In 1922, Cunard Line inaugurated the first world cruise from England that circled the globe in 130 days and visited 22 ports. One hundred 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.
Most around-the-world cruises begin in December or January. While you still may find some limited space for the 2022–2023 season, these months-long sailings typically need to be booked well in advance, especially if you want to stay in an upper-level suite. The pandemic has only increased the popularity of these spectacular sailings as travelers try to make up for lost time, hoping to visit a large swath of international destinations in one fell swoop. This is a good time to start planning for a world cruise that is even one or two years away—and to keep an eye out for when epic around-the-world cruises even further out open for bookings.
Given how much time you’ll be spending onboard, 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 necessarily as inclusive (you might pay extra for some food, beverages, and services). Big cruise ships offer a greater choice of staterooms, plenty of pools, gargantuan spas, and flashy live shows—you won’t get bored.
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; they 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 the longer stretches of time onboard.
These lengthy 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 cruise bragging rights, there are numerous around-the-world cruise options for a range of tastes and budgets.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Best luxury all-inclusive world cruise
Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ world cruises on the 700-pasenger Seven Seas Mariner have been known to sell out in hours. The only way to get on the 2023 cruise is via the wait list, and there is very little space on the 2024 and 2025 sailings—keep an eye out for 2026. The round trip from Miami cruise embarking on January 2, 2024, is a 132-night extravaganza that crosses three oceans to reach 31 countries on four continents with such highlights as crossing the Panama Canal, sunning in Hawai‘i and French Polynesia, and sailing to Singapore and across Asia to the Middle East.
The following year’s 150-night sailing, embarking on January 7, 2025, is from Miami to San Francisco and covers South America, the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand, Asia, and Alaska—25 countries in total. The all-suite Mariner features three specialty restaurants, a spa and fitness center, a heated swimming pool, two whirlpools, a library, and a card room. While the sailings are quite an investment, the cruise fares include almost everything. Fares for the January 2024 sailing range from $73,499 to $199,999, including first-class airfare, some 440 shore excursions, gratuities, and dry cleaning, among other services. The 2025 cruise is priced from $86,999 to $249,999.
Best luxury cruise with a focus on Africa and the South Pacific
Space is limited for Seabourn’s extraordinary 140-night 2023 world cruise between Miami and Barcelona, visiting six continents. The itinerary on the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn spends quality time in the South Pacific, including a circumnavigation of Australia, and Africa—with port calls in the Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Gambia, Senegal, and Cape Verde. Embarkation is January 6, 2023. The line’s 145-day world cruise in 2024 on the same ship sails across the Pacific from Los Angeles and stops in 78 ports in 28 countries, with overnight stays in 20 destinations, with expansive exploration in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Embarkation is January 11, 2024.
Passengers are treated to exceptional fine dining via a partnership with celebrity chef Thomas Keller, along with spacious suite accommodations. An array of lectures includes 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 cuisines and markets. Fares start at $70,499 for the 2023 sailing and range from $79,399 to $294,399 for the posh Owner’s Suite on the 2024 sailing (including airfare, shore excursions, gratuities, butler service, laundry, and dry cleaning).
Best luxury cruise that includes Iceland and Greenland
There is only wait-list space for ultra-luxury line Silversea’s 2023 and 2024 world cruises. If you wait until 2025, you’re in for the treat of a 136-night, 20-country exploration on the 596-passenger Silver Dawn, newly launched in 2022. It’s the largest ship Silversea has ever assigned to a world cruise—a sign of the popularity of the expansive itineraries. The sailing will embark from Tokyo, explore southeast Asia and India, spend quality time in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Scandinavia and will then call in Iceland and Greenland. After that, the ship will travel to Canada and New England before ending in New York City. Fine dining and impeccable service are Silversea hallmarks. All passengers stay in a suite with butler service, and Silver Dawn offers an extraordinary opportunity to dive into the cuisine of various cultures with its immersive S.A.L.T. culinary dining and education program.
Space is already limited for the sailing, embarking January 13, 2025, with available fares from $92,000 to $98,000 (fancier suites are booked up), including business-class airfare, some select shore excursions, $1,000 in onboard spending credit per guest, gratuities, butler service, and laundry service.
Best world cruise for UNESCO World Heritage sites
Upscale line Oceania Cruises has built a big fan base for its expansive 180-day world itineraries. You’ll need to join a wait list for the 2023 sailing from Miami but may have better luck with the voyage embarking Miami on December 29, 2024. The itinerary will take passengers through Central America and west across the Pacific to French Polynesia and the Samoan islands, New Zealand and Australia, with an extensive exploration of Asia. Then it’s off to the Middle East, Europe, Iceland, Greenland, and New England and concluding in New York. There are 24 overnight stops and 100 UNESCO World Heritage sites along the way. Oceania is known for its impressive culinary offerings; the line’s consulting chef is the legendary Jacques Pépin, and menus include expansive vegan and vegetarian options, while cooking classes take place in a real test kitchen. Fares for this cruise start at $48,499 for an inside stateroom and can go as high as $189,999 for an Owner’s Suite, including airfare, internet, gratuities, and laundry, among other amenities.
Best world cruise for inclusive value
Viking Cruises’ 930-passenger Viking Neptune sets sail on December 22, 2022, on an epic 137-night world cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Greenwich, United Kingdom, with explorations of Central America, the California coast, Hawai‘i, French Polynesia, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Mediterranean. Overnight stays in 11 ports ensure time to explore and enjoy the local nightlife. You can also board in Los Angeles, for a shorter 120-night itinerary. The ship will sail a similar world cruise route that starts in December 2023. Sister ship Viking Sky will also cover the itinerary with a 120-night sailing departing Los Angeles in 2024. All staterooms on the Scandinavian-designed ships have balconies, and the line presents a value proposition that includes a complimentary tour in every port, complimentary water and soft drinks, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner, and free Wi-Fi. Another 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. Fares for the 120-day cruises start at $54,995 and at $199,999 for the top-level Owner’s Suite, including airfare.
Best traditional world cruise
Cunard Line, the cruise line that started it all, is celebrating its centenary with a 117-night world voyage on the 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, embarking from Brooklyn, New York, on January 3, 2023. The itinerary includes Colombo, Singapore, and Hong Kong, replicating the RMS Samaria’s 1923 world sailing, as well as stops in Dubai, Sydney, and Cape Town. In 2024, the ocean liner will set sail from Brooklyn on a 123-night voyage to Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, with highlights including passage through the Suez Canal. The ship has a planetarium, hosts galas in an extravagant ballroom, and offers a daytime roster that includes dancing, acting, and fencing classes, plus Cunard’s famous white-glove afternoon tea service. Fares for the 2023 sailing are from $21,499; the 2024 sailing is priced from $20,699 for an inside stateroom and from $79,999 for top-category Queens Grill suites.
Holland America Line
Best world cruise for music lovers
Holland America Line has more than 50 years’ experience operating around-the-world voyages. The line has a 128-night world cruise that embarks from Fort Lauderdale on January 3, 2024, destined for South America, Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean, with such highlights as overnights in Tokyo, Kobe, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, Petra, and Istanbul. The sailing takes place on the 1,848-passenger Zuiderdam, with a Lincoln Center Stage venue that highlights performances by classical musicians and a Billboard Onboard show featuring some of the most popular hits throughout the decades, as performed by dueling singing piano players. Fares run from $23,799 to $82,899.
Abbreviated world cruises
For those who aren’t able to spend months on a ship and would rather get a “taste” of a world voyage, there is the option with most lines of booking segments of a world cruise. That way, you can pinpoint a destination or region that’s appealing to explore for a month or however much time you have. Example: If you can’t do Seabourn’s entire 145-night sailing in 2024, book the 33-night segment that leaves from Sydney on February 20, 2024, to explore Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Taiwan, with fares from $22,999 to $27,999 (fancier suites are all booked up for this one).
Anita Dunham-Potter contributed reporting. This story was originally published in December 2018, and was updated on September 7, 2022, to include current information.