Turn back the clock to the Golden Age of cruising with a World cruise in grand style on the famous Cunard ships the Queen Mary 2, the Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Victoria.
One of maritime historian Bill Miller's favorite stories involves three ladies by the names of Smith, Jones and McBeth. During the 1940s and 50s, they cruised for extended periods of time on Cunard Line’s Caronia. Smith and Jones cruised for two or three years at a time, which you may consider remarkable, until you consider McBeth’s extended cruise.
She was “the all-time champ,” Miller says. She boarded the Caronia one day and sailed for 14 years before getting off for good. In today’s dollars, she would have spent roughly $4 million in cruise fares. “And she had the dubious distinction,” Miller adds, “of being the only passenger where the captain actually came down once a week to see her, as opposed to her being called up to his place for drinks.”
It was a grand era indeed, when folks like the Windsors, the Churchills, movie actors and actresses – almost all of high society – cruised back and forth between Europe and America.
A world cruise. At first, the idea seems viscerally decadent, conjuring images of bejeweled formal nights, exceedingly long sessions of bridge, day following day at sea, one gourmet meal blurring lazily into the other — and not to mention, super expensive for a luxurious journey of up to four months.
But as with so much about cruising, the image of world cruising is far removed from the reality.
For starters, world cruises are becoming much more affordable. 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.
Your Office Afloat
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.
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.
Itinerary planners strive to create world cruises that will appeal to the experienced travelers who are the primary market for trips that run 90 to more than 140 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.
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 time, 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.