Wave Season Round-up: World Cruises

January 14, 2011

January is typically the time of year when lucky world cruise passengers pack their trunks and head off around the globe. If you feel like joining them next year, it's worth remembering that January's wave season deals are available now for 2012 world voyages. We looked across the board, and here are some of the hottest picks for next year.

Since January marks the kickoff for "Wave Season," we thought we'd help make finding great deals easier. Be sure to also keep an eye out for deals roundups throughout the year, and check our Cruise Deals section, which is updated daily.

A few points: Fares are per person, per night, with two sharing a cabin. And, mind you, these deals can sell out at any time. The early bird most definitely gets the worm.

Traditional, Old World Style from Southampton

The Trip: Fred. Olsen's Black Watch embarks on a 106-night sailing, roundtrip from Southampton on 11 January, 2012.

The Deal: Prices start from £9,329 -- this deal includes up to £1,000 onboard spending credit.

Best for: People who enjoy long stretches at sea between ports.

What you need to know: Black Watch is mid-sized and has a capacity of around 800 passengers. Forget struggling through crowded airports on a roundtrip, beginning and ending in Southampton, that takes you through the Mediterranean and Suez to India and the Far East before making a two-night stop in Sydney. Then it's across the Pacific to Tahiti and over to South America, returning via the Caribbean to Southampton.

Balcony cabins are at a premium, though the ship itself has spacious accommodation -- it was originally built for world cruising.

The ship is old-world in feel, with decent prices for onboard drinks, and it has a traditional ambience that does not lend itself to many of the facilities of the newer ships.

Caveat: The ship operates a two-seating dining system about which some people might not be enthusiastic, and the entertainment is not an overall strong point. Don't expect the lavish floor shows or revues of the larger ships.

Other options: Fred. Olsen also offers an 89-night world cruise aboard Balmoral, departing on 5 January, 2012.

Click here for booking information.

Glamorous, Hip and Chic

The Trip: Cunard's Queen Mary 2's 2012 world cruise includes a circumnavigation of Australia.

The Deal: A 110-night around-the-world sailing departs from and returns to Southampton. It includes an epic 28-night circumnavigation of Australia with prices starting from £11,349.

Best for: People who appreciate big-ship glamour served up in traditional style.

What you need to know: If you're cruising on a budget, even the inside rooms are a good size on QM2, as is the amount of onboard space per person. The entertainment and enrichment lectures are as wide ranging and iconic as the ship, with famous speakers onboard for each leg of the voyage.

Built for the North Atlantic, the ship is able to handle occasional storms far better than any other ship afloat.

QM2 has the most diverse onboard options of any 2012 world cruise ship, from a two-deck-high library to numerous entertainment and dining choices and an expansive spa. Passengers also like to dress up onboard this ship on formal nights.

Caveats: Formal nights can be a drag for those who appreciate a more casual ambience. Most passengers dine in the two-seating Britannia restaurant with assigned seating. That might be a plus or a minus, depending on your outlook.

The ship's great size also works against it in some ways, meaning that it cannot always access the smaller, more exclusive ports of call or dock near the centre of things.

Other options: Cunard offers a 107-night world cruise aboard Queen Elizabeth, departing on 10 January, 2012.

Click here for booking information.

Meandering Around the World at a Slow Place -- from Southampton

The Trip: Saga's 114-night world cruise on Saga Ruby is another great homeport option, running between 6 January and 30 April, 2012.
Leaving Southampton, the ship will take you across the Caribbean and through Panama on to Tahiti, Australia and New Zealand before hitting Far East staples, such as Hong Kong. It will then sail through Suez and arrive back in Southampton.

The Deal: Cabins start from £15,244 for an inside cabin, inclusive of £75 discount if booked online with Saga. The deal includes up to £600 in onboard credit, plus all gratuities are prepaid. This can be quite a savings over the four-month duration.

Best for: Mature travellers who appreciate a blend of sea and land time.

What you need to know:
Saga caters strictly to an older-than-50 age group on a ship that emphasises that traditional aspects of old-world cruising. Saga Ruby has the look and feel of a "real" ship, with calm, soothing interiors and laid-back service.

We love the unlimited baggage allowance. Another plus? This traditional, mid-sized vessel is one that many will remember as the famous Vistafjord.

Caveats: Bear in mind that this is a relatively small ship at 24,000 tons. While charming and intimate, it cannot offer the diverse dining options or enrichment programmes that you will find on larger ships making the world cruise. Saga Ruby also lacks the entertainment handle of larger vessels.

Click here for booking information.

Tradition and Glamour at a Great Price

The Trip: A 98-night cruise on P&O Cruises' Aurora.

The Deal: The ship makes a complete circuit of the globe from Southampton, departing on 4 January, 2012. Prices for this cruise start from £8,261.

Best for: Lovers of nostalgia who still want all the modern creature comforts.

What you need to know: P&O Cruises celebrates its 175th anniversary in 2012 and remains, in many ways, the most traditional of all the British cruise lines. Aurora manages to combine speed with excellent sea-keeping qualities, allowing her to visit a great range of ports. Beginning in Southampton, the sailing takes you on through the Caribbean to the Pacific, then on to Australia and the Far East before returning through the Mediterranean to springtime England.

Large amounts of open deck space are a feature of Aurora, and large, comfortable public rooms allow a good range of daytime and nighttime entertainment options. There are decent prices for onboard drinks. The ship is classically styled and decorated in cool, soothing colours throughout. Plus, you won't have any problems with luggage allowances on this voyage because it avoids the hassle of air travel completely. There are a nice number of formal nights, too -- ideal for putting on your finery.

Caveats: While it might indeed be tempting to bring your whole wardrobe, check on actual storage space in your preferred room before you finalise your booking. There can be few things worse than spending weeks on end in an overly cluttered room.

Other options: P&O Cruises also offers two other options for world cruising next year: A 97-night world cruise aboard Oriana departs from Southampton on 5 January, 2012, while Arcadia embarks on a 109-night voyage from Southampton on 9 January, 2012.

Click here for booking information.

The High Life in the Best of Style

The Trip: A 116-night cruise on luxury, all-inclusive Silver Whisper, sailing from Fort Lauderdale to Monte Carlo on 6 January, 2012.

The Deal: Prices start from £36,883 per person. Extras included in this offer are roundtrip business-class flights, $2,000 in onboard credit, a gala dinner and a free night onboard the ship before sailing, plus five exclusive world cruise events. To add value to the deal, you will also receive complimentary laundry and four hours' free Internet use per voyage sector.

Best for: Those who want (and who are prepared to pay for) the very best on both land and sea in the finest of style.

What you need to know:
The lead-in fare also includes all beverages for the entire voyage, plus all tips to the ship's crew.
Every cabin on this mid-sized ship is an expansive suite with a marble bathroom, and more than 90 percent have private verandahs. Silver Whisper carries a maximum of 392 passengers. Cuisine and service onboard are exemplary. Bring all of your evening finery -- you'll have time enough to wear it and more-than-ample room to store it on this top-end luxury ship.

Caveats: Silver Whisper is relatively small and does not have the large entertainment programmes of some other ships making the world cruise. The ship might not be as steady in rough seas, if this is an issue.

Click here for booking information.

--by Anthony Nicholas, U.K.-based Cruise Critic contributor