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Why you should take a world cruise

Cunard’s Queen Victoria is one of several luxurious ships that transports adventurous travelers around the world by sea. Photo courtesy Cunard

Most people wouldn’t even consider embarking on an around-the-world voyage without first taking at least one cruise. But tempted with the opportunity to visit myriad countries on one trip, cruise newbie Linda Weissman jumped in with both feet. She and her husband, Martin, a retired physician, embarked on Cunard Line’s 105-day world cruise aboard Queen Elizabeth 2.

“I was petrified at first,” Linda recalls. But looking back, she has no regrets. In fact, since that voyage in 2007, the couple have taken a different world cruise every year, except for a hiatus during the pandemic. And they’re set to sail on Cunard’s 2024 and 2025 World Voyages.

“Having had to postpone some travel during the pandemic, people are now seeking those bucket-list trips,” says Heather Felix, vice president of branch operations for the Auto Club of Southern California.

The Weissmans are among a flotilla of passengers signing up for world cruises as never before. “World cruises are performing much better than the industry overall,” says Michael Driscoll, editor of travel industry publication Cruise Week. “People who take them have missed more than travel; they’ve missed the world.”

The ultimate travel experience

Archival photo of RMS Laconia cruise ship.

Cunard’s RMS Laconia was a world cruise pioneer, embarking on a voyage in 1922 that called on 22 ports in 130 days. Photo by GL Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Cunard launched the world cruise concept in 1922, when the line’s RMS Laconia circumnavigated the globe, stopping at 22 ports in 130 days. Since then, world cruising for many has come to symbolize the ultimate travel experience.

Modern-day Magellans take part in unique activities in far-flung destinations—hearing a gamelan orchestra in Bali, perhaps, or sipping mint tea in the Khan al-Khalili bazaar in Cairo, or seeing Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família cathedral in Barcelona. And world cruisers journey in grand comfort, transported in vessels with sumptuous interiors and elegant dining while gaining deeper insights about the globe from learned scholars.

A group of women in a gamelan orchestra.

A traditional gamelan orchestra entertains passengers in Bali. Photo by John Michaels/Alamy Stock Photo

Today, many lines offer world cruises ranging from about 100 to 200 days or even longer. Some are traditional around-the-globe circumnavigations that begin and end in the same port and visit dozens of countries. Others are variations: The trip might begin and end in different ports or traverse only part of the globe.

Voyages typically start in December or January, and fares begin at about $200 per person per night, including meals and most onboard activities; some fares are more inclusive than others. 

Cruise lines offer other long-duration cruises that might concentrate on a particular part of the world. If passengers can’t spare the time for an entire voyage, they might be able to take segments.               

Historically, world cruises have attracted mostly retirees. But given the trend of remote work, more working people may be on board in the future. “We’re not there yet,” says Driscoll, “but internet connectivity on ships improves every year. “

You may also like: A veteran cruiser’s essential tips and insights

What makes a world cruise special?

Woman enjoying room service on her stateroom balcony.

Daily breakfast on the balcony is a happy ritual for many world cruisers. Photo courtesy Oceania Cruises

“They really do spoil people,” says AAA travel advisor Tanya Haigler, noting that cruise lines often include drinks packages, some shore excursions, and a generous shipboard credit. “The perks are very nice.”

And that’s just fine with world cruiser Linda Weissman, who owns a linen shop based in Birmingham, Michigan. “I like being pampered,” she says. “For 4 months, I don’t have to do a single thing. I don’t have to cook a meal, shop for groceries, or take the car in for servicing.”

Looking up at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with the Sydney Opera House in the distance.

Some travelers opt to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge when a ship stops in Sydney, Australia. Photo by incamerastock/Alamy Stock Photo

These cruises are also a convenient way to see the world. “The countries come to us,” says Weissman, who climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge when the ship called in Sydney, Australia.

Chuck and Lynn White of Lompoc, California, whom Haigler booked on Princess Cruises’ 2023 111-day Around the World Cruise aboard Island Princess, marveled at ancient structures in Petra, Jordan, and Ephesus, Turkey. A trip highlight was an excursion over several nights in India that included the Taj Mahal. 

Taj Mahal seen beside the Yamuna River.

World cruisers aboard the Island Princess toured the Taj Mahal during a multiday port call in India. Photo by Purepix/Alamy Stock Photo

“It was more spectacular than I’d imagined,” says Chuck, who has retired from a company that supported satellite launches at Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral. “The symmetry and the inlay work were incredible,” adds Lynn, a real estate broker and property manager. The couple especially appreciated that Princess had arranged for 2 Indian ship staff members to accompany the tour and share cultural insights. 

La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona.

In Barcelona, cruise passengers disembark to explore such awe-inspiring sights as Antoni Saudi’s Sagrada Familia cathedral. Photo by eye35.pix/Alamy Stock Photo

Detractors might argue that even stops like this are too brief to give passengers a sense of a destination. Perhaps, but world cruiser Judith Elder, a retired elementary school teacher who sailed with her husband, Jack, on Oceania Cruises’ 2019 180-day Around the World Cruise, offers this perspective: “The tours give you a sampling of what a place is like. You can always go back to the places that interest you to see them in more depth.” 

The couple fed stingrays and small sharks in French Polynesia and viewed Komodo dragons in Indonesia. Jack, a former high school teacher and gymnastics coach, loved visiting the European cathedrals and marketplaces.

You may also like: European countries best visited by cruise

Benefits of a world cruise

Cunard Winter Garden, an inside lounge space.

This lovely lounge on Cunard’s Queen Victoria provide passengers with a welcoming space to relax and socialize during days at sea. Photo courtesy Cunard 

Shipboard life is a big part of the fun. Most cruises offer an array of onboard activities ranging from dance classes and cooking demos to lectures, trivia contests, and all sorts of sports. And on a world cruise, you have the time to really hone a skill or feed a passion. In art class, for example, you can create a significant piece; in the ship’s gym you can develop an exercise routine. “I was never bored,” Judith Elder says. “The time went so fast.”          

Lifelong friendships among passengers and even with crew members are another plus: “When we got off that ship it felt like the end of summer camp,” says Linda Weissman.

Remains of the Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey.

Passengers can learn about ancient destinations, such as Ephesus, Turkey, from onboard lectures and then visit the sites in person. Photo by Muratart/Shutterstock

Perhaps most importantly, a world cruise is an education. “It’s the best way to learn about people around the world,” Judith Elder says. Scientists, naturalists, political science professors, and other experts give talks that provide insights into the destinations and ports of call. “When you meet families in different countries, you realize we all have the same desires and hopes. We have so much more in common than we do differences.”

You may also like: Amazing cruise ship suites where you'll get VIP treatment

AAA travel advisor Tanya’s tips for a world cruise

All of the world cruisers interviewed agree that it’s essential to plan and book your trip with a helpful travel advisor. Tanya Haigler has booked clients on 5 world cruises since 2019 and has these tips for anyone considering a long-duration voyage.

  • Book early. As soon as the cruise is announced, if possible. Oceania’s 2024 world cruise sold out in 30 minutes.
  • Build a relationship with your travel advisor. Knowing your preferences and interests will help him or her find the perfect cruise for you.
  • Consider the ship’s size. Larger ships have a huge variety of things to do; smaller ships provide a more intimate experience.
  • Book a window or balcony cabin. On a long voyage, you’ll appreciate the view.
  • Make sure your passport has at least 6 months extra on it. Some countries won’t let you in if you have fewer months than that.
  • Make sure you have all the required visas. Your travel advisor and the cruise line will help with that.
  • Arrange for things back home. Put financial obligations on auto pay; have someone get your mail and water your plants.
  • Bring prescription medicines in their original packaging. Also bring copies of prescriptions (or take a picture on your phone).
  • Pack clothes for different climates. Check whether you’ll need formal attire.
  • Buy travel insurance, including medical and medical evacuation. Your domestic insurance probably won’t cover you abroad.
  • Experience everything the ship has to offer. Don’t be shy about meeting new people, especially if you’re traveling on your own.
Ocean seen from the deck of a Princess Cruises ship.

Ample deck space on this Princess ship beckons passengers to take an invigorating sunrise stroll. Photo by Mark Katzman

Choosing a world cruise

Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, and Viking all offer world cruises.

Royal Caribbean is offering a world cruise for the first time with an epic 274-night trip that begins in December 2023; Cunard’s 2025 107-night World Voyage is aboard its new Queen Anne, which will debut in 2024; also in 2025, Holland America Line is offering a Pole to Pole, 133-night, long-duration cruise. Consult with your AAA travel advisor to find the voyage that meets your interests, lifestyle, and budget.

Elizabeth Harryman Lasley hosts the Florida Keys Traveler podcast. With her late husband, Paul Lasley, she sailed a segment of a world cruise in 2018 and hopes to one day circumnavigate the globe.

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