World cruises are the ultimate itinerary for any cruise enthusiast. Cunard offered the first world cruise in 1922, and ever since these indulgent voyages have been growing in popularity and prestige.
What are World Cruises?
A world voyage does not necessarily circumnavigate the globe, but over the course of three or four months many come close. Most world cruises visit dozens of ports on at least four continents, giving passengers a true feel for having seen places that most travelers only dream about. In addition to benefits such as prearranged transportation and less paperwork, a world itinerary gives passengers the time to truly enjoy the cruising lifestyle in a less frenetic atmosphere. Many passengers develop long-term friendships with other travelers as well as crew members, and these strong connections often last far longer than the cruise itself.
Few cruise lines offer world itineraries, though many lines feature longer voyages (three to five weeks) that can give potential world passengers an experimental taste of a long journey. Cruise lines currently offering regular world voyages include:
- Crystal Cruises: On these multi-month voyages, Crystal's chefs outdo themselves and never repeat a menu.
- Cunard Cruise Line: Cunard's world itineraries frequently offer overnight shore excursions to exotic sites such as the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China.
- Silversea Cruises: Known for exquisite service, Silversea keeps that reputation for every night of these phenomenal voyages.
- Holland America Cruise Line: Guests on lengthy voyages will be amazed that Holland America does not repeat entertainment.
- Radisson Seven Seas Cruises: For a more casual experience, Radisson Seven Seas does not require formal nights for its travelers.
World voyages range between 80-130 nights in length, typically beginning in January and extending through April - traditionally a slow season for cruise vacations. Unlike other voyages, however, world passengers have the option of partial sailings, usually two to three weeks in length. On any given world cruise, 30-60 percent of the passengers are "permanent residents" - they are sailing the entire voyage. Cruise lines frequently offer benefits such as upgraded airfare, shipboard credit, exclusive parties, and included gratuities for passengers sailing the entire voyage.
Ports of Call
World cruises typically visit 35-45 unique ports of call, depending on the specific route. Because many passengers are repeat cruisers, world itineraries focus on remote destinations, such as Curacao, Panama, Fiji, Australia, India, Hong Kong, Japan, Antarctica, Hawaii, and more. To give passengers a break and to restock the ship, some destinations involve multiple days in the same port. Ports may also change en route depending on weather conditions or other concerns, and each year's world voyages have different itineraries.
Scenic cruising is an integral part of a world voyage. During the transatlantic portions of the cruise, the ship may be at sea for as long as a week. Other scenic cruising destinations include crossing the equator, sailing the Amazon River, crossing the Suez Canal, or passing among Antarctic icebergs. Depending on the lunar calendar, some passengers are even treated to a total solar eclipse during their world cruise.
The Unique Lifestyle of World Cruises
Being on board a cruise ship for nearly four months creates a unique lifestyle. Passengers often develop greater camaraderie than on short voyages, and lifelong friendships may be formed at sea. Because of the unique circumstances of such long cruises, the activities and nightlife differ significantly from standard voyages.
Because most world passengers tend to be affluent, experienced cruisers, activities are fairly sedentary and focus on relaxation. Spa facilities are popular, as are fitness centers. A world sailing may host dozens of expert lecturers on a wide range of topics, and formal nights - even themed balls - may be as frequent as every other night, depending on the cruise line.
Passengers on world cruises can experience a wide range of shore tours, from typical snorkeling and golf choices to longer, more exotic options such as African safaris, tours of the Australian Outback, and overnight visits to famous locations that would be inaccessible to ships only docked at the port for a few hours. Depending on the cruise line and if the passenger is sailing the entire itinerary, some shore excursions may be included in the cruise price.
Preparing to Sail the World
Before embarking on a world cruise, it is important to be prepared to be away from home for several months. First, passengers should either prepay bills or authorize a bank, family member, or financial advisor to make the appropriate payments. Family members should be given emergency contact information, though with more ships offering cell phone and email access at sea, passengers are finding it easier than ever to stay in touch during longer voyages. Passengers may also want to spend extra time focusing on their health to be sure they are in peak condition prior to a long voyage. Shipping arrangements may be needed for excess luggage, and passengers should arrange to check credit card balances throughout the voyage to keep their budget in check.
The idea of a months-long world cruise appeals to many travelers, and today such voyages are gaining popularity and appeal with a wider segment of vacationers. While such sailings are still outside the grasp of many cruise passengers (fares range from $10,000 - $200,000 depending on the cabin and cruise line), more cruise enthusiasts are setting their sights on longer voyages with the intention of seeing the world from the relaxing deck of a luxury ship.