World Cruises–and an extreme case

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about cruising and cruise lines–partly because it’s been a while since we’ve been on a cruise (and will probably be a while longer). But we get lots of literature, we’re thinking about it, and there are some oddities worth noting.

Take, for example, world cruises–the extreme case of getting away, unless you’re one of a few wealthy eccentrics who’ve simply started living on a cruise ship fulltime.

Typical World Cruises

That may be a misleading heading, because I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a “typical” world cruise–but a fairly common scenario is that such a cruise runs about 105-110 days, starts in either Ft. Lauderdale or LA, usually in January…and isn’t quite a full world cruise (that is: It doesn’t come back to the port from which you left, although that’s sometimes feasible with an extension). Every world cruise I’ve ever seen has been sold in (fairly long) segments as well as the whole thing, and usually true world cruisers make up a small portion of the passenger list.

A few examples for 2011:

  • Princess actually has two, one R/T from Sydney, one starting in Fort Lauderdale and ending in Rome. That one is 107 days. It would set a couple back $45K for an interior cabin (which I’m guessing would get a little cozy after three months), $52K for an oceanview cabin, $58K for a balcony, and $80K minimum for a minisuite. Add to that air fare, gratuities (probably $9-$10 per day per person, so figure about $1,900), drinks, shore excursions and any other purchases.
  • Holland America, a step up from Princess (both are owned by Carnival) and with smaller ships (and larger cabins), has a 110-night cruise that’s a true world cruise, round-trip from Fort Lauderdale. I may be missing a fee bit, but I see couple fares of $34K interior, $40K oceanview, $68K for a veranda suite. Add to that all the other extra-cost items as with Princess.

Now compare two luxury cruise lines (Holland America is a Premium line, a level down from Luxury; Princess is sort of a Premium line.)

  • Crystal Cruises–even smaller ships (900 to 1,000 passengers), even larger cabins–has a 110-night cruise, LA to London. For a couple, figure $104K minimum for a window cabin (all of their cabins are “minisuites” by mainline standards) and $112K for a veranda cabin. A lot more–but that does include air, and they add a $5,000-per-couple onboard credit that you can use for shore excursions, wine, etc. Oh, and all nonalcoholic beverages are free on Crystal, which isn’t true of premium and mainstream lines: Water can start to add up.
  • Regent Seven Seas–still smaller ships (490 to 700 passengers), all suites, pretty much all verandas–has a longer world cruise: 131 nights, from San Francisco to Rome. It’s also much more expensive, starting at $140K for a couple. But–and it’s a significant But–that’s all-inclusive: Not only air but all gratuities, mainline shore excursions (anything that would typically cost up to $150/person on other lines), beer, wine, water, booze–unless you want even fancier wine than the very nice vintages they pour for free, you won’t spend a cent on anything but the casino, dry cleaning and laundry, and the shipboard shops.

The Extreme Case

Not so much ‘extreme’ in terms of price–take Regent Seven Seas or Seabourn and book a top-of-the-line suite, and you’ll see extreme, as in more than half a million bucks a couple.

No, this one’s extreme in a different way. Cruise West, which has typically had very small ships (under 100 passengers) mostly serving Alaska and other coastal waters, purchased one of the smaller Renaissance ships and renamed it the Spirit of Oceanus. It’s an oceangoing ship, and they’re going–with the damnedest world cruise I’ve ever seen.

It starts February 22, 2011 in Singapore. It ends January 24, 2012 in Hong Kong. That’s right: a 335-night world cruise. Prices start at $285K per couple, if you book by April 30 (full price would be $446K per couple). That’s for a Superior Cabin–still fairly large by cruise ship standards (a “minisuite” of sorts) but with portholes or a window. Oh, and the whole ship only carries 120 passengers and has two lounger, a game room, a library, and a hot tub. No real pool, no casino, probably lots of lectures but not lots of entertainment choices. That price does include airfare, gratuities, and at least one shore excursion possibility in each port. It doesn’t include alcohol. This is a far more luxurious ship than Cruise West’s usual “exploration class” vessels…

I dunno. Not that there’s any chance we’d ever take any of these, but somehow I think that ship might get to seem very cozy, maybe even a little claustrophobic, well before a 335-night cruise is complete. I wonder how many people will do the whole thing? I wonder whether anybody will?

Note

In case you aren’t familiar with them: All cruise fares (at least all of these) do include entertainment and meals, with the occasional exception of some specialty restaurants (all specialty restaurants on Crystal and RSS are complimentary, and Cruise West only has one restaurant). Most ships do include all nonalcoholic beverages during meals, but non-luxury ships might not include them at other times. The ships all have internet, usually at a price, and fairly extensive libraries. Dry cleaning and laundry usually isn’t included, and neither are medical expenses other than aspirin and meclazine (for seasickness)–but all the ships have doctors and infirmaries.

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