In the tick-box, bucket-list era of destination travel, it promises to deliver an unparalleled experience. However, passengers setting off from London this weekend on the longest continuous round-the-world cruise ever will have needed deep pockets and empty diaries.
At 245 days, six continents, 51 countries and 112 ports, it is the first cruise of its kind and will attempt to set a new Guinness world record.
Viking Ocean Cruises has billed it as the “ultimate world cruise”. The cheapest ticket for a 25 sq metre (270 sq ft) stateroom cost £66,990 and the most expensive suite £194,390.
“I suspect the type of people who can afford to go on this incredible cruise won’t be quibbling about the amount of additional tip to leave the staff,” said Keeley Rodgers, the editor of Group Leisure & Travel and Cruise Magazine. “The mixture of guests onboard would be reason enough to go … to be a fly on the wall at dinner listening to those millionaires, lottery winners and people smart enough to have a stellar pension pot.”
The eight-month odyssey will explore Scandinavia, the Caribbean, South America, the south Pacific, Australia and Asia before returning to the Mediterranean and Europe. There will be overnight stays on land in 23 cities including Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Ushuaia in Argentina, Hobart in Tasmania, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, Mumbai in India and Luxor in Egypt.
The Viking Sun, which can accommodate 930 guests in 465 staterooms, all with a private balcony, is fully booked for its Sunday departure from Greenwich. In total 54 people – four from the UK, 40 from the US and 10 from Australia – have signed up for the full 245 days. The others will part ways with the liner in Los Angeles after covering half the itinerary, to be replaced by new passengers for the second half.
Torstein Hagen, the chair of Viking, said: “Our ultimate world cruise is the most extensive itinerary available in the industry, nearly double the length of our previous world cruise itineraries.”
Guests can swim in two pools including an infinity pool, enjoy a Nordic spa and a snow grotto where snowflakes descend from the ceiling, or relax in the winter garden under a canopy of Scandinavian trellised wood.
The resident of the grand “Owner’s Suite” has at their disposal a living room with original artwork, ocean-view dry sauna, 12-person boardroom, dining room, kitchen, extensive wine collection and in-suite chef.
Eight restaurants will offer 245 different menus, including destination-themed choices by guest chefs. “There is more food than you can ever imagine. But we also have a wellness theme throughout the cruise, so you can look after your nutrition, and a well-equipped gym for exercise,” said Neil Barclay, Viking’s head of sales.
He pointed out the cheapest ticket worked out at around £270 per person per night, for the opportunity of leaving the winters behind, sailing into the sun and seeing all these unique places. “If you were going to a really nice hotel somewhere in the Med, to get all this included would probably cost more.”
“It’s a mixture of people,” he said of the passengers. “You’ve got your savers, and its something they have always wanted to do. You’ve got your retirees. For a lot it will be a one-off, ticking the boxes.”
World cruise devotees are generally well-heeled, 65-plus-types. “Cruising is very, very addictive because you become seduced by the whole lifestyle,” said Liz Jarvis, the editor of Cruise International magazine. “You are pampered from start to finish. That’s why they are so popular and why people rebook over and over again.”
“It won’t be something that is exclusive to millionaires,” said Alex Loizou, director of sales and marketing at Mundy Cruising. “It will be ordinary people, and it will be people who have cruised in the past and are looking at something that little bit special to celebrate an occasion or a milestone such as retiring.”
Elisa Burrai, a senior lecturer in tourism management at Leeds Beckett University, said round-the-world cruising was a “growing trend and a very dynamic industry catering mainly for people who have just retired”.
She said: “It’s a rite of passage. It signals the passage from being committed to work and daily life, to something that gives us freedom and is extraordinary.”
It was the exact opposite to another rite of passage, the gap year for young travellers, she said. “Cruises are a different type of travelling, with very, very minimal contact with local populations. Being on a cruise doesn’t allow these immersions with local people that gap-year and volunteer tourism offers.”
It had particular appeal in the US because of its all-inclusive and risk-averse format, Burrai said. “You just go onboard, tick places off your list and travel in a safe and convenient way. They’re kind of in a bubble, almost.”
The epic journey will not be without environmental impact. Marcie Keever, the oceans and vessels programme director at Friends of the Earth US, said: “Cruises have a significant impact on our environment, from CO2 emissions to harmful air pollutants to sewage and greywater. A cruise that lasts 245 days will leave a huge amount of pollution in all the places it travels to, many of which are extremely sensitive marine environments or communities that are already suffering a higher burden of pollution or both.”
Source: Read Full Article