Imagine the joys of traveling seamlessly from one bucket list country to another without packing and unpacking, switching hotels, boarding countless flights or even doing laundry.
Think it’s a fantasy? It’s actually a world cruise, the nirvana of many ocean-going devotees. As a bonus, most of these around-the-world voyages include enviable perks, like pre-cruise hotel stays, alcohol, shipboard credit, exclusive-access shore excursions — and, yes, laundry service.
Retired, taking a job hiatus or working remotely? A world cruise is a safe, easy and exhilarating way to score a global adventure beyond compare. You might even make new lifelong friends sharing similar interests.
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So, pull out your travel wish list and find an itinerary for those coveted destinations.
Here, you can learn more about what’s involved in an around-the-world cruise and drool over 10 terrific choices across a range of fares for an incredible months-long voyage at sea.
What is a world cruise?
Never mind the moniker, a world cruise may visit several continents but not circumnavigate the globe. Cruise lines usually designate one ship (a few may offer two) to sail about 100 days or longer — some even sail 200 days — without repeating ports.
World cruises traditionally start in January and end around April or May. They sail round trip from one American city, such as San Francisco or Miami, or offer a choice of starting points on either coast, making access easy.
What to know about world cruises
With so few world cruises available, book far in advance. Bookings open roughly two years in advance, and some small-ship cruises sell out within hours. You’ll need the extra time to make arrangements to leave your home for months.
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Such lengthy sailings cost plenty. The bigger-ship lines offer the lowest fares, although extra fees for what’s not included (such as shore excursions and alcohol) can add up quickly. If contemplating a big-ship voyage, read the inclusions carefully, as they vary among lines.
Luxury vessels bundle many costly amenities into the fare, like business- or first-class plane tickets and five-star hotel stays, and charge the most. They also deliver fine dining, pampering service, glam surroundings and impressive special events. (Silversea recently rented out an entire island to entertain its world cruise guests!)
Thus, expect considerable price differences. Count on spending about $20,000 per person minimum to score an entry-level accommodation on the bigger ships and approximately $80,000 to 90,000 per person for an ultra-luxury vessel.
Note that for the poshest lines, entry-level may mean a spacious, elegant suite with a veranda; for other lines, the most basic cabin is a small, windowless room.
Spend 124 days on board Cunard’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, reveling in the art deco setting and British style. A world cruise on this elegant ocean liner reflects the relaxing and exciting days when sea travel was the way to voyage.
The QM2 world cruise sails round trip from New York and includes overnight calls in Cape Town, Sydney, Melbourne and Hong Kong, among many dazzling ports.
Adventurers should note that uncommon ports, like Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Adelaide, South Australia; and Hue, Vietnam, are on this terrific itinerary, too. Sailing the Middle East calls at Doha, Qatar and Dubai are standouts.
If you’re seeking the most luxurious accommodations and exclusive experiences on board, book Princess or Queens Grill suites. Fares include outstanding amenities such as private dining rooms, coffee and specialty tea service, priority boarding and a private outdoor lounge area.
Queens Grill suite passengers receive butler service, too. However, many lovely inclusions, such as white-gloved servers presenting complimentary daily tea, are available for all guests.
Departs Jan. 3, 2024; prices from $17,389.
Holland America’s 128-day Grand World Voyage on the 1,964-passenger MS Zuiderdam cruises round trip from Fort Lauderdale. The enticing itinerary ventures far from Florida to must-visit cities such as Tokyo, Jerusalem, Mumbai, Singapore and Istanbul. The ship will also traverse the Panama Canal.
Many included overnights allow opportunities to dive deep into local cultures and experiences. Spend extra time in Kobe, Japan; Hong Kong and Shanghai, China; and Singapore. As a bonus, Zuiderdam will take guests to incredibly remote locales, such as the Amazon and Sri Lanka.
On board, relish music venues like Billboard Onboard and BBC Earth in Concert, where a live orchestra plays before a huge backdrop of spectacular wildlife footage. Step One Dance Company presents works by noted choreographers. Count on a buzzy casino, fine specialty restaurants such as Tamarind and a professionally staffed fitness center, too.
Departs Jan. 3, 2024; prices from $23,599.
Related: A beginner’s guide to picking a cruise line
The lovely 656-passenger Insignia sails a whopping 196 days from Miami to New York for Oceania Cruises’ 2024 world cruise. However, space is mostly waitlisted. It’s better (and easier) to book the round-trip Miami 2025 world cruise, which is also 196 days.
Prepare to tear up any bucket list on a cruise this long. The ship begins in the balmy Caribbean islands, ventures to the Brazilian Amazon, explores more of South America and then heads off to Africa and Asia.
Australia and New Zealand, Hawaii and Latin America round out the itinerary before Insignia circles back to the Caribbean (different ports on this end) and sails triumphantly back to Miami.
Oceania Cruises is renowned for fine dining. Expect to eat and drink exceptionally well on board.
Departs Jan. 5, 2025; prices from $50,399.
This ship delivers many onboard activities like cooking and dance classes, trivia contests, enrichment programs and a sports court for basketball, volleyball and tennis. A putting green ensures golf games stay sharp.
Expect, too, movies under the stars, original musical productions and onboard wellness such as a spa and fitness center.
World cruisers can visit 27 countries with 51 destinations across six continents, plus 12 new-to-Princess ports, including Lisbon, Bali, Naples, Milan and Haifa. With late-night stays in 11 ports of call and a Dubai overnight, you can relish multiple opportunities to wine, dine and enjoy the nightlife ashore.
From Fort Lauderdale: Departs Jan. 4, 2024; prices begin at $19,722.
From Los Angeles: Departs Jan. 18, 2024; prices from $19,497.
Related: Big vs small cruise ships: Which will I like better?
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
World cruises prove perpetually popular on this ultra-luxe line. They often sell out in the blink of an eye.
The 2024 133-day voyage on 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner is waitlist only. Availability is limited on the line’s 2025 world cruise, sailing 151 days round trip from Miami on the same stunning ship. This itinerary includes cruising in Antarctica, the Chilean fjords, French Polynesia, Taipei and Bali.
Perhaps because its 2025 sailing is nearly sold out, Regent Seven Seas Cruises is one of the first cruise lines to announce its 2026 world voyage, also on Seven Seas Mariner.
This journey will be the line’s longest, sailing 155 days and visiting 77 ports in 41 countries across six continents. The itinerary includes three new ports of call for Regent, such as Lifou Island and Mare of the Loyalty Islands in the New Caledonia archipelago. Count on visiting 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Robben Island in South Africa.
For all its around-the-world cruises, Regent heaps on primo inclusions — first-class flights, unlimited shore excursions, luggage service, open bar and a visa package are among countless amenities.
2025 world cruise: Departs Jan. 7, 2025; prices from $87,999.
2026 world cruise: Departs Jan. 10, 2026; prices from $94,999.
Related: The 8 best luxury cruise lines for elegance and exclusivity
Got nearly a year to spare? The 2,143-passenger Serenade of the Seas unveiled its new 274-night Ultimate World Cruise for 2024 with a droolworthy, envy-inducing itinerary.
This one round-trip Miami sailing delivers many marquee destinations like Petra, the Pyramids of Giza, Great Wall of China, Great Barrier Reef, Taj Mahal and Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer. This world cruise ventures to seven continents, with 60-plus countries and more than 150 destinations.
Royal Caribbean may be a mass-market line, but it offers many posh amenities to its world cruise guests. Fares include business-class airfare, premium transportation between hotel and ship, a deluxe beverage package, pre-cruise gala and hotel stay, laundry service and gratuities.
Departs Dec. 10, 2023; prices from $59,999.
Wander the majestic temples of Luxor. Snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef. Ogle the tropical beauty of Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa. Visit local markets with a chef in Ho Chi Minh City.
You’ll find many pinch-me moments on Seabourn’s 145-day, 72-port, 28-country Los Angeles-to-Athens 2024 world cruise onboard 450-passenger all-suite Seabourn Sojourn.
On this ultra-luxurious vessel, you can expect exclusive VIP celebrations, like a Caviar in the Surf party. (Note that complimentary Champagne and caviar flow freely on board, too, adding to the happy vibe.)
There’s much to love about Seabourn Sojourn. Its intimate size allows truly personalized service from a polished, attentive crew. Seabourn Square, a living room-like venue, is a magnet for affable passengers who quickly make new friends.
The ship’s superb dining includes The Grill by Thomas Keller, a restaurant designed by the superstar American chef best known for Napa Valley’s iconic French Laundry. Count on 24-hour in-suite dining among a slew of upscale amenities.
Departs Jan. 11, 2024; prices from $79,399.
Related: 7 extremely decadent things you can do on a luxury cruise vacation
Luckily, its 2025 world cruise aboard its newest flagship, the ultra-luxurious, 596-passenger Silver Dawn, looks amazing. The around-the-world cruise is designed to visit far-flung and more remote ports, often out of season, to avoid the touristy crowds.
This 137-day voyage sails from Tokyo to New York and explores 59 ports in 30 countries. Count on enchanting cities, including Istanbul, Naples and Stockholm. Also, many tempting ports, like Cochin, India; Jedda, Saudi Arabia; and Nuuk, Greenland, are wonderfully remote.
Silversea world cruises are known for showcasing exceptional special access events, and this sailing is no different. On this cruise, applause goes to a private tour of Cairo’s 500-room Abdeen Palace and an inimitable evening at Versailles in lavish Marie Antoinette style (pre-guillotine, of course).
Silver Dawn is a wowser with a game-changer spa, all-suite accommodations, tux-clad butlers for all passengers and complimentary caviar service anytime, anywhere. Expect many fare inclusions, such as business-class flights, shore excursions and private transfers.
Departs Jan. 13, 2025; prices from $81,000.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Who says a spectacular world cruise only unfolds on oceans? Uniworld launched its first world cruise this year (sailing May 2023) to great success. For 2024, the Rivers of the World Lima-to-Saigon cruise spans three continents, 10 countries and four ultra-luxury riverboats for 55 dreamy days.
The journey begins in the Peruvian Amazon. South American highlights include Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls.
Next, guests sail the Rhine, Main and Danube, reveling in a private Mozart and Strauss concert in Austria. After an intensive France itinerary, passengers are whisked to Southeast Asia to visit Angkor Wat and treasure a candlelit dinner in 10th-century temple Prasat Kravan, among many thrills.
Only 68 passengers can experience this unique itinerary. Fares include numerous cushy perks, such as flights and transfers between cruise segments, a dedicated concierge accompanying passengers for the entire journey, fancy hotel stays, exclusive events, excursions ashore and unlimited premium alcohol.
Departs Oct. 3, 2024; prices from $49,399.
Imagine the joy of ticking many bucket list boxes on Viking World Voyage I, Viking’s new 180-day world cruise on board the 930-passenger Viking Sky in 2024. Availability is limited, so book quickly.
This 37-country Fort Lauderdale-to-New York voyage notably begins during the December 2024 festive season rather than in January, the traditional world cruise departure date.
Palm-tree ports are plentiful, including Moorea, French Polynesia; Bay of Islands, New Zealand; and Phuket, Thailand. You’ll cross many seas, such as the Tasman, Arabian and Andaman, and take your pick of a plethora of possible excursions, including a visit to a banana plantation in Nicaragua or encountering a Komodo dragon in Indonesia. You can pretty much do it all on this world cruise.
Departs Dec. 19, 2024; prices from $79,995.
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