoup on the ship returning home over calm, blue/green waters. Plus, the ship always stops at 3-4 interesting ports on the westbound journey. Big plus ... we gain an hour of sleep almost every night! :)

Posted by
3146 posts

Are transatlantic sailings or crossings properly called “cruises”? I think of a cruise as a round trip excursion, not something that gets one from point A to point B.

Posted by
2877 posts

Are transatlantic sailings or crossings properly called “cruises”? I
think of a cruise as a round trip excursion, not something that gets
one from point A to point B.

Depends on the itinerary. A crossing usually just goes from A to B, without intermediate port calls. Such as the Cunard ocean liners on the direct NY - Southampton route.

OTOH, most of the mass market cruise ships build intermediate port stops into their itinerary. A cruise isn't always a circular route. Many cruises start in one place and end in another. You see this just about everywhere except the US.

Posted by
242 posts

Either way, TAs are a wonderful way to go to or come home from Europe. We do at least one and usually two a year, and for us, the coming home choice works better. Nothing beats floating home for a leisurely two weeks after walking miles on vacation. The gradual time-zone a day adjustment allows you to arrive home un-jet-lagged. Going outbound, we found that the first week or so is nice, but a port a day for the last 4 or 5 days with time changes was tough and got us there more tired that we would have been flying.

As others have mentioned, the westbound TAs leave in October, and a few as late as November. Keep in mind that the ships, except some of the Cunard ships, are finishing up their summer seasons in Europe, so are squeezing every week out of the fall season before taking off for the US and eventually the Caribbean. Cunard's TA's run year-round between New York and Southampton, but only take a week. Southampton is a bit of a slog to London, but manageable by transfer (e.g. bus). We haven't tried to get there other than using the cruise transfer so I don't know what other transfer means are available.

Cruise lines often offer much-reduced airfares to Europe if you're picking up the ship for a westbound TA. Last year, we each paid $150 one-way on Lufthansa from Washington DC to Nice. Same thing for previous sailings from Rome and Barcelona. They don't care when you go over. Last year we were in France for a month before making our way to Barcelona for the trip home.

Much like travelers, cruise lines vary greatly. They have 'personalities', so do the research to find a line that fits best with you. Over the years, I've been on Carnival (Pretty much a floating frat party, but that was 10 years ago; maybe they've changed.), Norwegian (a little more sedate), NCL (similar to Carnival but with an older crowd), Royal Caribbean (big ships for the middle-aged demographic, we found), Celebrity (a more 'mature' demographic who enjoy a quiet experience with good food and varied entertainment. Their Aqua Class provides exclusive access to a great spa and restaurant.), and Azamara (considered to be a premium line, but, as the ships are considerably smaller (600-700) people, there more limited choices for entertainment and a smaller spa.) Smaller, more upscale lines with smaller ships like Silversea and Viking also make the crossing.

As mentioned, CruiseCritic is a goldmine for ship reviews, deck plans, social events, and other information. We've used the roll-call tool for joining other passengers and splitting the cost of private tours.

Itineraries are often very similar. For the lines above, you generally leave from either Rome or Barcelona; a few leave from Southampton. There may be others; depends on where the line is finishing up the Europe summer season. Civitavecchia, Rome's port, is a good hour away from Rome itself, but cruise lines offer bus transfers and there is public transportation as well. Many people just stay in Civitavecchia to avoid the commute from Rome. Barcelona's is very close to town. The Azores, Madeira, Gibraltar, the Canaries and Hamilton are frequent ports of call.

I'd strongly encourage you to arrive at least the day before your departure, east or westbound. It's worth a night in a hotel for the peace of mind. There are "cruise hotels" from which the lines run transfers. If you're staying the night before, look around. Prices at cruise hotels aren't necessarily the best. might have a better rate for the same room, for example.

As for choosing a stateroom, coming back across the Atlantic in late October, you don't have a lot of time to enjoy a balcony - too cold, although those cabins are brighter. Interior cabins are much cheaper and a good buy if you spend little time there. They are dark and smaller though. If you like the pool, verify the ship has a covered one. Some don't. Lots to think about....

Posted by
1 posts

If you’re retired and have the time, I highly recommend them. We’ve done 7 trans-Atlantic cruises to/from Europe and have enjoyed them all. The value on a per person/day is outstanding and we find them very relaxing. A couple of years ago we did an 11-night RCL cruise from Rome to San Juan for only about $700/ea for a balcony cabin! Fall of 2019, we cruised from Copenhagen to New Orleans (our hometown) and loved the convenience of walking off the ship and driving home. Most of the repositioning cruises are +/- 2 weeks and start from a Mediterranean port and end in Florida, but there are definitely exceptions.

A number of ships move from the Caribbean to Europe in the Spring and return in late Autumn, so if your trip is Sept/Oct, then your only choice is on the return leg (exception: Cunard does New York to Southampton r/t regularly). A couple of things to point out that may not be obvious is that the average age on these trips is significantly older than on a normal cruise and there are very few children onboard. We’ve had ports missed and routes changed due to weather in the Atlantic but were never seriously threatened by a hurricane.

We’ve also done a repositioning cruise from Australia to Singapore and had one cancelled from Tokyo to Vancouver due to Covid. I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but we always check repositioning routes when we travel and try to fit them into our schedule one-way if we can.