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The Best Around-the-World Cruises

By Anita Dunham-Potter

Dec 15, 2018

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Silversea Cruises’s 140-day 2020 world cruise tackles all seven continents, including Antarctica.

Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

Silversea Cruises’s 140-day 2020 world cruise tackles all seven continents, including Antarctica.

If you have time to spare and want to visit a treasure trove of destinations from the comfort of a ship, these global sailings are well worth the splurge.

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In 1922, Cunard Line inaugurated the first world cruise from England that circled the globe in 130 days and visited 22 ports. Nearly 100 years later, the tradition continues—with some variations—and now numerous cruise lines offer these epic voyages.

World cruise itineraries vary widely, and in truth most do not actually completely circumnavigate the globe these days, which is the hallmark of a true world voyage. But regardless of whether they do a full around-the-world tour, they do tackle a large and impressive array of destinations. These weeks- or months-long cruises typically depart in January, and often need to be booked well in advance. However, some 2019 sailings are still available, and this is also a good time to start planning for a 2020 world cruise if the idea of taking one of these journeys is calling to you.

The type of ship you choose can make or break your experience. Luxury cruise lines offer posh accommodations on smaller ships with an emphasis on service and typically have many more inclusions (think freely flowing champagne and caviar). Premium lines are slightly larger ships with more entertainment and good-quality service and food, but they aren’t as all-inclusive. And the really big cruise ships offer more basic staterooms, more pools, gargantuan casinos and spas, and flashy live shows.

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Regardless of the cruise line, a world cruise offers the convenience of unpacking only once and a balance of lazy sea days and busy port stops. These cruises are not just about the exotic ports of call but also are filled with dozens of sailing days, often a week at a time. Cruisers have numerous options during sea days ranging from informative lectures to dance classes, but it’s important that passengers be mentally prepared for these longer stretches of time onboard.

These voyages aren’t cheap either, but if you’ve yearned to sail the globe in a style surpassing that of famed maritime explorer Ferdinand Magellan and want to earn some serious cruising bragging rights, there are numerous world cruise options for a range of tastes and budgets.

Best luxury world cruise for social travelers

The Crystal Serenity cruises to New Zealand’s Milford Sound as part of its 105-day around-the-world sailing.
Starting in Miami on January 6, 2020, and ending in Rome, the 105-day “Epic Empires & Idyllic Isles” cruise takes place on Crystal Cruises’s newly refurbished 980-passenger Crystal Serenity. Discerning travelers will appreciate Crystal’s stylish luxury, including well-appointed suites, gourmet dining, and the most entertainment and enrichment options of any cruise line. The abundant offerings include everything from University@Sea tech classes on how to film and edit movies to doctor-hosted wellness lectures, painting and sculpture programs, and wine and food courses. The itinerary focuses on the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand. Highlights include longer stays in Bora Bora, Auckland, Sydney, Singapore, and Mumbai. Fares start at $35,800 per person for a deluxe outside suite and go up to $228,000 per person for a penthouse suite.

Best luxury cruise with a South Pacific and Asia focus

The Seven Seas Mariner docked in Sorrento, Italy, one of 63 ports on this around-the-world sailing.

The 131-night “Navigate the World” cruise on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’s 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner offers round-trip options from both Miami and San Francisco that visit 63 ports over five continents. Taking a westerly route, the Mariner will spend almost an entire month sailing around the South Pacific before docking in Australia where it will have several stops, including at the Great Barrier Reef. Afterwards, it will head toward Asia with stops that will include Hong Kong and Mumbai, before continuing to the Middle East and on to a Suez Canal transit. The Mariner features three specialty restaurants, a spa and fitness center, a heated swimming pool, two whirlpools, a library and a card room. Fares for the January 6, 2020, and January 20, 2020, sailings range from $66,500 to $179,00 per person, including airfare, shore excursions, gratuities, and dry cleaning, among other services.

Best luxury cruise with an Africa focus

Sail to Oceania, Asia, and Africa in style onboard Seabourn Cruises’s 450-passenger Sojourn.
Seabourn Cruises sails a 146-day world cruise onboard its all-inclusive, ultra-luxury Seabourn Sojourn from Miami to San Francisco, which visits 62 ports in 36 countries over five continents. The itinerary, which sets sail on January 4, 2020, skips Europe and focuses completely on Oceania, Asia, and Africa. A highlight of the cruise is 16 overnights in ports, allowing guests ample time to partake in overland tours such as safari parks and game reserves in Kenya and South Africa and an overnight tour to the Taj Mahal in India. Guests on the 450-passenger Sojourn will be treated to exceptional fine dining via a partnership with celebrity chef Thomas Keller, along with spacious suite accommodations that include a sofa, dining table for two, walk-in closet, marble bathroom with tub and separate shower, and a bar stocked with guests’ preferences. There is an array of lectures to choose from, including talks focused on the destinations and on current events featuring laudable guest speakers. There are also “Shopping with the Chef” excursions in select ports to learn about local markets. Fares start at $67,000, and head up to $185,000 per person for an Owner’s Suite (including airfare, shore excursions, gratuities, butler service, laundry, and dry cleaning).

Best luxury adventure cruise

Hit all seven continents on Silversea’s 32-country 2020 world cruise.
Ultra-luxury line Silversea Cruises offers an epic 140-day sailing onboard the 382-passenger Silver Whisper from Fort Lauderdale to Amsterdam. The voyage visits 62 ports and is the only world cruise to visit all seven continents, including landings in Antarctica that will be accompanied by scientists and naturalists. The newly refurbished Silver Whisper is the smallest ship to sail a world cruise, offering a more intimate experience, as well as exclusive access to world-renowned guest lecturers, plus fine dining and impeccable service. Additionally, Silversea also offers excellent value for solo travelers because the line’s single supplements tend to be much lower than those of other cruise lines. The cruises run from $62,000 to $250,000 per person, including airfare, some select shore excursions, gratuities, butler service, and laundry service.

Best world cruise for epicureans

Dine in style while visiting some of the world’s most fascinating destinations onboard Oceania Cruises’s Insignia.
Oceania Cruises’s 200-day “Global Quest” cruise onboard the 684-passenger Insignia from Miami is the only world cruise that visits Cuba, China, Russia, and Alaska. While most world cruises head westerly, Insignia does the opposite and heads south and east. After various stops in the United States, Mexico, and Central America, the ship focuses heavily on South America, where there will be more than two dozen port calls. Highlights include a stop in Peru to visit Machu Picchu and cruising the Chilean Fjords. Afterwards, Insignia heads across the Atlantic to Africa with stops in Senegal, Ivory Coast, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, and Reunion Island. Crossing the Indian Ocean, the ship will explore Asia with overnights in Myanmar, Singapore, Saigon, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo. After calling in Russia, the ship will head back to North America for stops in Alaska and Canada. Oceania is known for its impressive culinary offerings; the line’s executive chef is the legendary Jacques Pépin. Fares for this cruise start at $42,600 for an inside stateroom and can go as high as $162,000 for an Owner’s Suite.

Best world cruises for inclusive value

Circumnavigate the globe on Viking’s epic 245-day world cruise.

Viking Cruises offers a couple of world cruise options in late 2019 and 2020, including the longest continuous world cruise that will encompass a whopping 245 days. Both journeys will take place onboard the Scandinavian-inspired, 930-passenger Viking Sun. Viking is known for its great value and all staterooms have a balcony. The cruise line also provides a complimentary tour in every port, complimentary water and soft drinks, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner. Another included Viking perk is one of the best spas at sea with a thalassotherapy pool, steam sauna, dry sauna, snow room, and hot and cold plunge pools.

Viking’s 245-day voyage departs on August 31, 2019 and sails round-trip from London and will ultimately explore six continents, 53 countries, and 112 ports of call. It is the only world cruise that visits Norway, Greenland, Montreal and also sails up the Amazon River. Fares kick off at $90,000 per person for a lower deck veranda cabin and head up to $270,000 per person for the Owner’s Suite, including airfare. Viking also offers a shorter 119-day “Viking World Wonders” cruise sailing from Los Angeles to London that departs January 4, 2020.  The cruise focuses heavily on the South Pacific, New Zealand, and Australia, where highlights include sailing the fjords of Milford Sound and the Great Barrier Reef. Afterwards, the Sun heads north to Asia with a dozen stops, including China, Singapore, Thailand, and India. It will then sail to the Middle East with stops in Oman, Jordan, and Israel before numerous port calls in Africa and the Mediterranean. Fares start at $46,000 for a lower deck veranda cabin and continue up to $140,000 for an Owner’s Suite, including airfare.

Best more affordably-priced world cruise

Fred Olsen Cruises’s older Boudicca vessel calls in the Portuguese island of Madeira on its world cruise.
For a later in the year around-the-world cruise, Fred Olsen Cruises will sail round-trip from Dover, England, in October on the classic 880-passenger liner, Boudicca. Built in 1973, Boudicca is the oldest vessel to be sailing a world voyage. The 168-night odyssey is focused on heavy enrichment learning in warm-weather destinations. Stops include Lisbon, Madeira, the Caribbean, and Cartagena, followed by a Panama Canal transit. From there it’s off to the South Pacific, and Australia, followed by stops in India, Dubai, Oman, and Jordan. Afterwards, the ship makes several stops in the Mediterranean before heading back to England. Fares are between $22,300 and $39,000.

Best traditional big ship world cruise

See the world in style onboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.
Cunard Line, the cruise line that started it all, offers a 99-day round-trip sailing from Southampton on its flagship vessel, the 2,695-passenger Queen Mary 2. This itinerary, which departs on January 10, 2020, is unique in that it doesn’t visit North or South America. It is an east-west voyage to Australia and Asia, encompassing the Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and southern Africa. Highlights include overnights in Israel, Dubai, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Cape Town. Perhaps the biggest highlight is the ship itself as the Queen Mary 2 offers the only planetarium and pet kennels at sea along with Cunard’s famous white-glove afternoon tea service. Other diversions include a Canyon Ranch Spa, a golf simulator, paddle tennis courts, five swimming pools, a 3D cinema, yoga and dance classes, acting workshops, and a nightclub offering various theme parties. Fares start at $17,890 per person for inside staterooms and go up to $63,550 per person for Queen’s Grill duplex suites.

Best world cruise for culinary learning

Holland America Line's world voyage features numerous stops in South America, including at Easter Island, Chile.

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Holland America Line has more than 50 years’ experience operating around-the-world voyages. Its 128-day world voyage takes place on the company’s 1,380-passenger Amsterdam, which features an America’s Test Kitchen facility onboard where guests can hone their chef skills with abundant hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations. The itinerary sails round-trip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and focuses heavily south of the equator with extensive stops in South America plus an Antarctic experience sailing parts of the Drake Passage. The Amsterdam then heads to the South Pacific, Australia, and Africa, where it will make numerous calls before crossing the Atlantic to North America. This sailing departs on January 4, 2020; fares start at $21,500 per person for an inside stateroom and run up to $80,000 for suites.

Best world cruise for romantics

Grab your sweetheart and board the Pacific Princess for a 26-country world cruise.
Princess Cruises are known as the “Love Boats” from the popular 1970s TV show that made cruise travel famous. Romantics will enjoy the 111-night sailing from Los Angeles to Ft. Lauderdale that will visit 42 destinations in 26 countries on five continents onboard the line’s smallest vessel, the 670-passenger Pacific Princess. Highlights include late-night stays to maximize time in port, including in Melbourne, Tahiti, Phuket, and an overnight in Cape Town, South Africa. Onboard, guests can enjoy the ship’s pool, the Lotus Spa and fitness center, library, casino, jogging track, shows, and lectures. And for those who want to make the trip extra special, there’s a dedicated “Department of Romance” to help with special occasions such as anniversaries and vow renewals. Fares start at $24,000 per person for inside staterooms and go up to $66,000 per person for suites.

Abbreviated world cruises

For those who don’t want to spend months on a ship and would rather get a “taste” of a world voyage, there is the option to book segments of a world cruise. Silversea’s 140-day world cruise, for instance, consists of nine segments and passengers can opt to sail one or more of them, such as the 18-day Sydney to Singapore segment or the 10-day Dublin to Amsterdam segment. In fact, the vast majority of cruise lines do this because less than half the passengers on a world cruise do the full itinerary—the rest join on various available segments.

>> Next: This Epic Around-the-World Cruise Takes You to 56 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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