At the end of the year, Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas will set sail from Miami toward the sunbaked beaches of the Bahamas and the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao). But instead of being content splashing around the Caribbean for a week or two, the ship will dip down to Brazil for a peek at Rio de Janeiro’s scintillating sand and iconic Christ the Redeemer statue – and then keep cruising around the world for 274 days! Yes, that’s nearly nine months. Along the way, passengers get to check off one bucket-list travel experience after another on an amazingly seamless journey dubbed the “Ultimate World Cruise.”
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This roundtrip voyage spans all seven continents and completely circumnavigates the globe. A parade of world wonders appears – Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, Petra, the Pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum, the Taj Mahal and more, as the ship morphs into a waterborne fairy godmother, making mind-blowing travel dreams come true in effortless style.
Royal Caribbean offers the longest world cruise, but it’s not the only line casting a broad spell over the high seas. Its inaugural world cruise signals the growing popularity of these cruises, which date back a century to Cunard Line’s pioneering round-the-world voyage on RMS Laconia. In fact, earlier this year Cunard celebrated that milestone with a 118-day Centenary World Voyage aboard its flagship, Queen Mary 2. The ship sailed roundtrip from its Northeast homeport in New York and promises another convenient world cruise from our area in 2024.
Most cruises around the world span at least 100 days and depart in January, adding a winter getaway element. Although countless port calls on multiple continents are always part of the deal, it’s worth noting not all of these globe-trotting cruises complete a full circumnavigation. Also, as a rule, smaller ships have an edge when it comes to slipping into off-beat ports that can’t accommodate bigger boats. Exclusive shoreside and shipboard events for world cruise passengers are a nice touch to expect, but they will differ as well. So, research pays off when picking an itinerary.
In between Royal Caribbean’s sporty adventurous vibe and Cunard’s refined traditional sensibility, you’ll find a range of cruise lines to consider. And while choosing the right “godmother” is an important decision, don’t take too long. World cruises can sell out fast, especially on smaller luxury ships, where waitlists are common. Plus, last-minute bargains rarely materialize. Instead, perks for booking early are the norm with world cruises. Those extras can include everything from pre- and post-cruise hotel stays to airfare credits, luggage transfers or onboard bonuses such as gratuities, beverage packages, internet and even laundry services.
Aside from seeing the world in one fell swoop sans all the logistical hassles, such as hotel-hopping, repetitive packing and jarring time-zone adjustments, these epic voyages have the benefit of fostering real comradery. The ship becomes a second home to like-minded passengers with a shared curiosity for what lies beyond the horizon. People who have waited a lifetime to travel and those who have logged lots of nautical miles come together. Retirees and solo travelers traditionally flock to world cruises, but the appeal has spread to digital nomads, families with home-schooled children and people prompted by a post-pandemic urge to explore.
“Older clients are drawn to world cruises, because they have the time and the money to invest in the experience,” says AAA travel advisor Wendy Marley. “But lots of people are working from home now, remotely, and that has opened up this option to a larger group. Technology also makes it easy to stay connected. I was cruising in Antarctica recently and was able to FaceTime with my children.”
The cost of cruising around the world varies significantly – think $20,000 to $100,000 as an entry point – depending on itinerary, ship size, level of service, inclusions, etc. Still, the experience delivers something consistent. It’s a beautifully balanced approach to discovering our planet, with a familiar ship delivering foreign places, relaxing sea days juxtaposed with active port calls, cosmopolitan cities mixed with quaint outposts. And, don’t be surprised if it fills you up, yet leaves you wanting more.
Cruising can be addictive, and repeat “worlders” are not uncommon! Segment sampling is a thing, too. So if you can’t commit to a full cruise, consider a shorter leg of an exotic world journey.
Ready to sail away? Here are some more lines to look at if you want to see the world.
Holland America: Another line with traditional maritime roots, Holland America offers a 128-day Grand World Voyage roundtrip from Florida next year aboard its 1,964-passenger Zuiderdam. A 124-day voyage in 2025 is scheduled, too.
Oceania: Known for its upscale, perennially popular Around the World in 180 Days voyages (a play on Jules Verne’s classic – plus 100!), Oceania’s 2024 itinerary sold out in one day. In 2025, the 656-passenger Insignia sails a rare east-to-west route from Miami to San Diego, but has a roundtrip option back to Miami as well as a 200-day Miami to New York version.
Princess: The 2,200-passenger Island Princess promises big-ship entertainment and offers 111-day world cruises roundtrip from Florida and California in 2024. Its 2025 cruise, on the same ship with the same roundtrip service, lasts 116 days.
Regent: World cruises on this super-inclusive luxury line sell out in a snap, with 2024 and 2025 waitlisted. The 2026 itinerary, 155 days roundtrip from Miami on the all-balcony 696-passenger Mariner, set a record as Regent’s longest.
Seabourn: The 2024 world cruise from this intimate luxury line travels from Los Angeles to Athens, spanning 145 days on the 450-passenger Sojourn.
Silversea: Butler-laden luxury accents three world cruises, including a 132-day roundtrip voyage from San Francisco aboard the 388-guest Silver Shadow in 2024. The 2025 and 2026 cruises, aboard 596-guest Silver Dawn, sail from Tokyo to New York in 136 days and from Fort Lauderdale to Lisbon in 140 days, respectively.
Viking: This river cruise line sails identical 930-passenger, all-balcony ships and offers world cruises departing in December, rather than January, so expect to spend Christmas and New Year’s Day afloat. Despite offering two departures this year, both are waitlisted. A 2024, 180-day circumnavigation starts in Florida and ends in New York.
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Would you think about cruising around the world? Is it something you would like to do? Tell us in the comments.
Featured image: Emerald Princess in Santorini, Greece. (Courtesy of Princess Cruises)