The Cruise Director: world cruises are changing

A world cruise used to be a fairly straightforward procedure: get on a ship in a northern hemisphere port (Southampton, Miami or Los Angeles), sail around the world for about 100 days, and then disembark at the same place you got on. Not any more.

These days, world cruises are divided into sectors (for those of us who don't have a spare three months to go all the way). A world cruise might include a "grand cruise", which is a 30 or 40-day voyage around a specific region - and not all lines that offer grand cruises offer world cruises. Then there are boomerang cruises, which combine cruises on two ships in one trip; for example, cruising from Southampton to Sydney on board QM2, then returning to Southampton on board Queen Victoria.

Here is a selection of ships that are sailing around the world, departing the northern hemisphere in January 2015:

Amsterdam (Holland America Line): 113-night world round trip from Miami; January 5-April 30. Amsterdam offers four itineraries out of Auckland and Sydney in February.

Arcadia and Aurora (P&O World Cruising): 106 and 105-night round trips from Southampton; January 6/8-April 23.

Costa Deliziosa (Costa Cruises): 115-night round-trip from Italy; January 6-May 2. Ports of call include Rio de Janeiro, Papeete, Auckland and Sydney.

Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises): 108-night round-trip from Miami; January 15 to May 4. There's a 21-day segment from Auckland to Perth from February 20-March 13.

All three Cunard queens are sailing world cruises round-trip from Southampton; Queen Elizabeth (112 nights) and Queen Mary 2 (113 nights) leave on January 10, and Queen Victoria (103 nights) leaves on January 20. They will offer various regional segments, including QM2's 13-night circumnavigation of New Zealand, and a royal rendezvous of QM2 and Queen Victoria on Sydney Harbour is planned for March 12.

Princess Cruises is offering a 104-night world cruise round-trip from Sydney, which leaves on May 22 and returns on September 4; it will visit 41 destinations in 28 countries.

Smaller five-star ships such as Silversea's Silver Whisper Seabourn's Sojourn also offer world cruises.

Shipshape

AQUA EXPEDITIONS: AQUA MEKONG

LAUNCHED: 2014, the 62.4-metre luxury river ship was designed by Ho Chi Minh City-based architects.

PASSENGERS & CREW: 40 passengers (double occupancy), 40 crew.

ACCOMMODATION: There are 20 30-square-metre airconditioned suites all with panoramic windows, eight with balconies; four are interconnecting.

REGULAR HAUNTS: Aqua Mekong sails with three, four and seven-night itineraries on the Mekong River in Vietnam and Cambodia.

PERFECT FOR: Sophisticated families with older children, couples, singles.

DINING: Michelin-starred chef David Thompson, renowned for his take on south-east Asian cuisine, is the executive chef on Aqua Mekong. Inventive menus featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients change daily. The elegant dining room has floor-to-ceiling windows and private outdoor dining is also available.

PARTYING: Enjoy pre-dinner cocktails at one of the two outdoor lounges or on the observation deck; take in a daily lecture from expert guides in the lobby lounge; book a private movie show in the screening room; spend quiet hours in the library/games room.

DOING: The ship has four boats that carry a maximum 10 passengers each on several daily excursions on the river, plus bicycles for riverbank touring. Local guides take guests to villages, temples and monasteries.

DID YOU KNOW? Aqua Expeditions was established in 2007 by founder and chief executive Francesco Galli Zugaro. The boutique cruise line operates two luxury riverships, Aqua Amazon and Aria Amazon, on the Peruvian Amazon.

THE DETAILS: Fares for the seven-night cruise from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or vice versa, start at $US7000 ($7450). For departure dates, see website. Phone 1800 243 152, see aquaexpeditions.com.

Deals

OFFER OF THE WEEK

Save more than $1000 a person on a seven-night Asian fly/cruise holiday, including a five-night cruise on board Voyager of the Seas round-trip from Hong Kong. The package includes two nights' accommodation in Hong Kong and return airfares from Australia. Costs from $1999. Book by September 10 or until sold. Phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.

MORE DEALS

UNIWORLD is offering savings worth up to $9175 on its 29-day Amsterdam-to-Istanbul cruise on board the imperial River Duchess. Choose from departures between May and October 2015; fares include beverages, shore excursions, free Wi-Fi, and start at $10,394. Phone 02 9028 5199, see uniworldcruises.com.au.

AURORA EXPEDITIONS has new expeditions to Antarctica, on the 54-passenger Polar Pioneer, that include return airfares from Australia and accommodation in Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. The 12-day expedition, departing December 6, starts at $14,595. Phone 02 9252 1033, see auroraexpeditions.com.au.

Tip

It's not too late to see Alaska this year; if you can take off in the next few weeks, there are some excellent fares with Holland America Line and Princess Cruises until the season winds up at the end of September. There are fewer tourists in September and bargains to be had in the souvenir shops. If that's a bit too last-minute, check out shoulder-season cruises in May, when it's often less rainy than in summer and fares cheaper than high season.

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