By Georgina Cruz
One day my husband Humberto and I rode an elephant on a jungle trail in Thailand – hanging on to our basket as Tuti, our elephant, suddenly picked up her pace to pass other pachyderms. On another day, we watched penguins sunning themselves on a floe in Antarctica, and on yet other days, we admired the monumental statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World; the mysterious moai of Easter Island; and a sunset at a beach in Bali. During a stop in Sri Lanka, we headed for the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage where we saw dozens of elephants, including babies, taking a bath in a river; during calls to Australia, we hand-fed kangaroos and cuddled a koala; and during a call at Komodo, we hiked on a trail, along with guards armed with sticks, to see – from a respectful distance – the famous Komodo dragons. And we enjoyed all of these adventures and many, many more in just one trip: an epic, 113-day voyage around the world.
For cruise lovers like us, it was like the experience of an avid reader who has been able to read only short stories and is now presented with a full-bodied novel – each of its chapters more exotic and exciting than the previous one. That was exactly the way we felt during our first world cruise, a true circumnavigation, aboard Holland America Line’s Amsterdam in 2012.
Purists will tell you that not all world cruises are alike – some are not true circumnavigations of the planet. The master of the Amsterdam, Capt. Jonathan Mercer, once defined a true circumnavigation during his daily at sea nautical and meteorological update as a voyage that “sails and returns from the same point, crosses the equator, crosses all longitude lines and covers a minimum of 21,600 nautical miles.” It mattered to us to be on a true circumnavigation, not just for the feeling that we were like a superhero doing a circle around the planet, but also because we did not wish to have to fly home from Europe, for example, where some world cruises end.
We would add to Capt. Mercer’s definition that a circumnavigation is amazing too –unveiling a progression of world cultures as the ship proceeds around the planet: Caribbean, Peruvian, Polynesian, Australian, Indonesian, and so on. Since our first world cruise we have completed four more grand voyages on the Amsterdam and enjoyed some classic experiences including an overland trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India – its white marble so luminous it seems to float off the ground; safaris in South Africa to see taller-than-trees giraffes, and lions, elephants, hippos and other big game; and stays in overwater bungalows in French Polynesia where the aquamarine waters are so crystalline it seems you are snorkeling in a gigantic, well-kept aquarium. We have tried to decipher hieroglyphs in the temples of Luxor in Egypt; shopped for native crafts in the San Blas Islands; strolled the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem; admired Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s in the Vatican; visited some of the world’s best museums including the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums in Amsterdam, and stopped and smelled the flowers in some of the planet’s greatest gardens including the National Orchid Garden in Singapore and the Keukenhof Tulip Festival in The Netherlands.
One of the advantages of around-the-world cruises is that these voyages feature several ports in a region to give more insights into a culture, and also many overnights and extended stays in ports to give passengers opportunities to spend a night at land resorts, catch sunsets, experience the nightlife and enjoy dinners ashore. Other advantages include distinguished speakers – on some of ours Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and author Paul Theroux have been guest presenters – as well as special entertainment including headliners like comedian Rita Rudner and singer Melissa Manchester. Frequently, local folkloric groups perform onboard at various ports of call such as Singapore, Tahiti, Honolulu, Osaka and Hong Kong, to name a few. World cruise guests also enjoy special port welcomes, with local groups showcasing dances and music at the pier in such ports as Santa Marta, Colombia; Manila, Philippines; Bali, Indonesia, and various Polynesian islands.
On board the ship, in addition to a hand-picked staff – cruise lines like to put their best staff on their most important voyage – there are commemorative pillow gifts (things like journals and tote bags all the way to Tiffany-designed keepsakes and carry-on luggage –so you need to buy fewer souvenirs). Also, there are typically more activities than on regular voyages. These include lectures, culinary demonstrations, watercolor instruction, arts and crafts sessions, masked balls and themed dinners with lavish decorations, travel trivia contests, Tai Chi and a variety of deck games. Local teams are put on ahead of a port to offer cultural enrichment such as arts and crafts, ukulele or didgeridoo lessons, dance classes and more. Usually, these teams are put on ahead of arrival at such destinations as Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, Hawaii and more.
With lots to do onboard we have never “gone bonkers” on the ship, as one of our neighbors told us she’d feel going on such a long cruise. We have found it helpful to establish a routine for days onboard – not something etched in stone, but a pleasant framework to follow and give structure to our days. We take in port lectures, team trivia and walk-a-mile events in the mornings, and enrichment talks and perhaps a movie in the afternoons plus more trivia. We find participating in team events like trivia is a good way to meet others and make friends. When it comes to dining, we pace ourselves – important when you are onboard for four months and tempted by gourmet fare, specialties of the regions you are sailing in, and a cornucopia of desserts. We try to keep breakfast and lunch similar to what we eat at home and splurge on dinners. And to counteract the delicious splurges, we are more physically active: taking stairs and walking more than at home.
Ashore we also pace ourselves, typically taking a mix of organized tours as well as free shuttles into town offered at many ports of call when the cruise pier is a distance from the town. We often take convenient hop-on/hop-off buses by City Sightseeing and Big Bus to orient ourselves and get to popular attractions.
Fellow guests on world cruises are great sources of practical information (transportation, attractions, cruise terminal facilities etc.) at the ports as many are veterans of several grand voyages as well as other cruises. Whole-voyage passengers are for the most part retirees in their 70s and 80s. Although we have come across a few first-time cruisers on a world cruise here and there, these voyages are not ideal for first-timers who do not know how they will do on strings of days crossing oceans or how they will like shipboard life, Segment guests (world cruises typically have several portions or segments available for booking) tend to be younger people in their 40s and 50s.
Packing for a world cruise was daunting for us when we first started in 2012 –there were 18 formal nights and gala occasions on our first grand voyage – and we have come across guests who packed more than a dozen trunks and one who booked an extra cabin just to keep her things (and there was talk that a guest had brought 31 pieces on our last world cruise). With the years, the number of galas have been reduced (to a dozen on the 2019 world cruise of the Amsterdam) and dress codes have been relaxed on some ships –Oceania, for example, never requires formal wear, and Holland America now only requires a collared shirt on gala evenings. We now pack as if we were going on a 14-day cruise when it comes to clothes (as Holland America Five-Star Mariners we get free laundry and there are self-service launderettes), and we bring enough of our favorite toiletries to last the whole voyage (as some of our favorites may not be easy to find in Fiji or Mozanbique). On our first world cruise we packed eight suitcases; now we bring four.
We have been blessed with fair winds and following seas for the most part on our world cruises, except for occasional spells of bad weather crossing oceans here and there – the captain tries to evade the bad weather, of course, but in spite of his efforts it gets rocky some times. Occasionally, bad weather causes a cancellation of a port of call – big swells caused us to miss Ascension Island on one of our world cruises. Other things that can cause cancellations of ports are political unrest and disease – when there was turmoil in Turkey, Greek islands were substituted; when there was an Ebola outbreak in Africa on one of our world cruises, two African ports, Senegal and The Gambia, were cancelled and calls at the Azores were substituted. We take these things in stride, remembering John Steinbeck’s words: “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”
And like Forrest Gump’s mama used to say about life, we think world cruises sometimes are also “like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” But one thing is for sure, a world cruise always leaves us wanting more. Humberto and I have already booked our sixth grand voyage in 2020 and our seventh in 2021.
IF YOU GO – Below are 2021 world cruises departing from U.S. ports announced by major cruise lines and listed alphabetically. Prices listed are starting fares per person, double, for the entire voyage (taxes, fees and port expenses are extra) as they appeared on cruise lines’ websites at time of writing of this article (and are subject to change). Some cruises are “all inclusive” (meaning that gratuities, alcoholic beverages, bottled water and in some cases tours and special events onboard may be included). Always ask is included and what special offers and perks may be available for the voyage and accommodations you want. Offers and perks for full world cruise guests may include airfare, a hotel night pre-cruise, transfers, shipboard credit, Internet and more. Perks for early booking and early payment including luggage shipment and pre-paid gratuities may be available on some lines. Additional perks for booking upper-category accommodations may be featured on some lines. Segments are typically offered. For additional information, contact a travel agent specializing in cruises and visit each cruise line’s website:
Crystal Cruises World Cruise
On the 980-guest Crystal Serenity, Jan. 5, 2021; 139 days, Miami to London, from $51,489; also offered as 123-day Los Angeles to London on Jan. 21, 2021, from $46,549. Itinerary highlights include China, Japan and Vietnam; the Great Barrier Reef gateway of Townsville, Australia, and the Indonesian spice islands of Ambon and Banda Neira. www.crystalcruises.com.
Cunard Line World Cruise
On the 2,620-guest Queen Mary 2, Jan. 3, 2021; 113-day roundtrip from New York, from $17,499. Itinerary highlights include Cape Town, South Africa; Hong Kong, China; Melbourne, Australia and Dubai, UAE. Also, 2,061-guest Queen Victoria, Jan. 21, 2021, 97-days, Fort Lauderdale to Southampton, U.K., $15,799. www.cunard.com.
Holland America Line World Cruise
On the 1,380-guest Amsterdam, Jan. 4, 2021; 128 days, roundtrip Fort Lauderdale; from $22,499. Itinerary highlights include cruising the Amazon to Manaus, visits to Hawaiian islands, several ports in Japan including Tokyo; several ports in China including Shanghai; Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE; the Holy Land; and Athens and Mykonos in the Greek Islands. www.hollandamerica.com.
Oceania Cruises World Cruise
On the 684-guest Insignia, Jan. 9, 2021; 180 days Miami to New York; from $38,499. Itinerary highlights include stops in Hawaii and French Polynesia, Fiji, stops in Australia and New Zealand, Komodo and Bali in Indonesia, calls in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Cambodia, Vietnam, three calls in Thailand including an overnight in Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Oman, Jordan, the Holy Land and Egypt, several ports in Turkey and the Greek Islands, Venice, Rome and other ports in Italy, several calls in Spain and Portugal, stops in the U.K., Ireland and Iceland, and calls in Canada and New England. www.oceaniacruises.com.
Princess Cruises World Cruise
On the 2,299-guest Island Princess, Jan. 3, 2021; 111 days, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, from $20,999; also offered on Jan. 17, 2021, 97 days, from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, from $18,499. Itinerary highlights include ports in Hawaii and French Polynesia, Fiji, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Holy Land, Turkey, Greece, Italy (including an overnight in Venice), Monaco, Spain, Morocco, and the Canary Islands. www.princess.com.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises World Cruise
On the 700-guest Seven Seas Mariner, Jan. 5, 2021; 117 days, from Miami to Barcelona; from $62,999. Itinerary highlights include visits to Caribbean islands including Bonaire and Aruba, ports in Peru including Pisco (for the Nazca Lines), overnight in Easter Island, French Polynesia, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Jordan, Egypt, the Holy Land, Turkey, Greek Islands, Italy, Monaco and France. www.rssc.com.
Seabourn World Cruise
On the 458-guest Seabourn Sojourn, Jan. 3, 2021; 140 days, from Miami to Barcelona, from $60,929. Itinerary highlights include Key West and Caribbean and Central America ports including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, overnight at Easter Island, French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, several ports in Australia including Perth in Western Australia, several islands in Indonesia, the Seychelles, a selection of African ports including Kenya, Zanzibar, South Africa, Namibia, and the Cape Verde, and Canary Islands. www.seabourn.com.
On the 388-guest Silver Whisper, Jan. 7, 2021; 150 days from Fort Lauderdale to New York; from $65,000. Itinerary highlights include Key West, the San Blas Islands, Ecuador, Peru, Easter Island, French Polynesia, New Zealand, several ports in Australia, Bali, Indonesia, the Philippines, several ports in China and Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, India, the Holy Land, Egypt, Greece, Malta, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Madeira and Bermuda. Also offered, on the 240-guest expedition ship Silver Cloud; Jan. 30, 2021, 167-day from Ushuaia, Argentina to Tromso, Norway, from $99,000. This voyage is billed as the First Expedition World Cruise In History. Guests will have the opportunity to explore (including exploration via zodiacs) Antarctica, several ports in Chile including Robinson Crusoe Island and Easter Island, French Polynesia, Rarotonga, Lautoka, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, Egypt, Athens and several Greek Isles, Italy, Spain and Portugal, Iceland, the Arctic and other destinations.
Viking Ocean Cruises World Cruise
On the 930-guest Viking Sun, Jan. 4, 2021; 140 days from Los Angeles to London; from $52,995; (may be taken from Miami on Dec. 14, 2020 for 161 days, from $62,995). Itinerary highlights include Hawaii, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Asian destinations from Indonesia to India, the Middle East, Turkey, Italy, France and Spain.