When is a 'World' Cruise not a World Cruise?


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CunardDuring the first week of January, while most of us are recovering from Christmas and/or shivering round the fireside, a handful of Britain’s favourite cruise liners slip quietly away from the dockside in Southampton. There are no bands or bunting to mark these departures – such frivolities are frowned upon by the authorities these days. But the passengers settling into their cabins are unpacking rather more luggage than usual, and with good reason. They are off on a world cruise.

Similar scenes will be taking place in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as the big American cruise liners set sail on three-month journeys to the sun. The urge to escape winter in the northern hemisphere is, it seems, as strong as ever.

But hang on a minute – something’s wrong. Many of those “world” cruises are not actually going to circumnavigate the globe at all. They will still bring you home in April with a healthy suntan and a camera full of memories, but British-based cruise lines are increasingly abandoning full world cruises in favour of in-depth explorations of areas like the Far East.

Quite why this is the case is none too clear. Half-hearted explanations include the complicated logistics of making travel arrangements for people who want to do only part of the cruise, or the worries of dispatching vessels on two-week crossings of the Pacific Ocean – where repair facilities are sparse if anything should go wrong. The huge cost of using the Panama Canal might also be a factor.

P&O CruisesOne cruise line told me airily: “Everyone who wants to go on a world cruise has already done it.” But that’s rubbish. There are still plenty of people who want to sail all the way around the globe.

The Americans heralded the change a few years ago, with safety-conscious “world cruises” that skillfully avoided any potential trouble spots. For example, there were itineraries that left Florida for the Caribbean, rounded South America, crossed the Pacific to Australasia, returned to Hawaii via some colourful eastern destination like Japan, then headed into San Francisco or back to Florida by way of the Panama Canal.

British-based cruise lines like Cunard, P&O Cruises, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines and Saga have stuck with the more traditional circumnavigation until now – but there are big changes in the air. If you had wanted to go on a round-the-world cruise this year you would have been spoilt for choice, but both Saga and Fred Olsen have replaced their “world” cruises with what they ingenuously call “worldwide” cruises.

Fred Olsen Cruise LinesIf you can splash the cash, a full global voyage is still the dream holiday on everyone’s bucket list. Happily, Cunard and P&O Cruises will still oblige. But their planners must have the same worries as everyone else about costs, possible international developments, and the sheer logistics of managing a ship on the other side of the globe. One can’t help wondering how long it will be before they too switch to “world” cruises that aren’t.

Oceania CruisesPerhaps one pointer comes from Oceania Cruises, who have boldly experimented with six-month round-the-world cruises with much success. Their cruise takes a highly attractive itinerary, taking in some of the most fascinating sights on the planet, but avoids Australasia and that long Pacific run.

An enviable trip, I’m sure. However, I’d prefer the great adventure of circumnavigating the globe – and I think perhaps you might, too. But how would you enjoy spending three, or even six, months in the same surroundings and with the same people? My next blog looks at how to plan for a world cruise, how to make the most of it ... and how to survive!

More about Robin

Robin Mead, a travel writer for 40 years, has written more than 30 travel guide books as well as contributing to newspapers and magazines all over the world. He has also been a hotel inspector, and for the past 12 years he has worked as a lecturer on board cruise ships in the winter. He says his great loves are the sun, the sea, posh hotels, Sussex (where he lives), the Channel Islands and ... ghost stories! Robin writes for Silver Travel Advisor about world cruises.

Robin Mead runs his own travel website, www.robinmead.com, or can be followed on Twitter: @robinmeadtravel. His e-book “An Expert Guide to Cruising” can be downloaded from Amazon.

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Other Members' Thoughts - 7 Comment(s)

  • robinmead
    almost 6 years ago
    I'm not sure you see a lot of the countries you visit, however short or long a cruise. The good news is that cruise lines are catching on to this, and have started featuring considerably longer stopovers in their most interesting ports of call. There are also a growing number of excursions where you leave your ship in one port, explore overland, then rejoin your ship at its next port a few days later.
  • robinmead
    almost 6 years ago
    Who says you have to go down to dinner each night? If there is not a choice of restaurants, there is always a buffet where passengers who don't feel like dressing up (or meeting the same table companions time and time again) can wear what they like and eat what they like with whoever they like. Want a night "in". Then settle down in your cabin, order room service, and enjoy the TV or a good book.

    I'll have more tips next month, when I write about "How to survive a Long Cruise"!
  • tony-bonnett
    almost 6 years ago
    There are many positives for going on a world cruise but how about the negatives - going down to dinner each night?
  • robinmead
    almost 6 years ago
    Strangely enough, on today's large cruise ships you don't see the same people as often as one might imagine. Admittedly, one's fellow passengers and the unchanging shipboard surroundings can pall on a very long cruise, but you might find that this is cancelled out by the sheer thrill of travelling around the globe. Next month, my Cruising article will look at how to survive a long cruise.
  • robinmead
    almost 6 years ago
    Cruising in the Caribbean in the winter is wonderful, isn't it? The bad part is coming home!
  • shayne
    almost 6 years ago
    I would love to go on a worldwide cruise or round the world, I love cruising even though hubby & I have only been on two, the first was 15 years ago and the second was December 2013, we sailed on the Ventura, P&O cruise line, for two weeks around the Caribbean, we flew to Barbados from Manchester then had a one hour bus transfer to port, everything went smoothly and we were soon in our cabin, our suitcases were already waiting for us outside our cabin door, I cannot say enough good things about the ship, crew, food etc, we had an amazing experience, saving up for another cruise now, though there is no way we could ever afford more than three weeks, I wish.
  • chrismse
    almost 6 years ago
    Interesting point, `when is a world cruise not a world cruise` when they don`t go around the world. I have never been on a cruise so its hard to have an opinion other than I can`t imagine being with the same people for months on end. I think I would rather go on a shorter cruise that allowed me to actually see something of the countries I visited.