‘Think of it as the ul­ti­mate gap year’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page -

World cruise. Re­peat: world cruise. Sounds ex­otic, right? At a time when many of us take fre­quent city breaks, when we no longer need the ex­cuse of a hon­ey­moon to visit the Mal­dives, and our hol­i­day wish lists are ef­fort­lessly ticked, it is in­creas­ingly hard to find that lit­tle bit of “wow!” that gets the must-book-this pulse rac­ing.

So, what ex­actly is a world cruise? Think of it as the ul­ti­mate gap year, squeezed into three months – a way of see­ing mul­ti­ple, ex­otic desti­na­tions in one solid chunk of time, with the added ad­van­tage of com­fort. Best of all, world cruises de­part in win­ter – mostly in Jan­uary. Not only will you es­cape the win­ter chill, but weeks of chores, too.

If you did most of your trav­el­ling as a stu­dent or with a young fam­ily, here is your chance to put bells and whis­tles on your hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ences. Stay overnight in Hong Kong and dine in one of the city’s mem­o­rable har­bour-front restau­rants. Soar over Syd­ney har­bour on a float plane or take a he­li­copter flight over Iguazu Falls in South Amer­ica.

Of course, there will be tick-list ex­pe­ri­ences that you have missed. See­ing the cherry blos­som in Ja­pan, the sa­fari hol­i­day you al­ways wanted to take, the trip to Aus­tralia for which you never quite found the time. With sa­fari op­tions from Cape Town, snorkelling trips to the Great Bar­rier Reef and tran­sits along the Panama Canal, a long cruise is a con­ve­nient and cost-ef­fec­tive way of cap­tur­ing those ex­pe­ri­ences − as well as vis­it­ing desti­na­tions you may not have yet have heard of.

Life on-board can be as lux­u­ri­ous as you make it. Some lines of­fer un­lim­ited Wi-Fi and but­ler service; oth­ers pre-stock your mini-bar and throw in busi­ness-class flights. All of the lines in our round-up have their own USP.

So, now you have your rai­son d’être for trav­el­ling, your guar­an­teed wow fac­tor, and your win­ter es­cape solution. How do you make it hap­pen?

What qual­i­fies as a world cruise varies enor­mously, as do the routes taken, the cost, what is in­cluded, and the time each cruise takes – any­thing from 99 to 243 days. In the cruises fea­tured here, prices range from £89 per day (Fred Olsen) to £388 a day (Re­gent Seven Seas).

On the fol­low­ing pages Tim Jep­son high­lights the best cruises this year and through to 2020, tak­ing into ac­count bud­gets, du­ra­tions, desti­na­tions, ed­u­ca­tional con­tent and suit­abil­ity for

solo trav­ellers.

Teresa Machan

Seren­ity on a voy­age ti­tled Epic Em­pires and Idyl­lic Isles. The trip, which is also avail­able in seven sec­tors of 13-18 days, fo­cuses on the Pa­cific and Aus­trala­sia. The New Zealand com­po­nent, es­pe­cially around the fjords of South Is­land, is a high­light. At the end, there’s a dash for Rome – of­fer­ing an easy re­turn to the UK – in 15 days from Mum­bai via the Mid­dle East and a hand­ful of Mediter­ranean ports. From £29,053, or £276 daily, de­part­ing Mi­ami for Rome on Jan 6 2020 (020 7399 7601; crystalcruises.com) Read the small print: some cruise lines of­fer voy­ages that are cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tions of the globe. Oth­ers of­fer “world” cruises that are, in ef­fect, par­tial cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tions. Some de­part from the UK, some from the US, oth­ers from Aus­tralia or else­where.

In­creas­ingly, world cruises also fo­cus on just one region or part of the world. Some linger in the An­tipodes; oth­ers in South Amer­ica. Some give you swathes of Asia but noth­ing in the Pa­cific or North Amer­ica. Our pic­toral de­scrip­tions will help you through this maze. Some itineraries of­fer a dozen or more overnights in ports, oth­ers give you just one night’s break from the sea. Some things are com­mon across com­pa­nies, such as the in­creased pro­vi­sion of “sec­tor” cruises, whereby you can join world cruises for part of the trip at ports en route. One of the most pop­u­lar longer sec­tors is be­tween the UK and an Aus­tralian port, typ­i­cally Syd­ney. and Kagoshima, Ja­pan (for the region’s gar­dens). It’s also among the best-priced world cruises. From £10,799, or £90 a day, de­part­ing Til­bury on Jan 5 2019; (0844 998 3788; cruise­and­mar­itime.com).

Like Cruise & Mar­itime and Fred Olsen, P&O gives you a long time at sea with­out charg­ing a king’s ran­som: its 99-night West­ern Cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion in 2019 aboard the 2,094-pas­sen­ger Ar­ca­dia works out at just over £100 nightly. Port overnights (six) are few but in­clude – un­usu­ally – a night in Dubai. P&O has made life es­pe­cially easy for those who want sec­tors of the full itin­er­ary, with as many as 16 op­tions, from the pop­u­lar UK to Aus­tralia leg (Southamp­ton to Bris­bane or Syd­ney) to seg­ments such as Hong Kong to Southamp­ton (35 nights from £3,799, or £109 daily, de­parts Hong Kong March 12 2019). From £9,999 per per­son, de­part­ing Southamp­ton Jan 6 2019 (0345 355 5111; pocruises.com).

Visit ex­otic is­lands like Bali, left; life on board can be agree­ably lux­u­ri­ous, be­low

Some op­er­a­tors linger in one area, such as the An­tipodes

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