World cruises, once thought of as being beyond the reach of ordinary people, are becoming a lifestyle for a select group of savvy travelers who realize they can cruise the world for less than it would cost them to buy and maintain a second home.
The liberating aspects of the Internet and wireless communication also have played a role in expanding the market for world cruises, which for a long time were almost exclusively for retired folks, the stereotype leaning toward rich widows who didn’t need to stay in touch regularly.
But now that cruise ships provide Internet access, including shipwide WiFi, and cell phone service at reasonable rates, executives, business owners and semi-retired folks are able to mix business with pleasure while traveling.
Using the communications tools available to them on ships, world cruisers are able to pay their bills online, manage their businesses and stock portfolios — and stay in touch with family back home.
Fueled by this growing group of travelers, the world cruise is an old-school concept that represents a growth niche in the luxury and premium markets. A world cruise tops the list of dream vacations, according to recent consumer research. Nearly 50 percent of respondents to a survey listed an around-the-world cruise as tops on their travel wish list.
Classic World Cruises
Since the first world cruise in 1922, by Cunard’s Lanconia, the world cruise has been seen as the pinnacle of luxury travel. Traditionally, these voyages circumnavigated the globe, or at least as close as you can come to doing so on a ship.
The classic itineraries embarked in New York or Southampton and worked their way westward. Routes varied, either traveling through the Caribbean and then into the Pacific Ocean via the Panama Canal, or around Cape Horn. From there ships usually made their way to Hawaii, the islands of the South Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, then northward to Hong Kong, South East Asia and India.
At that point, again, courses varied: One route went through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean; the other was around the Cape of Good Hope and then up the west coast of Africa. These cruises ended in the port where they started.
Today, world cruise itineraries focus less on the strict definition of circling the earth and more on the concept of a fascinating voyage.
Obviously, the cruise lines are going to skip international hot spots that may pose any sort of threat to their ships or their guests, but itinerary planners strive to create world cruises that will appeal to the experienced travelers who are the primary market for trips that run 80 to more than 150 days.
Almost always, a world cruise today will include a comprehensive segment in the South Pacific, Australia and Asia. Also appealing to sophisticated travelers, the trip will frequently call in the eastern Mediterranean or northern Europe, where so much fascinating history and culture are on display.
No Time For A Full World Cruise?
In most cases, a world cruise can be broken into segments that allow travelers to join the journey for three weeks or a month.
First timers often commit to one or two segments in order to be sure that they are comfortable with the extended itinerary. This option also works for people who don’t want to buy the complete cruise or for people who can’t get away for up to four months at a time.
Segments allow travelers to cruise from Los Angeles to Australia, for instance, or from Singapore back to California. Somebody on the East Coast might join the cruise as it works back toward North America from the Middle East or the Mediterranean. There are dozens of options.
Another way to test your sea legs: Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Silversea Cruises are among the cruise lines that offer extended voyages of 30 days or more. Extended voyages typically depart in the spring or fall while world cruises typically begin in January and end in April or May.
Perks For Going All The Way
One enticement for doing the whole kit and caboodle is that full world cruisers receive special perks for going all the way. Bonuses range from air upgrades to on-board spending credits, plus special gala events on the ship and ashore.
World cruising also provides a great way to accelerate to subsequent tiers in the cruise line loyalty programs. Regent’s loyalty program, for example, offers free internet usage and one-hour phone service after only 21 days of cruising.
Experienced world cruisers say that on such an extended journey a tight-knit sense community develops between the guests, which is a big reason why there is such a high repeat rate on world cruises.
For those who have the money and time, a world cruise — or one of the segments that make up a world cruise — is a marvelous escape, the ultimate travel experience featuring exotic ports that aren’t usually at the top of the list of Ports Everyone Has Already Visited.
Quite a few travelers return to world cruising year after year because they enjoy the luxurious routine of shipboard life combined with travel and the deep relationships they develop among the crew and their fellow guests. World cruises are no longer viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Nonetheless, each world cruise creates once-in-a-lifetime memories, no matter how many times you board a ship to circle the globe.