January marks the month that cruise ships begin their longest sea journeys. While it’s too late to embark on such an epic adventure this year, it’s not too late to begin charting your course for a 2010 world cruise, when the lineup ranges from complete circumnavigations to port-intensive itineraries that visit many destinations but do not circle the globe.
You can get on a world cruise for as little as $20,000 per person for the more-than-100-day journey. Want to splurge? Top fares for the best accommodations exceed $350,000 — per person. Not surprisingly, nearly 50 percent of respondents to a national survey listed a world cruise as tops on their travel wish list.
For a full report on world cruises and what’s being offered in 2010, read on . . .
Expanding The Options
The spirit of adventure has not been diminished by regional hotspots, merely rerouted. Cruise lines offering world cruises have unveiled their plans for 2010, and the itineraries are as ambitious as ever, exploring neighborhoods that haven’t been on their routes recently in order to provide variety for the seasoned mariners who enjoy these extended explorations.
The cruise lines know their audience, and while several of these three-month voyages avoid the notorious hot spots, most are still willing to explore the Middle East and South Asia, apparently figuring that proper planning and execution will keep their guests — and their ships — out of trouble.
After all, delivering the same-old, same-old is not the way to build and maintain enthusiasm for world cruises. Adventurous leisure travelers who might consider signing up for a world cruise are looking for something new, not a rerun. That’s why the cruise lines that cater to this unique and specialized market work so hard to create unique and exciting itineraries.
Of course, many people do not have three or four months available to cruise around the world. Recognizing this, the cruise lines offer shorter segments, starting from about 14 nights.
Those who do book the whole trip, however, receive generous benefits and add-ons. These add-ons may include free shore excursions, discounts, cabin upgrades, shipboard credits, cocktail receptions and more.
Additional discounts are almost always available to guests who book early, by the end of February of the preceding year. So you still have time to save in booking your 2010 world cruise, but act now for the greatest savings and choice of stateroom.
If you have the time, the cruise lines are offering some of the most attractive itineraries and incentives ever to encourage you to take one of these once-in-a-lifetime voyages. Dedicated to creating itineraries that are attractive to the most seasoned travelers, these voyages are certain to provide several months of exceptional memories.
Among the intriguing world-cruise offerings for 2010, Crystal Cruises has designed a Crystal Symphony itinerary — departing Miami Jan. 10, 2010 — that puts special emphasis on the Near East, including Crystal’s first visits to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
This epic voyage will explore South America, Africa and India, with a greatly expanded focus on the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Black Sea, and several European ports in the Mediterranean Sea en route to London. The 108-day journey will call on 41 ports in 37 countries.
But the Arab and Persian countries raise the most questions, as well as the enthusiasm for the trip, according to Crystal, which says it had more than 100 people waiting to book when reservations opened. A cruise line does not venture into troubled waters blindly, Crystal says, but it does make every reasonable effort to create an attractive itinerary.
“Based on extensive research, site inspections and discussions with contemporary world affairs experts, we feel we have created an unparalleled voyage for the most discriminating travelers,” says Gregg Michel, president of Crystal Cruises. “On one itinerary, our 2010 World Cruise guests can visit an incredible combination of destinations renowned for being profoundly rich in antiquities and cultural history.”
Most world cruises follow a westward course from North America across the Pacific and working from Asia to Europe, but Cunard Line, which will be offering two world cruises in 2010, makes its special pitch for “unique” and “exciting” with the Queen Mary 2’s Royal Route of Exploration, making a rare eastbound trip from New York.
The 101-day journey — to Europe, the Middle East and Asia before turning back toward Africa and South America — features the QM2’s first visit to South America among 19 maiden port calls.
World cruises do not need to keep pace with a frenzied schedule, and these extended itineraries will frequently feature some two-day visits to major ports. For instance, the QM2 will make three overnight stays —in Hong Kong, Sydney and Cape Town, South Africa.
Sailing a more traditional route, Cunard’s Queen Victoria will make a 99-day trip on a westward setting. Departing New York, January 12, the ship will start the trip with some fun in the Caribbean sun, transit the Panama Canal and then cross the Pacific to Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
The Queen Victoria will make overnight stays in Sydney, Hong Kong and Dubai, as well as 11 maiden calls among its 41 port visits.
Regent Seven Seas
For a luxury voyage on a small ship, consider the program set up by Regent Seven Seas Cruises aboard the 700-guest, all-veranda Seven Seas Voyager, departing San Diego on January 13 with a send-off party featuring Jay Leno and the Beach Boys.
While this 119-night itinerary does not include Europe, it is among the most comprehensive available for visits to Australia, Asia and Africa.
The African segment features a whole new cruising area for RSSC, as Voyager spends four glorious days in the Seychelles before setting sail around the southern tip of Africa to visit South Africa, Benin, Togo, Ghana, the Gambia and Cape Verde Islands in West Africa — before the Voyager crosses the Atlantic to the Caribbean islands and finally Fort Lauderdale.
Guests wishing to complete a true circumnavigationmay consider a 16-night pre-World Cruise voyage starting December 28 from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego, creating a 135-day itinerary that ends May 12.
Holland America Line
With more than 135 years in the business, Holland America Line is a experienced in the world-cruise business.
In 2010, Holland America is offering four extended Grand Voyages, including a 114-day world cruise aboard the Amsterdam. Departing Fort Lauderdale on January 6, the itinerary features 12 overnight calls and a visit to Antarctica.
After transiting the Panama Canal and working its way down the west coast of South America and around Cape Horn, the Amsterdam will explore the South Pole before turning east toward Africa and then the Indian Ocean.
The itinerary takes the ship to 40 ports on six continents, and the 12 overnight calls give guests two days to explore, among other stops, Panama City, Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Shanghai, Beijing and Tokyo.
Cruise aficionados who are “collecting ports” may be able to add some new names to their lists as the Amsterdam will mae a maiden visit to Isla Robinson Crusoe, Chile. As the name implies, this is where Alexander Selkirk was marooned in 1704, inspiring the classic novel.
Seabourn Cruise Line
The Yachts of Seabourn will undertake its first-ever world cruise on its new Seabourn Odyssey, which will be introduced in the summer of 2009. Seabourn Odyssey will carry a maximum of 450 guests, and about 200 of the 225 ocean-view suites will have private verandas.
Seabourn’s world cruise benefits not only from the fact that it will take place on a new, small ship able to access small ports but also from the fact that the itinerary was designed by Peter Cox, Seabourn’s well-traveled director of itinerary and land development.
The voyage starts in Fort Lauderdale on January 5 and wraps up 108 days later outside Athens, Greece. During this odyssey, the ship will visit 42 ports in 26 countries on five continents.
Those who sign up for the full world cruise with Seabourn will be invited to six special events such as a gala Bon Voyage Ball at the St. Regis Hotel in Fort Lauderdale, with an overnight say, the night before departure.
Other events arranged for Seabourn’s full world cruises include a catamaran cruise from tiny Cabo San Lucas; a traditional Polynesian feast in Papeete, Tahiti; a private sunset dinner cruise of scenic Sydney Harbor leading to a featured performance at the city’s iconic Opera House; and a Thai cultural festival and feast in a Phuket village.
If your budget doesn’t quite reach the ultra-luxury threshold, Pacific Princess will provide a pleasing and reliable premium level of service during its 107-day journey from Fort Lauderdale, starting January 27.
This itinerary gets off to a sunny start in the Caribbean, followed by a canal transit. From there, it’s a luxurious Pacific crossing with island visits followed by an exploration of Australia.
After working through Asia, the Pacific Princess passes through South Asia and across the Indian Ocean before calling on the storied ports of the Middle East, including Dubai, Sufaga for Luxor and Aqaba for Petra. A transit of the Suez Canal is followed by a visit to the Mediterranean, including Greece.
If the normal winter schedule of these winter cruises seems inconvenient, Princess offers an unusual summer alternative of 53 days. While this itinerary does not actually circumnavigate the globe, it does cover a large portion of it.
Departing from Sydney on July 5, the Dawn Princess follows an eastern path to the South Pacific, Hawaii and then San Francisco. That 24-day segment is followed by another 17 days down the coast, through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean, Bermuda and New York.
From there, it’s another 12-day segment devoted primarily to a transatlantic crossing, with calls in Newport, Boston and Cork, Ireland, before closing with visits to Paris and London.