A growing legion of people are taking off on “world cruises,” sailing the world for three months or more.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — For some people, it’s not enough to cruise the world for months at a time.
They want to do it over and over.
Ask Colorado retirees Garry Gourley and Wanda Britt, who sailed off last week on a 115-day voyage from Florida, slated to visit five continents and more than 45 ports.
That was the day after they returned from a 16-day cruise to the southern Caribbean.
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And while on that cruise, they booked an extended cruise next year because the cabin category they wanted was selling out.
The Colorado Springs couple is among a growing legion of people who are taking off on so-called “world cruises,” spending tens of thousands of dollars to sail the world for three months or more.
The cruisers say they relish the friendships they form during weeks at sea as well as the chance to visit far-flung destinations without schlepping through airports and packing and unpacking.
Travel agents say world cruisers tend to be affluent people in their 70s and 80s with the time and money to take long trips, though people in their 60s are catching on.
“Our world cruise business is up across the board,” said Annie Scrivanich, senior vice president of Seattle-based Cruise Specialists. World cruise sales have increased at least 15 percent from the previous year, she said — and about 10 percent among solo travelers.
“Everyone is getting into the world cruise business,” Scrivanich said.
A Cruise Lines International Association survey last January showed that 37 percent of 434 travel agents had seen an increase in bookings of 14- to 100-day cruises.
Gourley, a retired Air Force flight engineer , said he and Britt had heard so many good reviews about world cruises that they decided to try it.
They left on Holland America Line’s MS Amsterdam cruise ship. “We’re most looking forward to seeing New Zealand and Australia,” Gourley said during a send-off.
For Florida retirees Tom and Ann Simonsen — also sailing on the 1,380-passenger Amsterdam — part of the appeal of the world cruise is the people they meet and become friends with on these long cruises.
“The age group is correct,” said Tom Simonsen, a retired doctor from Sun City Center who also enjoys onboard activities such as lectures, movies, art classes and entertainment. “The (ship) staff is really nice, and we’ve developed a lot of friendships.”
The Simonsens are on their fourth world cruise with Holland America.
Also departing recently from Port Everglades was Silversea Cruises’ Silver Whisper, a 382-passenger ship headed for a 115-day cruise to 51 destinations in 31 countries.
Oceania Cruises’ 684-passenger Insignia left PortMiami on a 180-day trip bound for 92 ports. And Princess Cruises’ Pacific Princess ship left Fort Lauderdale on a 111-day world cruise visiting 35 destinations in 26 countries.
Floridian Jean MacLean, 68, was wooed back for a third world cruise with Holland America because the Amsterdam’s global voyage had stops planned in several countries she hadn’t visited before.
“Petra (in Jordan) — it’s a bucket list destination for me. Also Oman and Israel,” MacLean said. “I’m really looking forward to that.”
MacLean, a solo traveler, also has enjoyed meeting people from diverse backgrounds on these cruises, many of whom have become good friends.
“We have a little bit of everyone on board — doctors, lawyers, even a cowgirl,” MacLean said.
That cowgirl — back for her second world cruise — is Wendy Westrate, 71, of Denver, who spent more than 30 years on a Montana ranch branding cattle among other chores.
Westrate was introduced to cruising by her late aunt.
“She got me into cruising, and I took to it like a duck to water,” Westrate said. “She left me an annuity to travel the world.”
Of the new places she gets to visit, besides the scenery, she most enjoys seeing how the local people live and behave, Westrate said.
Cruise Specialists also books passengers on world cruises operated by Oceania, Crystal, Cunard, Silversea, Princess, Regent Seven Seas and Azamara Club cruise lines.
Azamara will make its foray in March 2018 with a 102-day voyage on Azamara Journey from Sydney to London that will include 61 ports in 29 countries.
Regent is returning to the niche after a six-year hiatus with a 128-night voyage from Miami on its 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator departing Jan. 5, 2017. The luxury ship will visit six continents, 31 countries and more than 60 ports.
“We booked more than 70 percent of the 2017 Regent world cruise on the first day bookings opened,” said Jason Lasecki, senior director of public relations for Oceania and Regent.
Regent opened reservations for its 2017 world cruise July 15, with early bookings starting at $54,999 per person, based on double occupancy.
Fares for the Amsterdam’s 115-day world cruise started at $20,000 per person, double occupancy. By comparison, prices for a seven-day Holland America Eastern Caribbean cruise on MS Westerdam departing Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 23 start at $699 per person for an ocean view cabin.
Although definitely pricier than the seven-day cruise mainstay, early booking discounts, free airfare, all-inclusive rates and other incentives can make world cruises a good deal for travelers looking to see several destinations in one trip.
That’s what Coral Springs resident Trisha Porretti discovered when she started researching airfare about two years ago for a trip to Australia and New Zealand to celebrate her 60th birthday.
After adding up the airfares to cities in both countries, she decided that for a few thousand dollars more, the Amsterdam world cruise was more economical considering the number of places she’d get to see.
“Down Under — it’s been on my bucket list,” said Porretti, a nurse and educator who’ll celebrate her birthday at sea with longtime friend Sharon Masterson of Villas, N.J.
For Porretti, the world cruise came as a birthday gift from her late mother after she wrapped up duties as executor of her estate.
“People say it’s going to be life-changing,” a teary-eyed Porretti said when setting sail.
“It’s kind of like the unknown,” added Masterson, who also joined Porretti in Paris for her 50th birthday. “It’s going to be an adventure.”