6 Continents in 100 Days: The Charms (and Challenges) of World Cruises

by  Donna Tunney | Apr 3, 2014
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth
Man's and woman's hands holding Earth / efetova/iStock

The mysteries of Easter Island, the wildlife of Madagascar, the culture of Hong Kong, and a string of beautiful islands in the Caribbean: all of these destinations become instantly accessible if you're taking a world cruise. World voyages let cruisers visit dozens of intriguing ports across multiple continents, with the added appeal of quiet days spent at sea slowly traversing the globe.

Of course, these expansive, time-consuming itineraries don't come cheap, but there's a good reason for it: these sailings are usually only offered on luxury or premium cruise lines, so service standards (specifically, when it comes to dining options) are high. When January 1 rolls around, the cruise lines unveil their world voyages for the following year. Right now they're promoting 2015 voyages, as these cruises always get under way in January. With an average voyage length of 100 to 115 days – at 180 days, Oceania offers the longest – that means passengers are on board through early May.

If you've ever considered a world cruise, here's a look at your options:

Cunard, the U.K.-based luxury line, offers world cruises on each of its three ships. As a sample, let's look at the 2,592-passenger Queen Mary 2, its flagship vessel, and the only ocean liner to provide scheduled transatlantic cruises from mid-spring through mid-fall. Besides this regular schedule, on January 10, 2015, the Queen Mary 2 will sail a 113-night world voyage round-trip from Southampton, England. Inside cabins cost about $22,000, including taxes and port charges. Add gratuities of about $1,600 and one glass of wine per day for an additional $1,200, and you're talking $25,000 for the whole trip.  (It would be more, obviously, if you indulge in spirits.) That comes out to about $230 per person, per day, double occupancy. Shore excursions are certainly offered, but at an additional cost. Like any other travel experience, how much you do is dependent on your individual budget.

Premium line Princess Cruises offers an inside cabin for roughly the same rate as Cunard on its 111-day cruise sailing roundtrip from Los Angeles on January 23, aboard the 672-passenger Pacific Princess.

Now, let's up the ante a bit and look at a balcony cabin on a Crystal Cruises world voyage. Guests will sail for 108 days from Miami to Lima, Peru, departing January 15 aboard the 655-passenger Crystal Serenity, a luxury ship. The per-person, double-room fare is roughly $57,000 (with gratuities and all beverages included), so with taxes and port fees that comes to around $58,000, or $527 per day. (Right now, the cruise line is allowing early birds to deduct $3,450 from the per person rate if you book by April 30, 2014.)

Crystal throws in some valuable perks, such as private car transfers between the traveler's home and the airport, as well as between the airport and ship, along with up to $500 per person in excess luggage reimbursement. Crystal also adds a "World Cruise Gala" celebration and an overnight stay aboard the ship on the eve of departure in Miami. Other cruise operators offering world voyages next year include: Silversea CruisesHolland America Line and P&O Cruises.

The question then becomes, can you handle all those days on a ship?

We suggest poring over each itinerary to see exactly how long the ship is at sea for consecutive days between port calls, as world voyage experts say these can be the most challenging times. Most world cruises will spend five or more days at sea at least twice. These will be the days you spend gazing at the horizon from a lounge chair, or reading in the library, or (yes) playing bingo. For those who are simply looking to unwind and get off the grid for a spell, this can be ideal. Meanwhile, the in-between time can also be whiled away comparing notes on all the destinations you've visited with fellow passengers.

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