World Cruises - The Ultimate Voyage

| Dec. 13, 2006

If you've almost done it all, a world cruise still beckons...

If you're really looking for the trip of a lifetime, a world cruise is just the ticket. Where else can you cruise to six continents, visit up to 27 countries, and call at more than 60 ports, all in one voyage? With five cruise lines circumnavigating the earth in early 2007, there are plenty of options to see some of the world's natural and man-made wonders such as the Great Wall of China, India's Taj Mahal, Australia's Ayers Rock and the massive Moai statues on Easter Island. The Main Players

World cruises traditionally depart in the first quarter of the year. For 2007, the lines offering world cruises are Crystal, Cunard, Holland America, Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea. In total they offer seven ships plying the planet, including: Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity; Cunard's QE2 and QM2; Holland America's Amsterdam and Prinsendam; Regent Seven Seas' Seven Seas Voyager; and Silversea Cruises' Silver Shadow.

While Cunard Line's QE2 is undertaking her 25th world cruise, QM2 is embarking on her maiden world cruise. Silversea Cruises is offering its first world cruise this year; in the past, it had long cruises but they didn't circumnavigate the world. Holland America Line has been in the world cruise market for 49 years. This year, HAL expands its offerings to both the Amsterdam and smaller Prinsendam. Another fixture in the world cruise market is Crystal Cruises, with its twelfth world cruise in 2007.

Passenger Profiles and Fares

Unlike other cruise vacations, the world cruise purchase decision is often made by men -- at least at Cunard Line. According to Cunard, this is due to the adventure aspect of a world voyage. On the QE2's full world cruises, about two-thirds of the passengers are from the United States and most of the rest are from the United Kingdom.

While the majority of world cruise passengers tend to be wealthier retirees, cruise lines report that each year they get more participants who are still of working age. That said, cruise lines sell segments of their world cruises for those who cannot take four months off for the entire voyage but still would like a taste of the experience. The shortest segments at most lines are about 12 to 14 days.

Understandably, there is a great price differential between segments and full cruise fares. For example, the cost of QE2's shortest segment (12 days) ranges from $1,900 to $31,000, whereas its full 108-day world cruise costs $17,000 to $247,000, depending on cabin selection. QM2's maiden 81-day world cruise costs $21,000 to $184,000, while its shortest 11-day segment ranges from $5,300 to $35,000.

Regent Seven Seas' shortest segment --14 days -- costs from $6,000 to $57,000, while its entire 111-day circumnavigation costs $55,000 to $312,000. Crystal Cruises offers two 12-day segments costing from $5,400 to $30,300 vs. fares of $47,000 to $228,000 for the entire 109-day cruise. (Note that the only cruise lines to offer world cruises are in the premium or luxury category, so value-added extras might included in the fares -- such as complimentary wine at dinner -- for some of these lines.)

Exotic Ports This year, world cruise itineraries range from 81 days (Queen Mary 2) to 126 days (Silver Shadow). While the QM2 is the fastest ship and hence offers the shortest itinerary, the rest of the lines' world cruises last from 105 to 126 days. Most touch on five or six continents and a myriad of ports: the Amsterdam stops at 38 ports; QE2 at 41; Crystal Serenity at 44; Sevens Seas Voyager at 46; and Silver Shadow at a whopping 61 ports.

Following are highlights from each line's exotic itinerary:

Crystal Cruises: Departing from Miami and finishing in Southampton, the Crystal Serenity's passengers will be able to see such show-stoppers as the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu, the Pyramids of Giza, the Acropolis, and safaris to Kenya and Botswana. The ship also transits the Panama and Suez canals, rounds Cape Horn and visits the Chilean fjords.

Cunard Line: The Queen Mary 2 has longer stretches of days at sea than her older sister QE2. QM2 cruises from Ft. Lauderdale down the east coast of South America, up its west coast, through the Pacific, makes calls in India, and transits the Suez Canal to Egypt and the Mediterranean. QE2 takes a more leisurely time covering the world; highlights include the Panama Canal; in-depth visits to island nations in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand; many calls in Asia including China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore; and three days in South Africa before returning to Southampton.

Holland America Line: While the Amsterdam offers a traditional circumnavigation, the Prinsendam sails two shorter itineraries. The Amsterdam makes three maiden calls next year, at the resort town of Nha Trang, Vietnam; the pearl-rich harbor of Tuitcorin, India; and Salalah, Oman. Other highlights include the Great Barrier Reef, Machu Picchu, and Easter Island. The Prinsendam offers a 66-day voyage focusing on South America (including the Amazon River) and Antarctica, followed by a 56-day cruise across the Atlantic to Africa and the Mediterranean. Guests can combine the two trips for a 122-day voyage.

Regent Seven Seas: The Seven Seas Voyager focuses on Africa and the Seychelles; Southeast Asia including Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand; and the Mediterranean, including Egypt, Greece, Italy and Spain.

Silversea Cruises: With 66 calls, the Silver Shadow manages to cross seven seas in four months. Due to its small size, it calls at a number of remote Pacific islands including Easter, Pitcairn and Robinson Crusoe islands. Much time is spent in the South Pacific before the ship stops in Egypt, passes through the Strait of Gibraltar, crosses the Atlantic, calls in Bermuda and ends in New York City.

Enrichment Along the Way Since the typical world cruise passenger is a �sophisticated traveler,� according to Cunard Line, most lines offer enrichment lectures and other intellectual pursuits during world cruises. Regent Seven Seas' Spotlight Series offers passengers an opportunity to listen to the tales of famed ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, newscasters Judy Woodruff and Al Hunt, and political satirist Mark Russell on various segments of the world cruise.

Crystal Cruises has a full roster of enrichment programs covering a range of intellectual pursuits: A Yamaha Master Class in keyboard instruction, interactive acting workshops led by Crystal's Repertory Theatre at Sea actors, seminars on memoir writing with journalist Joe Kita, and a course in computers for which full world cruise passengers will get transferable college credits. The latter is an industry first and is an expansion of the line's Computer University@Sea.

In addition to enrichment programming, Crystal has a stellar lineup of famous personalities to entertain or give lectures during the world cruise, including singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka, Olympic gold medalists Dorothy Hamill and Mitch Gaylord, NFL coach Don Shula, and a long list of world-renowned chefs and wine experts.

Future World Cruises The future bodes well for the world cruise market. In 2008, Princess Cruises will be back in the game with the Pacific Princess, after an absence since 2001. Since the voyage ends in Southampton, passengers can elect to board the QM2 in Southampton for a transatlantic cruise ending in New York.

Also in 2008, Holland America Line will celebrate its 50th year of world cruising by offering two long voyages each aboard the Amsterdam and Prinsendam. While three of the four cruises will be 65 to 75 days, one aboard the Amsterdam will be a full world voyage of 114 days.

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