The idea of leaving all your worries behind for an extended time while you cruise around the globe is a tempting one. While there are no cheap world cruises (expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars, per person), prices are quite varied across ships and itineraries, and there are deals to be found. What's the secret to cruising for weeks on end without going into debt? Here is what we know about the cheapest world cruises.
Pricing world cruises is quite complicated. The best world cruise deals can be found on Princess, Holland America, Cunard and MSC. You will have choices of cabin sizes (including bargain-priced inside and oceanview rooms) and the ability to pick and choose what else you spend money on in terms of beverages, Wi-Fi and excursions. Necessary expenditures like port fees, gratuities and airfare are usually not included in those base fares.
Premium cruise lines like Viking and Oceania might have higher base fares, but inclusions like excursions gratuities, Wi-Fi, beverage packages and airfare (possibly even business class) can make these world cruises a bit more deal-worthy. Plus, you will be in a balcony cabin with plenty of space for the extended trip.
The best thing about many world cruises is that you don't always have to book the entire voyage. Many sailings are divided into world cruise segments that let you experience an extended voyage in a region of the globe that interests you most. Savings particularly add up when you bundle two or more segments back-to-back into your own mini-world cruise. How do you find these segments? First, look under "World Cruise" on the website of your chosen cruise line. Find out the name of the ship that is making the world voyage. Next, visit the "Ships" tab on the website. Click through to the cruises offered onboard the ship doing the world cruises and if segments are offered, this is where you will find them. The caveat is that any free add-ons that are part of the full world cruise deal don't usually apply to the segments, so be sure to calculate airfare, Wi-Fi and other extras you need into your price to determine the value.
One other way to save money on world cruises, or segments, is to choose an itinerary that begins and/or ends in the U.S., avoiding the expense of overseas flights. At the very least, choosing your departure and return port based on airfares to those destinations is the best way to avoid breaking your budget. You might find that the same cruise line offers embarkation at several ports along the way -- if you have a choice between starting your cruise in London or in Dublin, check the airfare to both -- it could be your deciding factor.
Traditionally, world cruises begin in January or February, but more lines are opting for sailings beginning well into the spring; others begin new world cruises in August. There seems to be very few price differences in full world itineraries based on their start date. The pricing of segments, however, can be very time dependent. For example, you might be looking at one segment and notice that the leg immediately before it is priced quite low. The cheaper segment could be due to seasonality; traveling through a region in its off season is likely to cost less. Adding the discounted segment to the segment you already wanted, makes the whole trip a better deal.
Study. Learning about routes and cruise lines is the best starting point to finding the world cruise deal that suits you best. This isn't just a week or two of vacation -- it's a commitment that could last months.
Think through your own needs. On shorter cruises, you might opt for a beverage package, but when you consider a cruise of 100-plus nights, is it something that you need? How about Wi-Fi? Often it is the opposite of beverage packages -- where you are perfectly happy to disconnect on a weeklong vacation cruise, you might need to stay in touch on an extended voyage. Laundry is a must. Will you be happy using self-serve laundromats onboard or in port? (Or will you want that done for you?) Some world cruises include port tours in the price. But, determine if you are really a tour person, or if 48 bus tours in 100 days would drive you insane. Also consider cabin size and location as well as the number of sea days on the voyage. What you typically choose on a short cruise might or might not be what you want on a world cruise.
Do the math. Add everything up -- base cruise fare for your desired cabin, port charges, visa fees, air fare, Wi-Fi, laundry, gratuities, beverages (including soft drinks and alcoholic drinks) and any extra charges for specialty restaurants. Then, divide the total by the number of nights to get your cost per day for that specific cruise. That is your comparison point to determine if your deal is really a deal.
Consider cruise lines you haven't used before. If you have status with a particular line, it is tempting to automatically choose that line for a world cruise if they offer one. However, until you do the math, you won't know if it's the cheapest world cruise option available for your needs.
Work with a travel agent. The advice of an agent can be especially useful if you are considering a cruise line with which you are unfamiliar. Plus, agents often have inside info on specials and add-ons for world cruises that you might not discover on your own.