Cruises: How Long? Why Some Passengers Sail For 6 Months

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A recent news article published in the USA Today by Nathan Diller states that How long can you be on a cruise? Why some passengers opt to sail for 6 months or longer.

 Four or five days at sea sunbathing in the Caribbean

When most travelers think of a cruise vacation, they might imagine four or five days at sea sunbathing in the Caribbean. By that point, Joyce Halee has hardly begun her trip.

“Two weeks is a short cruise,” Halee, 78, told USA TODAY. The retired legal secretary spends much of her time on cruise ships, sailing by herself exclusively on long voyages, sometimes for more than 80 days. Halee, who is based in Sun City West, Arizona, likes both the camaraderie lengthier sailings foster among passengers and crew, and the convenient access they provide to far-flung places such as Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

“They’re just fabulous because you get to see all these places that you’d never otherwise see unless you sat on a plane for 12 hours, which I don’t like to do,” she said.

Halee is among a number of travelers who enjoy long cruises, from a couple of weeks to many months, and some cruise lines have taken note of rising interest in those itineraries. Now, they are updating their offerings accordingly.

‘I think the camaraderie is definitely higher’

Steve Miller and his wife, Janet began taking longer sailings in 2017 after they had both retired. Miller said the couple, who is based in Adelanto, California, found the more diverse itineraries appealing. “I mean, we’ve been to Ensenada and Catalina so many times on a cruise ship,” he said.

The pair has since traveled to destinations like the Panama Canal and Alaska, and have plans to sail to Nova Scotia, Iceland and more. Some long trips have also offered unique opportunities: They had so much time on board a recent 28-night Princess Cruises sailing to Hawaii, Tahiti and Samoa, that they took ukulele lessons on sea days and performed with other students in the ship’s theater at the end of the cruise.

While Miller, 71, has found three- or four-day cruises lend themselves to on-board partying, longer itineraries tend to attract “more serious cruisers” and an older demographic.

Even those who are new to longer cruises have felt a difference in the atmosphere on board. Before Juan Botino and his wife, Mikaela, took a 12-day Norwegian Cruise Line cruise for their honeymoon, he joined a Facebook group with fellow passengers who organized onboard events.

During the December sailing, which took place over Christmas and New Year’s, they did a pub crawl through onboard bars and group slot pulls at the casino. They even participated in a gift exchange featuring presents from each passenger’s hometown, during which guests had to explain the meaning behind the selection.

Botino, who lives in Atlanta, chose a platter featuring landmarks from around the city and received some chocolates and a beer koozie from the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

The 37-year-old, who had previously done four and seven-day cruises, also met some other passengers at lunch on the first day and got together with them throughout the cruise to grab a bite to eat or go to the pool. “Having more days with them, I think the camaraderie is definitely higher,” Botino, who is the director of operations for an event security company, said.

Cruise lines are offering more long sailings

Holland America is among the cruise lines that have invested in lengthier sailings recently. The line made the shift both in response to guest feedback and as a means of differentiating itself from other lines, according to Beth Bodensteiner, the line’s chief commercial officer.

“We’ve often been known for our unique and long itineraries,” she said in an interview.

This year, the line is offering 25% more sailings of 25 days or longer compared with 2019, and 117% more sailings of 50 or more days. While the line saw passengers prioritize features like cleanliness earlier in the pandemic, Bodensteiner said guests are now placing the most emphasis on destinations when booking.

She added that the line will offer some unique programming like “destination-rich lectures,” allowing guests to get to know those places better than they would on a shorter cruise, and will stay overnight in some ports.

The line has launched new itineraries as part of the shift in focus, such as a 22-day sailing on its Koningsdam ship from San Diego to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in April 2024, with stops in Mexico and Hawaii, and a sea day timed for prime viewing of a solar eclipse.

Holland America will also sail a similar 14-day solar eclipse voyage on Zaandam departing in March 2024, as well as a 12-Day Historic Baja Peninsula & Sea Of Cortez sailing designed to follow in the footsteps of author John Steinbeck and marine biologist Ed Ricketts’ famous 1940 expedition. The latter will depart in December 2023 on Volendam.

Other lines have made similar moves.

AmaWaterways: “In early 2021, travelers were anxious to start catching up on lost travel opportunities and yearned for longer and more immersive small ship river cruise experiences,” AmaWaterways executive vice president and co-founder Kristin Karst said in an email. To meet that demand, the line launched its first Seven River Journeys itineraries for 2023. AmaWaterways added two more departures in 2024 and over 49 nights, guests can sail to destinations such as the Danube Delta and the Black Sea.

Oceania Cruises: Oceania has seen a “significant increase in demand” for long sailings ranging from 12 to 64 days in the wake of the pandemic, a spokesperson said in an email. The line’s 180-day Around the World cruise for 2023 sold out in under 24 hours, and more than one-third of reservations were from first-time passengers. The line also recently added a 33-day Grand Voyage from Venice, Italy to Barcelona, Spain, that will stop at 28 ports.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises: Uniworld has seen similar interest in longer trips, and is sailing its first Rivers of the World itinerary this year, making its way to nine countries – including Egypt and France – over 46 nights. There’s also another longer version on the books for 2024. “Longer sailings, and especially our world cruises, give guests the opportunity to quite literally see the world in one single vacation, with all details taken care of,” president and CEO Ellen Bettridge said in an email.

Tips for taking a long cruise

Sailing for longer periods of time does require extra planning, though. Halee said she typically has a house sitter check on her condo once a week or stay there while she’s cruising. She noted that the post office will hold mail for up to 30 days, which travelers may want to keep in mind (“My mail goes into a slot into my garage, so I have no problem with that,” Halee said).

She also makes sure to have enough medication on hand for the duration of the journey and to pack clothes for the temperatures at various destinations, as long cruises can sail through a range of climates. Halee typically ships most of her baggage to the cruise line ahead of time via Luggage Forward, so she doesn’t have to lug it around on her own.

Halee chooses her cruises based on the destination and how she’s feeling. She’s going back to the South Pacific later this year. “I’ve been there several times before, but I feel that’s what I want to do right now,” she said. “I’m sick of cities. I just want to swim in the South Pacific water.”

For some, even one long cruise is enough to get hooked, and Botino already has other long itineraries in mind.

“I haven’t talked to my wife yet, but … I actually found a 21-day and an 18-day (sailing) that I want to run by her,” he said.


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Source: USA Today