A Tale of Three Queens: World Cruises
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A Tale of Three Queens: World Cruises

Most people (even most cruise lines) don't realize that 2009 marks the Centenary of World Cruising. It all started in December 1909, when Hamburg America Line's Cleveland left New York on a world circumnavigation that would bring her round to San Francisco in February 1910.
Her American passengers had to return home by rail as the Panama Canal did not open until 1914. More world cruises followed and finally, after the First World War, Cunard Line offered the first full circumnavigation, a voyage that was performed by the Laconia in 1922, followed by ships such as the Franconia and the Caronia, not to mention the more recent QE2.

Eighty years after the Laconia's first world cruise, Cunard is offering the opportunity to sail around the world in three Queens in 2011. Although not the first time Cunard has had three Queens (QE2 and Queen Victoria sailed together with Queen Mary 2 for a while), this new itinerary makes it possible to travel in not only the Queen Victoria, but also the brand new Queen Elizabeth, and for the final leg, the flagship Queen Mary 2, starting in Southampton on January 5 and changing ships in New York and Sydney.

Traditional World Cruising

Following the Laconia in 1922, the Cunard world cruise became an annual event, and others soon followed. Canadian Pacific, for example, offered its first world cruise in 1924 in the Empress of Canada from New York and by 1931 had introduced a purpose-built ship, the Empress of Britain, to offer a luxury service on the Atlantic by summer and a full world cruise every winter.
Unfortunately the Empress of Britain became the largest Allied merchant ship to be lost on duty during the Second World War but it was based on this principle that Cunard introduced its famous world cruise ship, the "green goddess" Caronia, in 1947.

All the original world cruises were offered by North Atlantic liners, reminding us that they were essentially a way of keeping Atlantic liners busy during the cold northern winter season by sending them with passengers to hotter climes in the winter. It was usually Americans that supported these events, and at the start it was their travel agencies that organized them, the most famous being the Frank C Clark Travel Agency of New York.

Not surprisingly, this principle of escaping the norther winter is the same today as the ships that make world cruises are generally those that operate in the main season in northern waters rather than Caribbean ones. Typically, Cunard's Queens and two or three ships from P&O, plus one or two ships from another traditional line, Holland America offer these once-a-year adventures that can also be booked in sectors.

P&O will provide something interest ingin 2010 by offering a world cruise that does not leave in the traditional first week of January, when the Oriana makes a world cruise between September and December 2010, and in 2011 its three "A" class ships, Arcadia, Artemis and Aurora, will depart on world cruises in January 2011, meaning that P&O will be offering four world cruises when the earlier Oriana cruise is included. The quickest will be 82 nights in the Arcadia.

These more main line ships are backed up by a selection of ultra-luxury offerings from Crystal's Crystal Serenity, Regent's Seven Seas Voyager and Seabourn's Seabourn Odyssey. Yet another participant is British-based but Norwegian-owned Fred Olsen Cruises, with its flagship the Balmoral. All of these lines generally operate full or partial circumnavigations although sometimes they will offer alternative long voyages around the Pacific Rim or around South America or the African continent. Silversea's Silver Spirit, for example, will be offering a circumnavigation of South America in 2010

What is interesting is how the world cruise tradition hangs on from earlier ocean liner days - particularly with the likes of Cunard, Holland America and P&O, all of which, together with Seabourn, are today owned by Carnival Corp.

Cunard's "Three Queens" Cruise

The first leg of the new "Three Queens" world cruise will depart Southampton on January 5, 2011, for a tandem voyage with sister ship Queen Elizabeth to New York. At New York on January 13, passengers will join the new Queen Elizabeth for the world cruise sector to Fort Lauderdale, Aruba, Puerto Limon, the Panama Canal, Cabo San Lucas and Los Angeles, then across the Pacific to Hawaii, the Samoas, Fiji and four calls in New Zealand before reaching Sydney.

At Sydney on February 22, "Three Queens" passengers will transfer to the Queen Mary 2 for their final leg for two more calls in New Zealand, Guam, two calls in Japan, Xingang for Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nha Trang, Bangkok, Singapore and Phuket before calling at Mumbai, Dubai, Safaga, Sharm el Sheik and Monte Carlo, and a final call at Barcelona before returning to Southampton on April 19.

This itinerary will allow passengers to experience the whole Cunard fleet in a total of 103 nights. Meanwhile, Queen Mary 2 will differ in her 2010 and 2011 world cruise itineraries by sailing in 2010 from New York to Southampton and then the Mediterranean, and in 2011 from New York down to South America and South Africa then to Australia, Japan and then the Mediterranean before finishing in Southampton. As the latter cruise will not include a Transpacific crossing, it will not be a true circumnavigation, as the Queen Mary 2 is the only ship offering world cruises that is too big to navigate the Panama Canal.

World Cruising by Mainline Caribbean Ships

Quite to the contrary of the more traditional lines, most of the cruise lines formed in the late 1960s and early 1970s in an increasingly more important Miami have their high season in the winter Caribbean and would never dream of sending a ship on a world cruise. Included in this category are all three of the Miami-based mass market operators, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines, in order of formation. For this reason, and because their ships are generally far too large, world cruises are not made by mass market lines.

Regent and Silversea are Miami-based, but they are certainly not mainstream and follow a more traditional ethos that is closer to the tradition of the former San Francisco-based Royal Viking Line, which was later acquired by Cunard but was folded into Seabourn.

World Cruising by West Coast Ships

Unlike the Miami-based lines, Princess, originally part of P&O and now of Carnival Corp, was founded in Seattle and is now based in Los Angeles. It got its start on the West Coast and not in the Caribbean. Princess today offers a world cruise in one of its smallest ships, the Royal Princess (latterly Swan Hellenic's Minerva II), which is also the line's flagship as the larger ships tend to be confined to repeating mass market itineraries.

Unlike most of the other world cruise ships that tend to leave in the first week of January, the Pacific Princess leaves a little later, on January 27 from Fort Lauderdale, and heads to Panama and then across the Pacific from Los Angeles, finishing her partial circumnavigation in Civitavecchia on May 15 in time for a new Mediterranean season.

Princess Cruises' Australian division will now also offer a circumnavigation each Austral winter with the Dawn Princess. Leaving Sydney next Sunday, July 5, she will perform a 104-night eastabout world cruise in 2009. In 2010 will sail a little earlier, on May 21, headiing westabout for Southeast Asia first.

Unlike Princess, Seattle-based Holland America Line has a long history of offering world cruises, and has been doing so since it was based in Rotterdam, and later New York. Because Holland America makes so many long voyages that are not circumnavigations it has coined the term Grand Voyages rather then world cruises to describe its offerings.

Nonetheless, its twin flagships Amsterdam and Rotterdam have been designed to undertake full world cruises and the Prinsendam, an ex-Seabourn and Royal Viking ship, has also been used for world cruises. The Amsterdam's 2010 cruise will leave Fort Lauderdale on January 6 for the west coast of South America and thence a visit to Antarctica before proceeding to South Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan, and a visit to Vancouver before finishing in Los Angeles.

The German Market

Germany has always been a strong market for world cruising and many German ships offer such voyages of much longer duration than a typical English-speaking world cruise.

Best known of the German lines is the successor to the original Hamburg America Line that offered the first world cruise in the Cleveland in 1909, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises. This line generally operates two cruises a year with the five-star-plus Europa and the three-star Columbus.

The Europa, top-rated cruise ship in the world, will leave Tenerife on November 14, 2009, for a 179-night voyage that will take her across to the Caribbean, through Panama to Acapulco and then across the Pacific to Tahiti, New Zealand and Australia before visiting the Philippines, China, Southeast Asia and India before finishing in Dubai on April 24, 2010.

Her fleetmate Columbus meanwhile will leave Seville on November 20 on a 182-night voyage that will see her calling on Havana, the West Coast of South America and Tahiti before visiting Noumea, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, China and Southeast Asia, then India and the Persian Gulf before finishing in Nice on May 5. Havana to Nice can also be booked for 120 nights.

Phoenix Reisen also offers two world cruises, with their Amadea (149 nights, Hamburg to Nice westabout) and the Albatros (141 nights, Monaco to Genoa westabout). Delphin Cruises offer their Delphin Voyager (151 nights, Barcelona to Hamburg westabout) while Transocean Tours offer the Astor (143 nights, Nice to Bremerhaven eastabout), all longer voyages.

This is by no means a complete report of all the ships that perform world cruises. Others are offered by companies like Saga, for example, and various operators that come into the market from time to time. Finally, two exceptional world cruises will be offered in 2010 by Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus, leaving Singapore on a 335-day westabout circumnavigation on March 5, 2010, and the The World of Residensea, which while not a cruise ship, still sails around the world once a year.

Finally, there is the world cruise in a cargo ship.
Here, departures take place every month of the year and passengers travel with just a few other paying guests who have the run of the ship and are allowed on the bridge as long as the ship is not manoeuvering. Unfortunately, the long-established Bank Line operation has been closed just this month but the Hamburg-based Rickmers Pearl String service continues to offer monthly departures.

The voyage of about 124 days leaves generally from Houston or Philadelphia in America or from Hamburg in Europe. Typical ports of call including Hamburg, Antwerp and Genoa before passing through Suez for Jakarta and Singapore, then Hong Kong, Shanghai and Dalian in China and on to Pusan, Korea, and Yokohama before returning to New Orleans, Houston and Philadelphia.
These voyages can only be booked through specialized agencies such as TravLTips in New York or The Cruise People in London.

(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)

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