A two-week cruise is a holiday, a break from your routine. But a World Cruise is a whole new lifestyle. Your fellow world cruisers which you’ll be travelling with will be your new family, and of course the ship becomes your home.
Even after hundreds of years since it was first successfully attempted, circumnavigating the world still remains a feat.
Modern day world cruisers won’t be missing much creature comforts, if any at all. But it still involves lots of planning from choosing which itinerary and ship to join, what to pack and navigating the social life on board.
“Booking a world voyage is not like booking a regular cruise, it requires a bit of research and planning to ensure you get the right cabin and sector to suit your style and budget,” says Michael Moore, Team Leader at Cruise1st.
“Whilst these sailings do come on sale well in advance, these can and do sell out on the same day they go on sale so it is best to have done your research, registered your interest and be prepared to pay the deposit to ensure that you don’t miss out.”
The process of booking your world cruise can be lengthy, says Jennifer Dwyer from Travel Managers, Cruiseco Cruise Specialist and she advises cruisers to make a list, so they can get organised within the time frame.
Here are some tips if you’d like to join the circumnavigators club and tick it off your bucket list.
How do I know if a World Cruise is for me?
There are almost only two things certain on a World Cruise. You’d need to have the time and money and the rest of it is down to your research. They can range from 90 to 245-days so the crowd tend to be retirees. But you might also find a few families with young and teenage children on board as well.
For a start you can ask yourself if you enjoy sea days. World cruise itineraries often feature a few stretches of days at sea as you sail across the oceans to get to another continent. Depending on the itinerary, these stretches could be from two to five days and they can also go up to seven days long.
On Viking’s currently sailing 245-day Ultimate World Cruise, there is one seven-day stretch scheduled for crossing the Pacific Ocean from Los Angeles, United States to Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Majority of the other sea days in the itinerary are two to three days long.
Princess Cruises 111-day World Cruise in 2021 on Island Princess has a seven-day stretch as it crosses the North Atlantic Ocean from Spain to Florida, as well as two additional four-day and two five-day stretches.
It is also helpful to figure out if you enjoy the different aspects of shipboard life (e.g. how you would manage living ‘in close quarters’ with your fellow travellers over an extended period of time, do you think you’d succumb to ‘just another port’ syndrome?)
Traditionally, world cruises used to be round trips but now there are itineraries in a variety of forms, length, and actually most don’t quite go all the way around the world either.
Most voyages begin in America or Europe and set off in January. The lines often shift the focus of the world cruise from year to year as well so it would be wise to compare the ports visited each year to make sure they cover your bucket list destinations.
Guests have the option to book a short segment of the full world cruise which range from two weeks to a month. It is a great way to get a sample of the full experience before going all in. Many cruise lines also offer grand voyages which is another way to sample an extended sailing. These itineraries are often 70-nights or more and usually focuses on a particular continent or hemisphere.
Sailing back to back cruises is a growing trend which also creates an extended itinerary similar to a world cruise experience. This is often done with different ships from the same line. Cruise1st is currently offering a 37-night fly-cruise package that allows you get aboard each of Cunard’s three queens, departing May 2020.
For back to back cruises, sometimes you get to transfer ships on the same day if they are in port together. But in many cases, there might be a few days in between and this can be a great way to spend more time exploring the city and get reacquainted with the comforts of being on land.
Pay attention to the direction of your itinerary
Another pro tip is to pay attention to the direction of your itinerary. This way you get set your clock back rather than forward, which is much more restful.
“We tell people always sail east to west; that way, you’re setting the clock back, not forward, an hour. It’s much more restful. When you have to keep putting the clock forward, people get tired.” Linda Wiseman a 72-year-old world cruiser from Michigan told Conde Nast Traveler.
You might need a one-way flight
Where itineraries are not roundtrips, guests would also need to book one-way flights that are more expensive and might also have to navigate the challenge of airline weight limitations.
Some cruise lines offer a luggage valet program, and have your bags shipped directly between the ship and your home. It’s worth asking about this service if you can manage without parts of your wardrobe until the ship returns to its homeport.
The ship and size matters
The rationale behind choosing your ship for your world cruise is not very different from the one behind choosing one for your holiday. With more lines adding world cruises to their line up, guests are not limited in their choices. But a world cruise might not be the best time to experiment with new lines or styles.
The smaller, ultra-luxury ships from Silversea to giants like Cunard’s Queens are all up for the choosing. As usual bigger ships will have more on board but are limited in ports while smaller ships have the opportunity to pull up to more small exotic ports.
The larger vessels might also be pulling up at industrial ports that are further from the city centre which means you might need plan for transport to get into town or book a tour. All these might add up quickly in cost.
Bigger ships are also more likely to have a greater number of passengers not doing the full trip. You’ll have plenty of new people onboard as 2,000 people could come and go every few weeks.
In terms of cruising style, P&O Cruises and Cunard offers classic British cruising, Silversea and Seabourn offers small ship luxury of less than 500 guests while Regent Seven Seas and Crystal Cruises offer midsize luxury ships of under a 1000 guests.
You can now also world cruise on a budget with lines like Princess Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages and Holland America Line, with CMV offering their 120-night Grand Round the World Cruise in 2020 and 2021 from about $17,000.
Planning pays off
So far we have mentioned about checking your itinerary for sea days, taking a second look at the ports you’ll be stopping at. Other things you can look out for is to see how long you’re in port and plan accordingly.
Make the most of longer stays to break up the shipboard routine as well as explore at a relaxed pace.
You can also consider creating your own longer port stays by rejoining the ship in its next port. This might add to you overall bill, but it might be just what you need somewhere in the middle to enjoy the world cruise to the fullest.
There is also an option to shop around for perks among the lines which can include complimentary flights, transfers, onboard credit and access to exclusive events as you sail around the world.
What to pack
Deciding what goes into your lucky suitcase will also take some planning. You’d need to make sure you have something for a range of climates and also be prepared for all the formal nights on board.
Your skills in the art of mixing and matching will be put to the ultimate test so make sure you’ve armed yourself with a good selection to begin with. It will also be a good idea to find out what laundry facilities are on board and the fees involved for laundry service. Doing your own laundry not saves you a fortune, rumour has it, it is also one of the best places to catch up on the latest gossip.
“Preparation is the key and although you are going to be away for a few months don’t over pack. You really don’t need more than enough clothes for a few weeks. Work on mix and match and layers for varying climates to minimise – you can Rotate, Wash and Wear, so keep it simple,” says Jennifer Dwyer from Travel Managers, Cruiseco Cruise Specialist.
“For example, I love to take a few scarves when I’m cruising because they are a feature and add colour, warmth and take up so little space. A light weight jacket is a must at sea and a raincoat that folds up into a tiny space will come in handy.
“Find out what the dress code is for the particular cruise line you will be travelling with, and be aware of clothing specific items that may be required for shore excursions.”
Some cruisers also like to prepare for the worst in terms of bringing a stock of common medications. If you love food, you might want to prepare another set of clothes that you can grow into.
World cruisers Ms Wiseman brings her own scale on board so she can keep a close eye on things, or you might also locate the one in the gym to save some luggage and clock in some exercise since you’re already there. You can also join the stair walking crowd which has been a tried and true method of keeping the weight off on a cruise.
Social life onboard
The social scene onboard takes a life of its own with so many passengers on board for an extended time and being part of it is entertainment itself.
You’ll find that many world cruisers are repeat guests so don’t be surprised to see friends reuniting after months apart. Cliques also form over time between old friends, new friends, the full world cruisers, the ‘interlopers’ on board for a segment and many more.
But there are also strategies to make new friends such as asking the maître d to seat you with guests sailing segments or join new activities on board.
Nitpicking and complaining about the experience can also be popular on board which grows into both a sport and an art form. You might also see rifts and broken friendships play out and forgotten by the ship reaches the pier.
Other things you need to get in order
Jennifer Dwyer from Travel Managers, Cruiseco Cruise Specialist puts together a list of some the itty bitty details you might need to settle before you leave:
Make sure your passport has the appropriate validity and plan for visas for relevant countries on the itinerary.
Also consider vaccinations required so plan a visit to your doctor.
Ensure you have “comprehensive” travel insurance.
Let your bank know you will be travelling and set up a travel card with various currencies required.
Make sure you will have access to your accounts over the duration of your travels and consider direct debits for bills so you don’t need to worry about missing deadlines.
Register your journey on the Smart Traveller website.
Perhaps get a house sitter for the duration, especially if you value your garden and of course any pets that will be much happier at home while you are away.
Take into account, any special events that you can for-see over the coming months and plan how to stay in touch with family and friends.
Read about the experiences of experienced world cruisers below.