To cross the Atlantic Ocean by ship is, to many, a once in a lifetime ambition. To some, however, it is the only way to travel the 3,415 miles (5,495 kilometres or 2,967 nautical miles) between the United States and England. The first long distance passenger carrying ships sailed the North Atlantic and today the New York to Southampton route is the world's last remaining scheduled trans-ocean service.
Thousands of people venture on the seven or eight night voyage, from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other every year. They live in style and envelop themselves in nostalgia, elegance and high quality surroundings throughout the cruise. Although life on board is relaxed and rather effortless, there is plenty to do and new friends to meet, especially as many crossings feature informative speakers and educational activities, helping to broaden the mind and ensure that no one becomes bored.
The only cruise line to still offer a regularly Transatlantic route remains Cunard Line, whose flagship the Queen Mary 2, traverses the Atlantic from New York to Southampton and back across every two weeks for the majority of the year, giving its passengers the chance to be part of a 150 year old tradition.
The arrival and departure from New York's Hudson River is one of the most exciting experiences in any cruise operator's programme. The Manhattan skyline changes by the day and from the new Brooklyn cruise terminal guests get a fantastic view as they sail in and out of the Big Apple.
The New York subway and bus system is relatively easy to use and the enormous variety of international dining opportunities never fails to impress. Some visitors take in a Broadway show in the afternoon or evening and others make their way to one of the museums or galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum on Central Park.
Today, in addition to this historic route there are many extended cruise options that sail from the United Kingdom to the Caribbean or the Americas. These involve a transatlantic crossing including stops in Madeira or the Canary Islands en route. Most repositioning cruises depart from Europe in the autumn and arrive in the Caribbean or Brazil within 8 to 9 days. This appeals to those who want to avoid the cooling days and darker evenings. The hurricane season of the Caribbean should be over by this time and travellers can expect hot and sunny tropical weather. Similarly, the west - east crossing normally operates in April each year with many voyages terminating at a Mediterranean port, ready for the summer season. Others reposition to Southampton or Dover, ready for the Baltic and North Sea series of cruises.
The weather on traditional transatlantic cruises varies and is, on the whole, unpredictable as the voyage involves a more northerly route than many passengers expect. Many people choose the May or June crossings in order that they may take advantage of the longer days and they select a stateroom or suite with a balcony. On the westbound voyages, the port side balconies enjoy most sun, whilst on the eastbound route it is the starboard side of the ship that proves popular with sun worshippers.
While not strictly a Transatlantic voyage in the style of those mentioned above, those looking for a completely unique cruise experience can also travel aboard one of the world's last remaining Royal Mail Ships, the cargo and passenger carryingRMS St Helena, between the remote island of St Helena and Cape Town in South Africa. While this voyage may not be the life of luxury that many guests would associate with a cruise it provides one of the most inimitable experiences at sea as one of the only ships to sail to this isolated but beautiful overseas colony.