‘Think of it as the ultimate gap year’
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
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