How to travel around the world by cruise ship
Until recently, round-the-world cruises were often little more than window dressing, with no real expectation that people would want to pay thousands of pounds to be away from home for three months at a time.
All that has changed. As more and more companies â€“ Four Seasons, Crystal, Abercrombie & Kent, National Geographic Expeditions â€“ are offering (and selling out) round-the-world itineraries by private jet, so the appetite for longer world cruises and more destination-focused â€œgrand voyagesâ€ has grown. Next year sees the longest world cruise to date, a 180-day, 94-port offering from Oceania: 13 of its 16 available cabin options are already waiting list only.
This extraordinary level of demand means that most leading providersÂ â€“ including the worldâ€™s newest ocean cruise line, Viking â€“ now offer such trips, and companies that had stepped back have re-entered the market, most notably Regent Seven Seas, now back in the game for 2017 after a six-year absence. Companies previously reluctant to enter the arena, such as Azamara Club Cruises, have also introduced longer itineraries for 2017 and 2018.
If you are unconvinced about spending so long at sea, consider a sector â€“ anything from a few days to many weeks â€“ that allows you to dip into a long cruises, for a section that has particular appeal. Some itineraries can be as long as full-circumnavigation world cruises (typically 100-125 days) yet focus on specific parts of the world and often offer more port calls and fewer days at sea.
In 2017, this typically means Australasia and especially South America, where three companies (Crystal, Silversea and Fred Olsen) offer cruises of 90 days or more. Cunardâ€™s segment voyages on its world cruises also allow a particular focus on Asian, South American or Australasian itineraries.
A variation on the theme is the â€œboomerangâ€ cruise, which combines two ships, usually from the same cruise line, in one trip. This gives you a change of ship (a consideration on long cruises where you may tire of the same dining and other options) and can be a good way to spend longer in a city.
Typically a cruise line will put you up if you need to wait for the arrival of a sister ship, with Sydney a favourite turnaround port. Clever use of Cunardâ€™s world cruises, for example, will enable you to sail out to Australia on one ship and back in another.
Here is our selection of full circumnavigation and other â€œworldâ€ cruises for 2017, but note that many companies are already selling similar departures for 2018.
The worldâ€™s longest cruise
Oceania can claimÂ the worldâ€™s longest world cruise itinerary. The round-trip voyage from Miami lasts 180 days and visits 94 ports. Among the destinations are most of the staples of longer cruises, Barcelona and Sydney, and plenty more unusual stops.
These include Walvis Bay in Namibia, known for its extraordinary dunes; Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, withÂ its thousands of limestone isles; and Burma, where thereâ€™s a chance toÂ visit hundreds of temples, pagodasÂ and monasteries at Bagan. ItÂ is worth noting that the line is knownÂ for its culinary offering.
The cruise is aboard the 648-passenger Insignia, which was refurbished in 2014. Departing Miami on January 6, 2017 fares start from Â£26,299 per person (0345 505 1920; oceaniacruises.com).
A trio of trips
Cunard is making a bigger play than usual for the world-cruise market in 2017, both in the number of cruises it offers and in the increased number of segment voyages. All three of its ships â€“ Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria â€“ depart Southampton on 118-125-day world cruises between January 5 and 10, 2017. You can also join (or leave) the cruises in New York, Fort Lauderdale and San Francisco. Queen Victoriaâ€™s 120-day cruise, for example, can be taken as an 89-day voyage as far as San Francisco.
Cunard has also responded to a common complaint on longer cruisesÂ â€“ the relative lack of time in major destinations â€“ by extending the length of stay in some ports of call into the late evening. It has also acknowledged the trend for world cruises to focus on particular parts of the globe, most notably on Queen Maryâ€™s voyage, which spends an extended part of its itinerary in Asia and Australia.
Prices for this 118-day cruise, departing January 10, start at Â£17,879 per person in a balcony stateroom (0843 374 2224; cunard.co.uk).
P&O Cruises competes well both on price and in the range of segments it offers across its two main world cruises. Prices for the 114-night full-circumnavigation Polynesian and Asian Adventure world cruise, westbound via the Caribbean and Panama Canal, departing JanuaryÂ 2, 2017, from Southampton aboard the 2,094-passenger Arcadia, start at Â£10,690 per person, and Â£1,509 for sectors such as the 10-night Hong Kong to Singapore voyage. Other sectors include 24 nights from Southampton to San Francisco; 23 nights from San Francisco to Sydney; and 33 nights from Singapore to Southampton.
A second, eastbound full circumnavigation aboard Aurora departs Southampton on January 9, via the Suez Canal, with an itinerary that places special emphasis on Australasia.
From Â£9,699 per person with sector cruises available from Â£2,059 for segments including Southampton to Dubai (21 nights); Dubai to Singapore (13 nights); and Singapore to Sydney (19Â nights). (0843 374 0111; pocruises.co.uk).
A maiden-season cruise
The stylish all-veranda Viking Sun, the second ship in Vikingâ€™s brand-new ocean-going fleet, will cruise from Miami to London in December 2017 on a 141-day World Cruise itinerary that visits 35 countries and five continents (with 12 overnight ports). Highlights include Cuba, the Panama Canal and the South Pacific, with ports of call in the Caribbean and key cities including Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Papeete, Tahiti, Auckland, Sydney and the Caribbean. The historic Royal Borough of Greenwich makes for a fitting finale.
Inclusions on board the 930-passenger ship are generous: passengers receive a complimentary shore excursion in each of the 66 ports and fares include business-class flights, transfers, free Wi-Fi, a generous beverage package, medical services and all gratuities.
From Â£30,798 per person departing on December 15, 2017 (020 8780 7995; vikingcruises.co.uk).
Back with a bang
Regent Seven Seas Cruises has returned to the world-cruise arena after an absence of six years with a 128-night voyage, round-trip from Miami. The 490-guest Seven Seas Navigator sets sail on January 5, 2017. The itinerary visits six continents, 31 countries, 62 ports, 29 Unesco World Heritage sites, has six overnight stays and offers an educational programme presented in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution.
Stops at Caribbean ports are followed by visits to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico, followed by Hawaii, French Polynesia, Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. Ports of call in south-east Asia include Yangon in Burma, followed by India (Kochi, Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai) and destinations in the Middle East and theÂ Mediterranean.
Fares start from Â£38,209 per person (023 8068 2280; rssc.com).
Australiaâ€™s relative proximity to south-east Asia makes it a popular staging post, or final destination, for world cruises from the UK or US. Cruise & Maritime is one operator to use the country thus, as is Princess Cruises, whose 106-day circumnavigation cruise next year is a round-trip from Sydney aboard Sea Princess, but with segment options that allow cruises for example, from Sydney to New York (68 nights); Dubai to Dover (32 nights); or Dover to New York (17 days), the latter via Norway, Iceland and Nova Scotia.
Overnight stops are few on the full 42-port cruise (just Venice, New York and Lima), but the itinerary is more adventurous than some, with visits to Easter Island, Aqaba (for Petra), Akureyri in Iceland, Manta in Ecuador and Arctic Circle ports in Norway.
Prices for the full cruise, departing on May 17, start from Â£13,659 per person excluding flights. Dover-New York departing on July 10 costs from Â£2,458. The line also offers a different itinerary, a 111-day 40-port circumnavigation aboard Pacific Princess round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, departing January 3, 2017, from Â£14,438 per person, excluding flights (0843 374 4444; princess.com).
Sydney and back
Cruise & Maritime has a 120-night world cruise aboard the 1,250-passenger Magellan departing London Tilbury on January 5, 2017, for Sydney via the Caribbean, Panama Canal and French Polynesia. Twin inside cabin prices start from Â£7,999 per person, and twin ocean-view cabins from Â£10,999. This is an operator that has made a virtue out of offering â€œhalf-worldâ€ cruises, arranging flights if you require them to or from Sydney.
In 2017, you can join Magellan at Sydney for the 71-night return to Tilbury on February 23, with prices from Â£4,899 per person. This option has a fuller itinerary than the outbound leg from Tilbury and includes visits to Java, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, India, the Maldives, Aqaba, Malta and Lisbon. (0844 998 3799;cruiseandmaritime.com).
South American discovery
Fred Olsen has a 107-night circumnavigation leaving Southampton on January 3, 2017, aboard Black Watch (from Â£12,599 per person), with 15 segment options ranging from a 13-day Cairns-Singapore leg (Â£1,699 per person) to the 87-day option from Callao (Peru) to Southampton (from Â£11,829).
The company also offers one of the increasing number of longer â€œworldâ€ cruises that concentrates on a particular region, notably its 107-night South American Discovery voyage aboard Boudicca, from Southampton departing on January 8, 2017. Port calls include Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Cuba.
Prices for the South American Discovery voyage start at Â£6,299 per person (0845 314 2390; fredolsencruises.com).
Big trip with a bonus
Luxury small-ship operator Silversea offers only a partial circumnavigation on its 116-day 2017 world cruise aboard the 384-berth Silver Whisper, but it is one that embraces most of the key Pacific, Australasian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean destinations. South-east Asia provides the meat of the cruise, but southern and central American ports are notable omissions. Departure is from San Francisco on January 6, with a total of 62 ports in 25 countries and eight segment options.
The cruise concludes in Rome on May 6, but has a bonus in the shape of a free, three-day sailing to Monte Carlo on the inaugural voyage of Silverseaâ€™s newest ship, the 596-passenger Silver Muse, to be unveiled in spring 2017.
The full cruise starts at Â£41,786pp (0844 251 0837; silversea.com). If you want to spend longer on Silver Muse â€“ and see places not included on the main cruise â€“ the 66-day, 38-port Grand Voyage 2017 round-trip from Fort Lauderdale on October 13 circumnavigates South America before cruising the Caribbean, visiting 19 countries (from Â£23,122pp, with four segment options).
Pacific and South AmericanÂ specials
One of the leading operators in big-ship luxury cruising, Crystal Cruises has two cruises for 2017 of 94 and 99 days, one of which it describes as a â€œworld cruiseâ€, the other as a â€œgrand cruiseâ€. Neither comes close to a full circumnavigation.
The Southern CelebracÃon World Cruise on the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity, round-trip from Miami (January 10â€“April 15), explores the Caribbean and circumnavigates South America. The itinerary, which includes six segment options, is similar to that of Silversea, with the addition of Antarctic cruising and a visit to Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands. Prices start at Â£22,809 per person.
By contrast, the 99-day Grand Pacific Explorer, which departs Melbourne for Tokyo on January 5, 2017 aboard the 922-passenger Crystal Symphony concentrates on Australasia and south-east Asia. Its generous 20 overnight stops in key ports such as Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing should not be overlooked.