Have you ever wanted to go on a world cruise or multi-country extended voyage? I have taken a number of long cruising vacations lasting up to two months at a time — there's nothing like them!
Based on my travels I thought I'd share with you the following tips on how to prepare, plan and get the most out of a trip where you'll be heading out to sea for weeks or months at a time. you are going to head out to sea for several weeks or months. The whole process can be complex and daunting, but if you take advantage of this advice the process should go a lot smoother!
Traveling around the world by cruise ship takes around three months and usually takes place between January and April.
Planning & preparation tips
Be prepared for everyday events at home
In addition to planning the details of the cruise, you must plan for events that may occur at home while you are away.
As soon as you green-light your trip, start a list of everyday things that happen and could reoccur while you are away. My list contained things like ad hoc costs and charges, meter readings and contact details for repairmen. Use yours to compile a to-do list, or small manual, to leave with whomever is keeping an eye on your property while you're traveling.
Get your passports ready
Ensure that your passport is valid and has at least six months to run after you get back from the trip, as many countries and cruise lines require this. You should have a number of consecutive blank pages, as this is a requirement for entry into some countries.
You are likely to need to get visas for some countries. The cruise line should alert you to which ones you need and how to get them. But do your own research, as it is your responsibility to have the correct ones. Some can take a while to apply for and may require visits to the country’s embassy in your home country.
Get ready with your medications & vaccinations
While you need to ensure that you have the right vaccinations, if they are recommended or required, it is also advisable to have a medical and dental check-up to pre-empt any issues that might otherwise arise while you're away.
If you take medicines for any health issues, get copies of the prescriptions and ensure you have enough to cover the trip. Some countries ban bringing certain medicines across the border, such as the United Arab Emirates, and so checking these limitations and having copies of prescriptions is essential.
I recommend taking your own personalized first aid kit with all the treatments for ailments you regularly suffer or think you many encounter. You can then self-treat minor issues without incurring high medical center charges or having to work through foreign medical systems. Note: The on-board shops cannot sell over-the-counter medicines that you usually get from your local drugstore or pharmacy.
If you are from Europe, and some of your cruise is in the European Union, apply for and take your EU Medical Card, which will ensure that you can access free healthcare in those countries.
Prepare for the worst
Things can go wrong — so plan for it. Ensure that you have an up-to-date will and scan in key documents, like your passport, and email them to yourself and a friend (or keep them in Dropbox or Google Drive). Alternatively you could make paper copies and share these.
Provide a detailed itinerary to close friends with details on how to contact you at various stages if needed, and include how they contact each other. Check in with them at various points on the trip via social media, Skype or phone calls.
Be security conscious
Consider having someone "house sit" your property. We found these via TrustedHouseSitters.com (you don't need a pet to use it!), and this gave us added security at home. Other sites include Mind My House and House Sitters America.
I developed a detailed manual of how the house worked along with copies of the instruction guides for devices and various contact details. I notified the insurance company so they were aware. If you do not have anyone staying in your property then have lights on timers and someone check and clear any telltale signs, like promotional flyers or free newspapers, that signal it is unoccupied.
Check the U.S. State Department (or your local government’s) advice on travel to the destinations you are visiting. Then you can make considered decisions about what you do there and ensure your insurance is not at risk by ignoring the advice.
Notify key services
You should let your bank and credit card company know you will be traveling and that they will see charges from various parts of the world. Also ensure that your mobile phone operator has enabled you to receive and make calls from overseas.
Plan your insurance needs
It's essential to take out travel insurance. Even if you have an annual policy, check with your provider, as many policies restrict coverage to individual trips of less than 30 days. You are likely to need specific coverage for a long trip. Cruise lines usually require you to have such insurance for world voyages, but even if they don't, it's important to have it as you will be a long way from home for an extended period of time. The costs can be significant if you have to be evacuated off the ship, spend periods in a foreign hospital or have to be flown back home.
In addition to medical insurance, ensure that you are covered if you have to cut your trip short due to problems at home and for loss and theft. Pick-pocketing is common in many ports and you might damage or lose value items like your camera.
Bring some favorite home comforts
Make a note of things that you really like about home. It could be your pillow or perhaps a certain brand of tea, biscuits or TV show. As you prepare to pack, see how many of them are reasonable to bring along with you.
Advice & tips for during your trip
Begin by choosing the right cruise line
The most important thing of all is to choose the right cruise line to begin with. The difference between those who loved the voyage I was on and those who hated it were that the former were on the right cruise line. It is essential for a short trip, but critical if you are going to invest thousands of dollars cruising for an extended period of time.
You'll want to have cruised with your chosen cruise line before — ideally also on the specific ship — before going on an extended trip so you know what you're getting, and that you like it.
Understand the details of the itinerary
10 When looking at the itinerary, understand what ports you are actually going to be calling on — and how far they are from the destinations you want to visit. Some of the major cities are not always at the port. For example, on my voyage we called at Port Kelang for Kuala Lumpur, Laem Chabang for Bangkok and Port Phu My for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) that were all some significant distance and time from the dock. Same for traveling to Beijing from Tianjin, a 90-mile trip.
As you look at your options, compare the ports of call and where large ships and small ships doing similar routes are docking. For example, when I was in Vietnam, a smaller Silversea ship was docked right in Port Saigon near the center of Ho Chi Minh City while the Queen Mary 2 had to dock over an hour away.
Pay attention to how many tender and docking ports there will be. In many of the more remote and unusual destinations ships have to anchor offshore and use tender boats to move passengers onto land. On big ships, like Queen Mary 2, this is a major logistical issue and can led to frustrating lines and delays getting ashore.
Mix of sea days and ports
11Look at the mix of sea and port days when comparing options by taking a careful look at a day-by-day listing of the entire trip. Some published itineraries highlight the date and port but not the sea days in between. There are likely to be periods of many of these at times.
There is a key difference in approach you should be aware of and consider when deciding which type of trip is best suited to your travel preference. World cruises focus on getting around the globe and so there will be many sea days as the ship has to cover vast distances. Lines like Cunard offer these cruises. Other lines, especially those with smaller ships like those from Seabourn, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas or Oceania, will provide extended voyages that cover a region more intensely and will make frequent stops and cover less total distance.
Budgeting for your trip
12 The cost of the cruise will be significant, but the costs once on board may add up, too, depending on whether you choose an all-inclusive cruise. You need to understand what is included in your fare and budget the add-on costs for your cruise, as well as those you will be incurring at home while away.
The major items on the trip can include excursions and touring, which could be large if calling on many ports, visas, gratuities, drinks, spa, souvenirs, Wi-Fi and mobile roaming charges.
Excursions and self-touring
13Cruise line excursions on an extended trip can leave you significantly out of pocket. It's worth exploring alternatives before committing to them.
Before going on the trip, I recommend you research the ports and decide what you want to see while there and then look at the best way to see them. I use travel guides, port guides on sites like Cruiseable, blogs and even Wikipedia. Once I know what I want to see, I review to see what the cruise line offers, tours from independent excursion providers, what private guide services might be more interesting, and I check to see if the city has hop-on hop-off bus trips. Finally I research whether the attractions are within walking distance or a reasonable cab ride from where the ship will dock.
In the end I use a combination of these across the trip to offer a varied experience. I am a keen photographer and video maker and find that scheduled excursions tend to jam too many sights into an outing with too little time to explore, and often they allow you to view them only from the outside, so they're not conducive to creating memorable images. Instead, I use options that allow me greater flexibility like hop-on hop-off buses or self-touring options such as taxis and public transport.
Once on board, use the port talks, information sheets and the excursions team members who are on hand to answer questions and provide tips. You are also likely to meet passengers who have visited the destination before and they'll share practical advice, too.
By self exploring and getting out and seeing places first hand by taking public transport and taxis, you'll also get a better feel for the destination than in the throng of a highly organized tour.
Say fit and manage your diet
14Crew members on extended trips have told me they observe their guests putting on weight at a rate they never would at home. I have returned from my extended trips no heavier than when I went just by pacing myself and being more selective about eating. It is possible to eat well and healthily on cruises as most lines offer a Spa or good eating options. I avoid the elevators and use the stairs as much as possible, go on excursions that include more walking and attend the fitness classes.
Use technology to stay in touch
15If you have a smart phone or tablet, make sure you know how to use applications like Skype or FaceTime. You will find them invaluable for keeping in touch and sharing your experiences with friends and family. You are likely to miss someone back home -- being able to see and chat will be rewarding for both of you. In most ports you will be able to find fast, free Wi-Fi to do this. Just follow or ask the crew, as they will all be doing this as well. And Cruiseable's travel guides often contain information about where to find free Wi-Fi in port.
How about you?
I hope these tips help. The first World Cruise with paying passengers was undertaken by Cunard’s RMS Laconia in 1922. It became a tradition that they and many other lines have continued since then, and many world cruises and grand voyages now sell out.
I loved every minute of my extended trips and will be doing many more. If you have any thoughts and tips to add, please leave a comment and share your ideas with other Cruiseable readers.