Circling the Globe: The Top World Cruises for 2019 to 2021

For cruise travelers who seek the very best and possess the “luxury of time,” nothing beats a World Cruise. After settling into pampering accommodations for months at sea, they’ll set off across the globe to explore dozens of exotic destinations, gaze at the skylines of Hong Kong, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro or other storied cities, and sail to remote spots most travelers will never see. 

In addition, thanks to the ability to “work mobile” from a ship and the availability of private, customized shore options, these World Cruise travelers are no longer solely retirees; some are younger, working professionals or entrepreneurs. So, what constitutes “the ultimate World Cruise?” Certainly, opinions vary, but guests have appealing options for mid-2019 to 2021.  

For Touching Seven Continents

For “bragging rights” about stepping ashore on all seven continents, luxury travelers might check out Silversea Cruises’ “Legends of Cruising - World Cruise 2020,” a pampering, 140-day voyage on Silver Whisper. This 382-passenger, ultra-luxury ship will embark guests at Port Everglades, FL, and set sail January 6 to the Chilean Fjords, Antarctica, Easter Island, Australia, Asia, the Mediterranean, the U.K. and Ireland, and the Norwegian Fjords, before the voyage concludes in Amsterdam. 

Onboard, guests will certainly find gourmet dining and fine wine, but this itinerary also features many Australia port calls with wine-focused shore trips in many destinations. During a two-day stay in Perth, Australia, we’d suggest guests opt for the full-day “Wines of Swan Valley and City Sights” tour; it begins with a Perth scenic orientation drive, a photo stop at Kings Park and then wine tasting and lunch in the Swan Valley, followed by a Swan River cruise and guided Fremantle city tour. 

World Cruise guests who instead prefer “to play” on this itinerary also have appealing options. In Montevideo, Uruguay, Silversea will transport golfers who wish to tee off with 18 holes of golf to Club de Golf del Uruguay. Or, during the line’s “Aquabike Adventure” in Bora Bora, French Polynesia, cruisers can ride an underwater scooter (with a constant air supply) beneath the waves to see tropical fish, corals and marine life, prior to a snorkeling stop. 

Silversea will also create special events for World Cruise guests, including a bon voyage celebration in Miami, a concert by the Perth Symphony in Quarry Rocks, and a farewell dinner in Leith, Scotland. Also, in Buenos Aires, it will evoke the 1930s flavor of the city by transporting guests by vintage cars to a themed black-and-white evening event at El Zanjon, a museum housed in underground structures dating to the city’s earliest settlement. This private event will include dinner with wines and a tango show with an aerial display. 

It’s good to know that World Cruise guests will sail on a refreshed vessel, as later this year Silver Whisper will enter drydock in the Bahamas for a revitalization. Fresh décor with a lighter, contemporary color scheme (akin to Silver Muse) will be added to public areas and all guest suites, including our favorite, the Owner’s Suite, a stylish, elegant apartment available either in a one- or two-bedroom configuration, the latter by also reserving the adjoining Vista Suite. 

The upcoming revitalization will also transform nine Terrace suites on deck five into Veranda suites with enhanced privacy. Silver Whisper’s main restaurant will undergo a full upgrade, while La Dame, a specialty dining venue, will receive new curtains and a polished floor. The Zagara Spa will be upgraded with new furniture and the gym will receive new, state-of-the-art equipment. New carpeting will be added in hallways, the main restaurant, casino, card / conference room, main bar and theater. And, finally, new outside storage space for Zodiacs and a crane will allow for remote exploration in Antarctica and elsewhere. 

For the Longest Voyage

Certainly, if a traveler’s personal benchmark for the best World Cruise is the “longest voyage,” then Viking Cruises’ 245-day “Viking Ultimate World Cruise,” departing on August 31, 2019 roundtrip from London, is a good choice. Touching six continents, this voyage will be operated by the 930-passenger Viking Sun, a boutique luxury ship that launched in 2017; it will call at 113 ports in 59 countries. 

What’s interesting is that this incredibly long World Cruise can also be split into a “Viking World Treasures” voyage from London to Los Angeles, and a “Viking World Wonders” voyage from Los Angeles to London. Both “segments” (at 127 and 119 days, respectively) are, by any standards, a World Cruise in their own right. The full 245-day option will deliver the ultimate bragging rights.

With the lengthier cruise, cruisers can have in-depth immersion into a country or region; plus, 113 guided shore trips are included in the fare. After departing London, Viking Sun spends two full weeks calling at ports in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Shetland, Scotland, we’d suggest Viking’s included tour, “Shetland Panorama and Ponies,” for a fun visit to a Shetland pony breeder and enthusiast, as well as a castle photo stop, a Tingwall Valley drive and views of Girlsta’s fresh water lochs.

Inside, Viking Sun has a relaxing, comfortable Living Room, essentially the ship’s atrium but with a more casual feel. Dining choices include the main restaurant plus Manfredi’s for savory Italian dining, the Chef’s Table and the casual Aquavit Terrace. The ship has a full-service spa and a nice perk is that its thermal suite complex, including a snow grotto, is open to all guests. 

Top suite on this vessel is the 1,448-square-foot Owner’s Suite (OS) — the ship’s largest with multiple rooms and an expansive private veranda. Guests can relax in a spacious living room, a separate dining area that seats six, and even an ocean-view dry sauna. The master bedroom features a king-sized bed with luxury linens and pillows, while the large master bathroom has a glass-enclosed shower, double-sink vanity, heated bathroom floor and anti-fog mirror. 

We particularly like that this suite has a private library and wine and music collections curated by Viking’s Chairman Torstein Hagen. A plus is that this suite’s Boardroom seats 12 for business meetings or catered dinner parties.  

Oceania’s world cruise will call at Aomori, Japan, where guests can marvel at the tallest seated bronze figure of Buddha in the country. // Photography: Getty Images / coward_lion

For the Modern-Day “Phileas Fogg:”

If travelers desire to travel around the world in 80 days as Phileas Fogg did in the popular Jules Verne novel, they can do so but in a more modern, luxurious way on Oceania Cruises’ “Around the World in 180 Days” 2020 World Cruise. Operated from Miami to San Francisco by the 684-passenger Insignia, the adventure departs on January 8, 2020. 

Beyond the convenience of U.S. embarkation and disembarkation ports, this World Cruise also appeals for its Panama Canal transit, South America circumnavigation, African wildlife experiences and northern Asia calls. This itinerary has six maiden calls — three in Japan (Oarai, Aomori and Hakodate), one in the Russian Far East at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and two at U.S. ports (Dutch Harbor, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands and Santa Barbara, CA). 

One special event in South Africa is “The Reserve at The Taj Cape Town Dinner,” taking them to the former headquarters of the early 20th-century South African Reserve Bank and adjacent Temple Chambers. Today, this iconic building is a five-star hotel where cruisers will dine amid gorgeous architectural features and listen to traditional South African music.

Guests on the 2020 World Cruise will embark a recently refurbished ship. As part of the $100 million OceaniaNEXT initiative, Insignia will enter drydock this December as the line’s first Regatta-class ship to receive an interior enhancement of all suites / staterooms and public areas. Directing the creative revitalization is Studio DADO, a Miami-based design and concept studio specializing in luxury residential and hospitality design. Look for new furnishings from Baker and Donghia, fabrics from Rubelli and Kravet in public spaces and new custom-milled carpets. 

A new grand staircase will have intricate railings and balustrades inset with crystal accents while overhead, a grand chandelier will sport hanging pieces of smoked and hand-painted glass. In the Grand Dining Room, guests will sit on new soft leather dining chairs and a new chandelier will be installed. Martinis’ décor will be transformed with a new color scheme inspired by the Greek isle of Santorini and its bar will be redesigned with silver-white marble and quartz. 

Stripped down to the studs, Insignia’s accommodations will emerge lighter, brighter and more spacious. Look for new custom-crafted furnishings, stone and polished wood finishes, designer accessories, new USB ports, high-tech TVs and entertainment systems. All new bathroom fixtures and surfaces are planned, plus Penthouse, Vista and Owner’s Suite bathrooms will feature Carrara marble, granite and onyx.

Seabourn’s 146-day cruise on Seabourn Sojourn will allow guests to explore Durban, South Africa. // Photography: Getty Images / lcswart 

For Extensive Africa Immersion

We like Seabourn’s 146-day “World Cruise: Extraordinary Destinations” for its comprehensive line-up of port calls along the eastern, southern and western coasts of Africa. Operated by the 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn, this World Cruise sets sail on January 4, 2020, from Miami to San Francisco. In Africa, for example, guests will go ashore at such ports as Dakar, Senegal; Takoradi, Ghana; Banjul, Gambia; Durban, South Africa; and Mombasa, Kenya, among many others. 

We’d take a bit of time to explore Dakar’s world-class array of art galleries and museums, especially the Theodore Monod African Art Museum, which has a fabulous collection of masks, artwork and traditional clothing. Fortunately, this Seabourn cruise gives the luxury of “me time” in ports all along the route with 16 overnight stays and 18 late nights in ports. That allows guests to venture ashore for dining, nightlife, theater and local festivals. In addition to the strong African line-up, the itinerary includes calls in the Caribbean, India, Arabia, Southeast Asia, Australia, the South Pacific and Hawaii. 

Given that this is Seabourn’s first World Cruise in six years, it’s likely that the suites will sell out quickly. That said, if available, we’d suggest the 914-square-foot Wintergarten Suites (Category WG), which have large windows, dining for six, a bathroom with a whirlpool bathtub, guest bath and a glass-enclosed solarium with tub and day bed. Guests can also dine al fresco on the 183-square-foot veranda. Another good option is the Owner’s Suite (Category SS), with 526 square feet to 593 square feet of space, a private veranda, dining for four to six, separate bedroom, bathroom with whirlpool bathtub, guest bath, pantry with wet bar and more. 

Full World Cruise guests will receive complimentary first-class roundtrip domestic air or business-class air; a $2,000 to $3,000 shipboard credit per person, depending on accommodations chosen; unlimited Wi-Fi; private car transfers door-to-door from the traveler’s home; Personal Valet luggage shipping service; unlimited laundry and dry cleaning onboard; a gala bon voyage dinner and overnight hotel stay prior to departure in Miami; a visa package; and more.

On this World Cruise, guests can expect the line’s signature Caviar in the Surf Beach BBQ and Marina Day, with complimentary watersports at Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Ko Kood, Thailand. Another special perk is that local entertainers will come onboard to perform during the ship’s calls at Bridgetown, Barbados; Sihanoukville, Cambodia; Manila, The Philippines; and Durban, South Africa. 

Province of Livorno (here) in Tuscany will treat Regent’s full World Cruisers with exclusive shoreside events. Shown here is Portoferraio on Elba islands. // Photography: Getty Images/ StevanZZ

For Close-to-Home Embarkations

Besides the chance to explore up to 36 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a big draw for Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 2020 “Navigate the World” cruise is it embarks and disembarks guests in the U.S., thus avoiding overseas airport hassles for guests. This 131-day voyage on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner sails roundtrip from Miami on January 6, 2020, or roundtrip from San Francisco on January 24, 2020. One spacious option is the 987-square-foot Grand Suite (GS) with a balcony, but all suites on this ship are luxurious, and even the lowest category suite, a deluxe veranda suite, has 301 square feet of space. 

This World Cruise sails to such exotic locales as Pago Pago in American Samoa; Langkawi, Thailand; Salalah, Oman; Jerusalem (Haifa), Israel; Sorrento / Capri, Italy; and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to name just a few of the ports. In addition, guests can choose to leave the ship during the cruise for optional overland journeys to visit the Taj Mahal; the Cambodian temples of Angkor; Egypt’s Valley of the Kings or a combination of that and the Pyramids in Giza; Uluru or Ayers Rock, Australia; or the sacred holy sites of Israel. Guests on these overland trips rejoin the ship at a later stop.

In addition, full World Cruisers will be treated to several exclusive shoreside events during calls in Singapore; Livorno, Italy; and Auckland, New Zealand. In the latter, Regent Seven Seas will transport those guests to the Auckland War Memorial Museum, transformed into a medieval setting for a “Lord of the Rings” Dinner. Based on what could be a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous book, this fantasy evening will surround guests with hobbits, elves and Gollum. 

Full World Cruise guests also receive complimentary roundtrip first class domestic or business class tickets; a one-night pre-cruise hotel stay; unlimited beverages onboard, including fine wines and premium spirits, open bars and lounge; pre-paid gratuities; unlimited Wi-Fi, specialty dining and much more. Top perk? From our perspective, it’s the choice of an unlimited number of shore excursions covered within the cruise fare; guests have hundreds to choose from. 

Seven Seas Mariner just emerged this year from a bow-to-stern drydock update. All public spaces received new carpeting, world-class art, furniture and décor. New guest suite features include Elite Slumber Beds, padded leather headboards and refreshed sitting area décor. The Reception area has new marble desks and gold leaf-accented artwork by Atlanta-based artist Tom Swanston, while the atrium’s grand spiral staircase is now crowned with a large blown-glass art installation. 

Also, the newly updated steakhouse, Prime 7, is unlike anything else in the line’s fleet with rectangular light fixtures reminiscent of a sculpture across the ceiling, and cream-colored, pillow-backed chairs, sapphire walls and wood finishes. Chartreuse replaced Signatures with new décor, china and menu highlighting modern French cuisine. The pool deck was redesigned with a new open layout, teak flooring, white daybeds and a mosaic-tiled pool with a broad ledge for lounging in shallow water. 

The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari, Egypt, will be a top attraction for Regent and Crystal guests visiting Valley of the Kings. // Photography: Getty Images / Leonid Andronov

For 25 Years & Maiden Calls

The 2020 World Cruise on the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity marks the 25th year that the ultra-luxury Crystal Cruises has offered a World Cruise. The 105-day journey sailing from Miami to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, is expected to be a celebratory voyage calling at 47 ports in 23 countries. Guests can expect an exclusive celebratory, pre-cruise dinner in Miami and many other perks, such as free, unlimited Wi-Fi throughout the vessel.

For those guests who wish to get started on Crystal’s next 25 years of World Cruises, the line recently outlined its 2021 World Cruise, “Ancient Dynasties & World Wonders,” a 139-day voyage from Miami to London; the itinerary includes the Caribbean, Hawaiian Islands, South Pacific, Australia, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, the Far East, India, the U.A.E. and the Mediterranean. It also features 17 overnight calls, a Panama Canal transit, a chance to explore Egypt’s Valley of Kings and savory calls in western Europe’s wine country, including Lisbon, Bordeaux (double overnight), Rome, Sardinia and Ibiza. 

Some loyal veteran cruisers simply love voyages with maiden calls, as these deliver bragging rights for conversing with fellow fans of that brand. Crystal’s 2021 World Cruise will have maiden calls in Banda Neira and Ambon, Indonesia, as well as at Townsville, along Australia’s northeastern coast. From Townsville, we’d either travel to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling or diving; delve into 1870s-era Gold Rush history at Charter Towers or pose with koalas at the Billabong Sanctuary. 

Townsville itself has beaches, botanic gardens, the Strand Beachfront Promenade, historic Flinders Street and arts and crafts at Cotters Market. Another fun option is the Reef HQ Aquarium, the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium, where cruisers can enter an underwater viewing tunnel to gaze at colorful corals and reef creatures.

This month, Crystal Serenity will enter drydock for an extensive three-week revitalization, reducing its guest capacity to 980 guests (crew numbers will remain the same). It will emerge with 36 new Penthouses and two new Penthouse Suites in place of verandah staterooms on Penthouse Deck 10. The new accommodations will offer personal butler service, walk-in closets, spa-like bathrooms and spacious square footage. 

Reduced guest capacity will allow for open-seat dining with more two- and four-seat tables in the main restaurant, now called Waterside, replacing the Crystal Dining Room. Marketplace and Churrascaria, replacing the Lido Café, will be new daytime and evening restaurants. Silk Kitchen & Bar will occupy the space that’s now Tastes, plus Palm Court will get an “in the round” concept stage; new finishes and carpeting; and more tables for two, including a combination of cocktail tables and chairs, dramatic wingback chairs with footstools, sofas and coffee tables. 

Whatever World Cruise luxury travelers choose, one factor is certain: They’ll be sailing to the far ends of the earth, doing so in comfort and style and creating memories that will last a lifetime.  

Crystal’s 2021 World Cruise will take guests to Bordeaux, France. Shown here is a vineyard in the village of St. Emilion. // Photography: Getty Images / Nellmac

More World Cruises 

Luxury cruisers can also consider other enticing, upscale 2020 World Cruises including these:  

For UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The 2020 World Cruise on Cunard Line’s 2,592-passenger Queen Mary 2 is a 113-night journey to adventure with the chance to visit more than 38 UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s convenient for U.S. travelers as it sails roundtrip from New York on January 3, 2020; there is also the option for a Southampton, U.K., 99-night roundtrip. After a pre-cruise, shoreside bon voyage gala dinner, the ship will sail to Australia, Asia, the Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Southern Africa. 

In Bitung, Indonesia, Cunard’s “Minahasa Highlands Experience” excursion will transport guests to a mountainous volcanic region, thermal Lake Minow, a local market and Woloan village, where locals create traditional ‘Knock Down Houses’ that can be transported and reassembled anywhere in the world.

For Zanzibar and Beyond: The 670-guest Pacific Princess will operate Princess Cruises 2020 World Cruise, a 111-day journey either roundtrip from Port Everglades, FL, departing January 5, 2020 or roundtrip from Los Angeles, CA, departing January 20, 2020. Crossing the Equator four times, the ship will call at dozens of destinations with maiden calls at Stone Town, Zanzibar; Kaikoura, New Zealand; Praslin, Seychelles Islands; and Mayotte Island (a French protectorate). 

Did you know British explorer David Livingstone set off from Zanzibar on his last African expedition? Travelers can stroll, as Livingstone once did, along old Stone Town’s winding streets and view traditional dhows in the ancient harbor.

Rarotonga, Cook Islands, will be visited by Holland America’s Amsterdam in 2020. Shown here are kayaks at Muri Lagoon.// Photography: Getty Images / chameleonseye

For Antarctica and the South Pacific: Departing roundtrip from Port Everglades, FL, on January 4, 2020, Holland America Line’s 1,380-passenger Amsterdam will sail a 128-day “Grand World Voyage.” Highlights include four days in Antarctica, calls at remote Easter and Pitcairn Islands, a chance to take an off-road, 4x4 adventure in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands and see Komodo Dragons in Indonesia, plus many days at South African and Namibian ports. 

While onboard, luxury travelers can attend America’s Test Kitchen cooking shows and hands-on workshops as well as exclusive BBC Earth Experiences presentations and activities. 

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