We recently returned home after nine nights on Cunard’s Queen Victoria. We were onboard for the first segment, sailing from Southampton to New York. This was the first segment or leg of Queen Victoria’s 98-night World Voyage. Our ship and Queen Mary 2 sailed out of Southampton the same night, with the QM2 beginning its world cruise, sailing in the opposite direction! We have done a leg of the voyage a few times. We have learned a lot.
- It is iconic. This voyage marks 100 years Cunard has been doing world cruises. During the voyage I interviewed several of the ship’s officers. I learned when the UK National Lottery was launched, the press asked people what they would do with the money if they won. Two of the top answers were “Book a round the world cruise on the QE2” and “Fly on the Concorde.” The round the world cruise has a special place in people’s imagination.
- It’s a bucket list thing…or is it? I would think sailing around the world is something most people would do once, then check off their bucket list and move onto the next item. There are many passengers on the world cruise who take this 3+ month trip as an annual event! It’s like a club! They see each other once a year, yet are side by side for those three months.
- It has it’s own language. As you could imagine, our icebreaker question aboard Queen Victoria was “Are you on for the full 98 nights?” We later learned the slang expression among those passengers was “Doing the world.” “We are doing the world” was their way of saying “We are on for the full 98 nights.”
- It creates it’s own demand. Queen Victoria carries about 2,000 passengers. How many can give up 14 weeks of home life to sail around the world? I guessed about 400, maybe 600. The rest of the cabins would be occupied by people like us, sailing for one of two segments. I was wrong! On this voyage, 1,200 passengers were “Doing the world.”
- What is a passengers biggest expense? Surprisingly, it’s not their bar bill or internet service. The largest expense for many passengers is booking their next voyage! The ship has a future booking office onboard. In years past there was always a line. Now it seems they have moved to an appointment schedule. Friends we know who are “Doing the world” booked their 2024 world cruise early in the voyage. Unlike shorter cruises, it seems there are no upgrades and discounting is minimal.
- How passengers save money. Fares for the World Cruise start around $16,000 per person for an inside cabin, double occupancy. Add another $3,000 for a window and a further $5,000 for a balcony, bringing you to $23,000+ per person. Suppose, like us, you enjoy wine and spend $100/day between the two of you. That’s about another $10,000! You need ways to keep costs under control. Cunard charges for it’s Internet package, but Internet at sea can be pretty poor. Some passengers skip Internet access on the ship and visit a McDonalds or Starbucks in each port to catch up on their e-mails! The ship also offers drinks packages and bottle packages at decent prices.
- The world community onboard. The World Cruise passengers have their own dedicated lounge space (in the Winter Garden). If you don’t know everybody already, you need a way to make friends. Cunard has abundant social gatherings. Many are held daily. The solo travelers meet twice a day. I have heard this is wildly popular and the gathering expands in all directions. There are service club meetings, a Christian fellowship gathering and a Womens Institute meeting to name just a few. The trivia sessions, held four times a day (!) draw a huge crowd.
- The cabin party phenomenon. Years ago, we lived in New York City. Back then, going out to the Hamptons on Long Island was what many Manhattanites did to escape the heat. People who buy a “share” in a house, giving them a bed to sleep in every weekend from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Each house would throw a party once during the summer. Summer weekend residents of the other houses would attend. Hosting a party for others became the admission ticket to all the other’s parties! The World Cruise seems to work the same way. A couple will host a cabin party. Many will attend, perhaps spilling out into the corridor. This party gets that couple invited top the other cabin parties held during the 98 night voyage!
- Touring on land. Cunard offers excellent tours in various ports. Many are creative. They are carefully described in terms of degree of strenuous activity. Visiting dozens of ports and buying tours can start to get expensive. We have met people whose strategy is to identify the iconic hotel in the city and book a table for lunch at their restaurant. These seasoned travelers are encyclopedias of good information. We learned going to the bar at Raffles in Singapore and ordering the famous “Singapore Sling” is the thing to do. Since every tourist wants to do it, the drinks are wildly expensive. Having lunch at a different restaurant in the hotel is a luxurious experience and money well spent. We learned the Marina Bay Sands luxury hotel in Singapore (Three towers with the huge deck on top – You saw it in Crazy Rich Asians.) is breathtaking, but elevator service to get back to ground level leaves something to be desired.
- People are friendly and equal. Your Cunard keycard recognizes your World Club status, but not the category of accommodation you have booked. Friends have told us although the Grill level accommodations have exclusivity, many Grill guests choose to attend the solo traveler gatherings or dining in the main Britannia restaurant from time to time. Generally speaking, we have found I would like to invite anyone we have met on Cunard over to our house for dinner! Staff treat everyone as kings and queens, regardless of the length of their voyage or the cost of accommodation.
Yes, “Doing the world” is still on the list of things I would like to do during our lifetime.
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Cover photo: Cunard Queen Mary 2, courtesy Cunard
Many thanks to Cunard Line