If taking a world cruise is on your bucket list, you’re not alone. Each year, thousands of people walk aboard a cruise ship, unpack, and stay onboard for several months as they sail to some of the most fascinating destinations around the globe.
More than 20 years ago, I was one of them. I spent 120 days with 500 other curious travelers visiting ports in 20 countries and Antarctica as our ship sailed a total of 38,000 nautical miles. We became a floating small town, and many of us remain in touch to this day. As our vessel crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans, we visited islands that included Bali and Easter Island and explored cultural landmarks such as Machu Picchu and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It was in equal parts exhilarating and exhausting — a marathon journey filled with memorable port visits that left us wanting more and long, endlessly blue stretches at sea that had us eagerly anticipating our next destination.
I look back on my world cruise experience with incredible gratitude and would certainly do it again. Since that life-changing journey, I have continued to cruise the world as I review ships and destinations for this website and other outlets and help travelers decide on the best cruise line, ship, and itinerary for them. Here, I'll answer the most relevant questions about taking — and enjoying — the cruise of a lifetime. And yes, I’ve also included details on world cruises that can still be booked for 2025 and 2026.
How long is a world cruise?
While the average is around 110 to 130 days, Oceania Cruises offers a “180 Days Around the World” voyage in 2025, while Royal Caribbean set the bar even higher with its 274-day Ultimate World Cruise, which sails roundtrip from Miami from December 2023 to September 2024 aboard 2,143-guest Serenade of the Seas.
When is the best time for a world cruise?
Almost all world cruises welcome passengers aboard from late December through early February and their itineraries follow the seasons, heading to the Southern Hemisphere first and following the equator before working their way back north by April or early May.
What kind of ships sail on world cruises?
Most world cruises are on small to mid-sized ships that accommodate 600 to around 2,000 guests. You’ll find these itineraries offered by luxury and premium cruise lines, such as Regent, Silversea, Crystal, Oceania, Azamara, Cunard, and Viking, as well as by mainstream lines, including Holland America, MSC, and Princess. Mainstream cruise lines almost always schedule world cruises on their older ships, which tend to be smaller and well-suited for the generally older guests who take world cruises; you won’t find a mega-ship carrying 3,000+ passengers and tricked out with waterslides doing a world cruise.
How far in advance do you need to book a world cruise?
World cruises are generally announced more than two years before their sail date — and many stateroom categories sell out rather quickly, especially the lowest and highest-priced ones. If you see a world cruise promoted by an established cruise line at a great price, I’d recommend booking it quickly.
How much does a world cruise cost?
Just like the price of a seven-night sailing with a mainstream cruise line will be thousands of dollars cheaper than one with a small luxury cruise line, the cost of a world cruise varies greatly. On the lower end, you could book an inside stateroom on a mid-size ship operated by a mainstream cruise line for around $16,000 to $25,000 per person. At the other extreme, you can book a balcony suite on a smaller vessel operated by a top luxury cruise line starting at around $60,000 to $70,000 per person.
Can you book segments of a world cruise or do you have to do the whole thing?
When most cruise lines offer a world cruise, they also break down the itinerary into several regional segments. This allows guests who prefer not to be away from home for several months to opt for a 30 to 40-night segment, say from Los Angeles to Sydney or Sydney to Dubai. For many travelers, these geographical segments are enough, but I know from experience that some guests who sail partial segments end up wishing they had booked the entire world cruise. Basically, it comes down to cost and your ability to be away from home, both physically and psychologically, for several months.
How many countries does a world cruise visit?
It depends on the itinerary, but most world cruises visit at least 25 to 30 countries and at least 50 to 60 ports in those countries. Obviously, the longer the itinerary — 180 days versus 110 days — the greater the number of countries and ports.
Can you get off a cruise to tour for a few days and rejoin the ship in its next port?
Yes, in some cases. Many cruise lines offer what they call “land journeys.” These are organized multi-day shore excursions, typically lasting three or four nights, to non-coastal regions — Machu Picchu in Peru or the Serengeti in Kenya, for example — that you’ll pay extra to visit. Can you arrange your own multi-day land excursions? That’s less common and up to the individual cruise line, so check with them before planning for any independent travel away from the ship. And remember that you will be responsible for getting yourself back to the ship in the next port.
How many sea days are there on a world cruise?
In a word: many. How many depends on the itinerary, but you can expect to be at sea for at least 50% of the itinerary. For example, many world cruises are around 120 to 125 days in length and visit an average of 60 ports. Days not in port will be sea days.
What happens if weather, earthquakes, other natural disasters, or war affect a port call?
It’s hard to predict exactly what will be happening in the world a year or two from now, but cruise lines always have contingency plans in place should a natural disaster or conflict arise. They all have navigation and port teams that will work to reroute a ship as quickly and safely as possible. Of course, this often means a missed port or two and a few additional sea days, but guest safety is always at the forefront of any cruise.
Is everyone on a world cruise retired?
Not always. You’ll find that while most world cruisers are generally retirees aged 60 to 80, there are exceptions. You may also find younger teachers and professors on sabbatical, those who have taken a leave of absence from work, and, increasingly, people of all ages who can do their jobs remotely as the work-from-anywhere labor force continues to expand. In my case, I was in my late thirties and self-employed as a freelance writer when I took my world cruise. Among the 500 passengers onboard my sailing, about 10 to 15% were also under age 50.
Okay, I’m sold. What cruise lines offer world cruises?
Here’s a rundown of more than a dozen world cruises being offered in 2025 and 2006 by established cruise lines in the U.S. and Europe.
Azamara: Azamara has the 2025 World Voyage scheduled for 2025 sailing from San Diego and just announced a world itinerary for 2026 departing from Miami.
Cunard Line: Cunard Line’s newest ship, 2,996-guest Queen Anne, debuts in May 2024 and in early 2025 will embark on its first world cruise, the Maiden World Voyage, roundtrip from Hamburg, Germany.
Oceania Cruises: Oceania’s 670-guest Oceania Insignia will be the home away from home for global adventurers on the premium cruise line’s "Around the World in 180 Days" sailing (Jan. 5, 2025 to July 3, 2025) from Miami to San Diego.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Regent Seven Seas Cruises, the most all-inclusive luxury cruise line, has scheduled both 2025 and 2026 world cruises, both departing from Miami aboard 696-guest Seven Seas Mariner.
Do you have any final pieces of advice?
I do! You may occasionally see offers for world cruises by upstart companies that plan to charter cruise ships that they don’t currently own or operate. These cruise fares are often enticing but be wary. The cruise that I look back on with such fondness was exactly that. Let’s just say that our ship completed its 120-day journey, alas with a few canceled port calls, and unbeknownst to us, quite a bit of behind-the-scenes financial drama. But just a few months later, passengers on the two subsequent ships chartered for world cruises by this company were left holding the bag, half of them stranded on an island in the middle of the South Pacific, when the company was busted for non-payment of its bills and declared insolvent.
Even in late 2023, the newly formed Miray Cruises, which operates as Life at Sea, has had to delay its much-hyped three-year world cruise several times because of issues acquiring and renovating a ship (to be called MV Lara), with pre-paid passengers awaiting word on when — if at all — their adventure will begin. Booking with a well-established, financially secure cruise line is your best bet. Just always make sure to protect your investment with travel insurance.