Vacation

Just How Expensive Is a World Cruise? And Is It Worth It?

By Kristine Hansen

As travelers, we’re so used to paying piecemeal for vacations—booking airfare here, the hotel or Airbnb there, and splurging on meals and drinks upon arrival. We don’t often realize the true total cost as it’s stretched across several payments and to many sources.

That’s what makes the steep price tag (from $14,719 to $105,500 per person based on double occupancy in 2022, plus taxes and port fees), of a world cruise seem like sticker shock. But is it really? World cruises (cruises that last around 100 to 180 nights) may seem expensive, but when you factor in having a roof over your head, getting to experience many countries, with all noshing and imbibing included, they’re actually not that expensive.

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A Hack to Make It Affordable

Ever consider renting out your house or apartment via sites like Airbnb.com or VRBO.com? Imagine raking in cash while sipping margaritas on your private patio in the open ocean. Airbnb.com listings in New York City command between $80 and $144 per night, on average, more during peak season, so if you hosted for the duration of a world cruise, you might put $8,000+ (plus taxes and cleaning fees) back in your bank account to cover your rent or mortgage.

Make sure you check about city ordinances, however, as some allow 30-night minimums per reservation. You can always stipulate that in your listing, too. Some condo and apartment buildings are not too keen on long-term guests so it’s best to check with the landlord or condo association. Another option to find a long-term renter is to contact local universities for leads on graduate students or visiting faculty.

Or, if you’re lucky enough to be pondering a move—whether in the same town or out of state—consider moving your items into a storage unit for rent and mortgage-free living.

The Cost of a World Cruise

Several cruise lines already booking short (3- to 7-night sails) in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, California coast or Mexico have also entered the world-cruise market. Among those companies embarking on world cruises are Crystal CruisesHolland America LineMSC CruisesOceania CruisesP & O CruisesPrincess CruisesRegent Seven Seas CruisesSeaborn Cruise Line, and Silversea Cruises.

Of that group, the most expensive are Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seaborn Cruise Line, and Silversea Cruises while you can find more affordable fares ($12,000-$30,000) on Holland America, MSC Cruises, and Princess Cruises.

Here are two types of itineraries:

This 111-day world cruise round-trip from Los Angeles on Princess Cruises visits 48 ports (Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Canary Islands, Portugal, Florida, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico). Cost: $18,499+

This 180-day world cruise from Los Angeles to New York City on Oceania Cruises travels to Hawaii, French Polynesia, Samoa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, India, South Africa, Namibia, Gambia, Senegal, Spain, France, U.K., Netherlands, Ireland, and Canada. Cost: $39,999+

What a World Cruise Should Include

As any seasoned cruise-goer knows, it’s important to analyze various packages and itineraries offered by cruise lines. It’s too easy to get sucked in by a $499 offer for a 7-night sail in the Caribbean, only to learn the cabin is like a closet, you only get off once, and the ship is 15 years old. Even with a week-long cruise, it’s virtually impossible to not spend additional money on board if you want to live a little. We’re not talking about buying gemstones in the jewelry store—this is more about evening cocktails or fitness classes. Don’t fall victim to world-cruise itineraries that nickel and dime you at exponentially higher rates than these shorter cruises.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to pick the package right for you: 

Do you plan to enjoy pre-dinner cocktails every night?

Look for a cruise with a beverage package or note when drinks are included.

 Are you a morning cappuccino drinker or is drip coffee alright?

Many cruise lines charge extra for espresso or fancy coffee drinks, while grabbing plain drip coffee through room service or at restaurants costs nothing.

Will you be needing internet access to check in with colleagues and family back home, or be working remotely?

Shop around Wi-Fi packages (if your cruise line includes one) because it takes many, many days to cross the ocean with few port stops. You can also confirm their reliability by checking out forums on sites like CruiseCritic.com.

For the night owls and highly social, we also recommend looking for packages with built-in entertainment. Look for an itinerary with nightly options like live music, Broadway-esque musicals, quiz and game shows, stand-up performances, or casinos. Cruise lines often have their own programming, with activities that may sound cheesy (a newlywed-type game show) but can actually be fun and elicit plenty of laughs.

A world cruise should also include (or offer at an affordable price) dry-cleaning and laundry services as well as healthy-dining options. Another way to stay healthy when not in port is to utilize a fitness center or walking track on the ship.

And while a windowless cabin may be fine when you’re island-hopping in the Caribbean for a week, seven straight days in the ocean with no stops might sink you into a depression. If your budget allows, consider springing for an ocean-view cabin or one with a balcony.

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Compared With an All-inclusive Vacation, a Cruise Doesn’t Cost Much More

If you’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive resort you know the truth in advertising: Everything you could possibly need, from the moment you check in until you turn in your key card, is supposedly included in your stay. This includes the nightly room rate, dining at a variety of restaurants, your morning coffee, swimming-pool and beach access, room service, cultural classes, live music, drinks, and more. Rarely are there additional fees, but additional costs like splurging on a top-level bottle of wine, dropping the children off at the kids’ club, or booking a massage at the spa always come up.

Say you were to book four weeks at an all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, Mexico, in February. Based on Expedia.com, the cost would be anywhere from $5,430 to $17,910 (plus taxes). And that’s before any of your sure-to-come-up extra purchases.

The Value of a World Cruise

Some world cruises take you to a dozen countries, which is impressive if you’re trying to rack up passport stamps. What would it cost if you independently visited six of these countries, including booking airfare to all of those destinations? Say you live in or near Los Angeles and you plan to visit the countries on the Princess Cruises itinerary mentioned above. This means buying plane tickets to two U.S. states (Hawaii and Florida) and 24 countries. As airfare costs fluctuate greatly, let’s say each ticket to a destination is $500 one-way. You’ve just spent $13,000 on airfare. This makes the $18,449 world-cruise fare suddenly more affordable, right? And this is before factoring in lodging or food.

The Verdict

Not sure if a world cruise is for you? The answer is simple: If you’re a person who likes to stay at luxury resorts, have all the decisions made for you, and wants to see the world, then a world cruise is your ideal vacation.

See more at Fodor’s Travel

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