Planning for an Extended or Grand Voyages

When a reader came to us today with questions about planning and packing for an extended, grand voyage or world cruise, we went to work researching the topic. An extended cruise has long been a dream of ours, though not at all practical with our current work schedules and other commitments. The length of these types of cruises vary with some starting at around 27 days. Other lines offer world cruises that last for more than 100 days. Cruise lines offering these types of extended voyages include Holland America, P&O, Voyages of Discovery, Princess, Cunard, and Regent. Other cruise lines may not offer grand voyages, per say, but it is possible for cruisers to create their own grand voyage by stringing together back to back cruises with different destinations while remaining on the same ship in the same cabin.

Extended Cruising

If you have the time and money, an extended cruise can be one of the best ways to travel. Many of these voyages allow passengers to travel to exotic destinations with out any international air travel. Others may still require some air travel, but it could possibly only one way. For those who truly love the sea, the idea of spending a month to three months on a ship is a dream come true. Lovers of shorter cruises already know the attention to detail that cruise lines pay to providing exceptional food, service, and luxuries. The cruise lines offer the same level of service and amenities on their longer voyages. Cruise lines tend to vary their world and grand voyage offerings from year to year so that they can attract repeat customers to different destinations. They also offer cruisers the opportunity to purchase shorter segments of these grand voyage, recognizing that they may not be able to completely fill a ship on such an extended vacation. Pricing for grand voyages for basic accommodations on a 100 day plus cruise starts at about $19,000 per person, with suites prices ranging over $40,000 on Princess. For a similar cruise on Cunard the price ranges from just over 22K for an inside room to $77K for a deluxe suite. These prices do not include shore excursions, beverages or tipping. Tipping runs in the range of $10 to $15 per day and beverage prices start at a few dollars for soft drinks, $5 to $6 for beer, and $6-12 for a glass of wine. Luxury lines like Regent offer shorter voyages for like a 41 day San Francisco to Sydney voyage starting at $22k for an ocean view suite, or extended voyages like San Francisco to South Hampton 145 day full world cruise for $76k. Many luxury lines, like Regent, include free shore excursion, beverages and all tipping. Cruisers should be sure to check with their travel agent or cruise line agent to make sure they understand what other fees above your booking price they will incur. Though these prices are high, some cruisers feel that they are an exceptional value when they consider that they include food, accommodations, transportation, and in the case of the more inclusive lines, beverages and in port tours.

How to Pack

Packing for these extended voyages is only slightly more difficult than packing for a two week vacation. Most people pack about two to three weeks worth of clothes and either use the ship’s full service laundry or launderette. When thinking about laundry as a percentage of the entire a cruise price, they consider expense of doing laundry a relatively small addition to the total cruise price. Often on extended voyages the cruise line will run special laundry prices or provide free laundry to their cruises who are members of the upper level of their loyalty programs. Passengers on these extended cruises report that there is “absolutely no shame in repeating outfits”.

Cruisers should pack for all of their destinations and situations. First, when considering day wear, they should take a look at the itinerary to determine what kinds of day wear they will need. Most likely, on an extended voyage, cruisers will encounter both warm and cool weather. Places like Alaska and the Baltic are cool even during summer months. Passengers will probably also visit some ports during rainy weather. They need to pack layers and weather proof clothing. Since other ports will have sights like churches or mosques where tank tops and shorts are forbidden, passengers need to make sure they have comfortable day wear that will meet the dress code requirements for these types of attractions. Hence, weather, climate, and culture should all be factored in when packing a wardrobe for port days.

On board the ship the prevailing dress code is smart casual, but even these grand voyage include formal nights, some informal nights. Men should be sure to pack extra accessories for formal evenings like extra tuxedo shirts, cummerbunds, vests and ties. Ladies will want to pack gowns, pants suits or separates made from lightweights fabrics and bring accessories to mix and match. Again, many people only pack a few of their favorite formal outfits and repeat them over the duration of the cruise. Of course, if money is not an obstacle, passengers can always book a separate inside cabin just to house their wardrobe and steamer trunks. I can’t imagine paying another $40k on a cruise just to house my clothing, but I have heard of people doing this when a larger suite was not available.

Another packing issue occurs when the extended cruise trip combines with air travel. Most airlines now charge significant amounts for extra or over sized bags. In such cases, it is best for passengers to check with the airline to see what their fees include and exclude. One airline may alow passengers to bring extra bags for a fee of around $50 per bag, but other airlines charge as much as $25 for the first, $35 for the second, and as much as $150 for a third or fourth bag. Cruisers should shop around for both price and baggage fees when planning an extended trip. When comparing the prices, they should not only consider the actual price of the ticket but also add in the baggage fees per leg of trip. Airlines list their basic and excess baggage fees on their web sites. Extended cruise voyagers might plan ahead of time to simply include these fees into their entire budget for the cruise. If a passenger is spending $80k per person on a cruise, then an extra $1000 in luggage fees might not even phase them. Some cruise lines are now offering a “to and from port shipping service” for these extended voyages, allowing passengers to simply ship their suitcases to the port rather than having to bring them along on a commercial airliner.

One final tip is to either pack and extra suitcase within a suit case or pack throw away items like empty cardboard boxes or older underwear and under shirts. Cruisers will come home with extra items that they have either won while on the ship or purchased along the way. Sometimes these items can be shipped home, but other times it might be easier to simply replaces the throw away items with the items purchased while on board or utilize and an additional suitcase. After a two week cruise, I ended up going to a FedEx store in Ft. Lauderdale and shipping home some of my larger purchases rather than bring them home on the plane.

Planning Your Excursions

Many people love to plan ahead for what they want to see and do. Probably the best place to start is with informative guide books that cover the sights of the most important destinations. I recommend the DK Eye Witness Traveler series of books for their many pictures and diagrams of attractions. These books give visual details on the most important sights that cruisers visit. After going through these books, cruisers can either book ahead of time with the cruise line or on board the ship. Some cruises who enjoy planning as much as the cruise itself, will visit internet travel message boards to research reliable independent tour providers. Cruisers should keep in mind that they might not be up to a full day of touring in every port. Pacing themselves is important too. Another option is to simply book excursion through the ship’s shore excursion office once the cruise begins. Cruisers can usually book excursions up to 24 hours in advance of the shore day, however some popular excursions may fill up early and close to new bookings. Finally, there will be many ports on these trips that will lend themselves to being explored on foot or via public transportation. There will be no need for a formal excursion in some of these ports. By doing a little research ahead of time and booking important excursions early, cruisers can make sure that they will get the most out of their extended voyage.

Final Advice

We’d love to hear from any of our readers who have taken extended cruises. If you have any tips for our readers please share them with us. For those of you planning one of these extended cruises we wish you “Bon Voyage.”