Is a cheap world cruise actually possible?
That’s the question we asked ourselves.
So we thoroughly investigated this seemingly impossible travel desire and then went on to plan a cruise around the world, filled with a mix of luxury and adventure. Ultimately we were successful in piecing together a cheap round the world cruise that amounted to only $60 per person, per day, all costs included.
We’re now here to show you how you can afford to enjoy an inexpensive world cruise as we also detail what this grand voyage was like.
Throughout six years of nonstop travels around the world to 100 countries, we’ve made a concerted effort to uncover some of the best travel values in the world, while stretching our travel dollars as far as possible.
We’ve already shown how many seemingly extravagant travel experiences can be affordable. For example, we’ve proven how to visit the Galapagos on a Budget, take an African Safari for $50/Day, or even have a Luxury Trip to Egypt on a Budget.
Yet we gave ourselves the biggest budget travel challenge we’d ever set out on: attempting a cheap around-the-world cruise.
Generally speaking, world cruises are indeed very expensive. But it’s a common misconception that such comprehensive voyages are beyond reach for budget-conscious travelers.
With careful planning and smart strategies, it’s entirely possible to experience the magic of an around-the-world cruise without breaking the bank. There are a number of ways to make world cruising more accessible. This guide will serve as your roadmap to inexpensive world cruises, bringing the dream of budget world cruising closer to reality. So, buckle up and get ready to explore the world on a shoestring budget.
The Cost of a World Cruise
The base price of a world cruise typically ranges between $10,000-$100,000 per person, based on double occupancy.
Yet a world cruise can easily exceed $200,000 for a multi-month grand voyage around the world. Take this Regent World Cruise for example. Beginning in Miami, in January 2025, this luxurious cruise around the world spanning 5.5 months looks nothing short of incredible. And it has an incredible price tag to match. This world cruise is currently “on sale” for $209,998.00 for two people. Yikes! This is not a cheap world cruise.
The price of this Regent world cruise works out to a daily rate of $1,249.99, or about $37,500 per month of world cruising. And those high prices don’t even factor in additional expenses, such as the many excursion costs and other add-ons. Ultimately, this half-year trip would likely well exceed a quarter million dollars. In other words, this Regent World Cruise is prohibitively expensive and out of reach for most of us.
While the cost of this world cruise may seem like a harsh reality, there are indeed less expensive world cruises. Cheap world cruises can be found for just over $10,000 per person, for the base fare. But taxes, port fees, and gratuities must be added to get the true price of any world cruise.
Realistically, a couple should plan to budget a bare minimum of $30,000 for the cheapest world cruise available. Yet a budget of $50,000-$100,000 (per couple) is a more realistic price range that would allow a nice assortment of world cruises to choose from and a less restrictive budget while on board.
That is still a lot of money to spend. So let’s now review how you can achieve a world cruise on a much lower budget.
Understand the Total Costs of World Cruise
When booking a world cruise at a low price, you must understand and budget for additional costs. When searching for cheap world cruises, the low advertised fare usually does not include many obligatory fees and expenses that will add thousands of dollars to the cruise fare.
Taxes and port fees: Taxes and port fees usually aren’t shown in the base cruise fare even though they must be paid as part of the total world cruise price. Be sure to see the total cost with taxes and port fees, which can add thousands of dollars.
Gratuities: Most cruise lines add gratuities to your cruise bill once onboard. Gratuities on world cruises typically range around $14-$16 per person per day. So for a full world cruise, this can easily add over $3,500 to a couple’s budget. Often the gratuities can be adjusted if you wish. But it would be cruel to deprive the hard-working crew of their wages if you’re on a world cruise that uses a tipping system as payment to the crew. If tips are expected on your world cruise, budget accordingly.
Travel insurance is mandatory on some world cruises. Yet even if it’s not required, all world cruisers should strongly consider travel insurance to avoid financial hardships if unforeseen circumstances do occur. Couples can expect to spend a few thousand dollars extra for decent coverage. To save, don’t book directly with the cruise line. Compare policies that fit your needs.
Visas will likely be required for at least a few of the countries that a world cruise visits. For convenience, most world cruises will handle visas for you, for a fee, of course. To minimize costs, it’s usually possible to secure any necessary visas yourself, before the cruise.
Onshore expenses: Although it may be possible to get by on the world cruise itself without spending anything on the ship, world cruisers will almost certainly want to explore ashore. Whether booking excursions or going ashore independently, you will inevitably incur expenses whenever leaving the ship. The cost for port days can range wildly, depending on your travel style. These expenses can be easy to minimize expenses for those comfortable with independent travel.
Other common world cruise expenses to budget for:
- Laundry is usually not included and can be expensive on world cruises.
- Wifi is usually not included and is usually expensive on world cruises.
- Alcohol is usually not included and can get expensive for those who like to drink.
- Shopping & souvenirs you may want to pick up some mementos during your grand voyage
- Other cruise expenses: Gambling, spa treatments, or specialty dining may be tempting.
3 Methods to Achieve an Inexpensive World Cruise
There are three main ways to consider when attempting to score a cheap world cruise, with approximate starting prices shown, per person, based on double occupancy:
- Find a low-cost world cruise: ~$25,000/cruise, ~$170 per day
- Consider a residential world cruise: ~$40,000/year, ~$110 per day
- Combine multiple one-way cruises to form a grand voyage: ~$19,000/year, ~$60 per day
Option 1: Find a Low-Cost World Cruise
While a Regent world cruise would cost a couple more than $200,000, thankful there are usually a few cheap world cruises each year, with prices under $20,000 per person. As of 2023, budget-friendly cruises start at about $15,000 per person for a 3-4 month world cruise. Again, understand that is just a base price.
Those interested in booking the cheapest world cruise available must budget at least an additional $5,000 per person for expenses such as gratuities, visas, laundry, and exploring ashore on your own. A bare minimum of $20,000 per person would be needed for the absolute cheapest world cruise.
That’s $40,000 for the cabin for a couple, which breaks down to about $10,000 per month. But prospective world cruisers must understand that is for an inside cabin, meaning no outside light in your stateroom for the duration of the world cruise. Those desiring luxuries like a balcony stateroom, wifi, or alcohol, will inevitably need to spend more or try to score perks like a free cruise balcony upgrade.
Pros of a low-cost world cruise:
- Easiest and most convenient to plan: one world cruise in a single booking
- Shortest time commitment: starting at 99 days
- Low-ish cost meets convenience: Book a cabin for less than $30k
Cons of a low-cost world cruise:
- Ship may be less desirable or a cruise line you’re unfamiliar with (although usually still a pleasant experience)
- Itinerary: routes may be less desirable, with infrequent stops and many sea days
- High per-day costs: highest among these three methods
- To maintain low costs, you’ll need to forgo or minimize extras and luxuries
Despite the drawbacks, low-cost world cruises can be a bargain and absolutely should be considered. Before booking such a lengthy journey, just ensure you’ll be comfortable with the ship and the cabin you’re considering. Review the itinerary closely. Make sure it goes to locations that are desirable to you. Also, look at the total number of sea days, relative to the entire cruise.
If that all checks out, scoring a low-cost world cruise can be an excellent way to cruise around the world for cheap.
Cheapest World Cruises You Can Book for 2024-2025 World Cruises
As of June 2023, here are three of the least expensive world cruises you can book right now:
- Cheapest World Cruise: P&O Arcadia
- Embarkation Location: Southampton, England
- Dates: January 6, 2024, and again on January 3, 2025
- Length: 99 nights
- Ship: P&O is a British cruise line catering to British passengers. The Arcadia is a 4-star cruise ship, 935 ft in length, built in 2005, with 952 cabins.
- Itinerary: This world cruise itinerary makes a complete westbound circumnavigation around the world, going from the UK to North America, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific to Australia, up to Asia, and through the Suez Canal to ultimately return to England.
- Sea days: Two-thirds of this itinerary are at sea: 66 sea days and 33 days in port.
- Base starting price per person, interior: $11,734
- Total stateroom price: $23,417
- Price per night: $237 ($120 pp)
- More info: P&O website. Note that outside UK, you may need to call a travel agent to book.
- Cheapest World Cruise with Great Itinerary: MSC Magnifica
- Embarkation Locations: Civitavecchia (Rome), Genoa, Marseille, or Barcelona
- Dates: January 4, 2025 – April 30, 2025
- Length: 116 nights
- Ship: The MSC Magnifica is a 3.5-star cruise ship, 964 ft in length, launched in 2010, and has 1,259 cabins.
- Itinerary: This world cruise itinerary makes a complete westbound circumnavigation around the world, voyaging from Europe around South America, then to Australia, Asia, and through the Suez Canal (and Egypt), before returning to Europe.
- Sea days: Good split of sea/port days, about half of the itinerary is sea days: 59 sea days and 57 port days.
- Base starting price per person, interior: $15,199
- Total stateroom price, including taxes: $31,358 + gratuities (~$3,000) = $34,358
- Price per night: $296 ($148 pp)
- Check up-to-date pricing & reserve: Book Magnifica World Cruise here on CruiseDirect
- Cheapest World Cruise on 5-star Ocean Liner: Cunard Queen Mary 2
- Embarkation Locations: New York City (Alternatively, departs Southampton Jan 11)
- Dates: January 4, 2024 – May 5, 2024
- Length: 123 nights
- Ship: Queen Mary 2 is a 5-star luxury ocean liner, one of the most notable ships of its kind. The 1,132-ft ship was launched in 2003 and has 1,360 cabins.
- Itinerary: This world cruise itinerary is not entirely around the world, as the route goes from NYC to UK, then around Africa, over to Australia, up to Asia, and comes back through the Suez Canal to briefly hit Europe before returning to NYC.
- Sea days: Over two-thirds of this itinerary are at sea: 83 sea days and 40 days in port.
- Base starting price per person, interior: $16,599.00
- Total stateroom price, including taxes: $35,907.06 + gratuities ($3,567) = $39,474.06
- Price per night: $320 ($160 pp)
- Check up-to-date pricing & reserve: Book Queen Mary World Cruise on CruiseDirect
Of these three most inexpensive world cruises, which is best? This is a matter of preference, of course.
If you’re already in (or near) the UK and you’re simply looking for the cheapest world cruise that truly circumnavigates the globe, the P&O Acadia world cruise does just that. But prospective passengers must understand the cruise is geared towards British preferences and it has a rushed itinerary around the world in 99 days, most of that time at sea.
Meanwhile, we suggest the MSC Magnifica for having the best itinerary of any inexpensive world cruise. It’s truly a remarkable route with many interesting stops. Yet MSC receives mixed reviews on its 3-star ships. Although the onboard experience should be just fine for many travelers, choose the Magnifica world cruise for the great ports and itinerary, rather than for the ship.
Conversely, we recommend choosing the Cunard Queen Mary 2 for the incredible ship, rather than for the itinerary. The Queen Mary 2 is the lowest-priced world cruise you can take on a true ocean liner with the opulence of a 5-star ship. That said, prospective passengers will need to be okay with the fact this journey doesn’t completely circumnavigate the globe and is filled with far more sea days than port days.
For a few more options of the cheapest world cruises you can book right now, here are a few more that are priced under $20,000 per person:
- Crown Princess: departs Sydney on June 4, 2025, 5-star, 113 days, 66 days at sea (58%), $34,486 for cabin + gratuities = $38,102 total ($168 pp/pd), more info.
- Island Princess: departs from Fort Lauderdale or LA, January 2024, 4.5-star, 111 days, 61 days at sea (54%), $38,083 for cabin + gratuities = $41,635 total ($188 pp/pd), more info.
Booking Tips to Get the Best Priced World Cruise
Book interior: If wanting the cheapest world cruise, be sure to book an interior cabin. But also be sure to compare the price difference between outside and veranda staterooms. Often times it’s negligibly higher and can be well worth having a window or balcony on such a lengthy voyage.
Book early: World cruises typically go on sale 2-3 years before their sale dates and are often announced in January. Booking these cruises shortly after they go on sale not only ensures your cabin, this early bird booking strategy can often lock in the lowest rates.
Or book last minute: Conversely, if a world cruise happens to have an excess of empty cabins within the months before it’s set to sail, it’s possible for fares to drop to attract prospective passengers. So this can be a consideration for flexible travelers looking to score a cheap world cruise. But be careful and don’t rely on this. It is more likely that world cruise prices will rise or even sell out entirely, closer to the embarkation date.
Book non-refundable fares: Just like booking last minute, booking non-refundable fares is another risky method that will ultimately help to secure the lowest possible price for a world cruise. To mitigate this risk, you can consider booking a non-refundable fare with travel insurance that offers refunds in certain unforeseen circumstances.
Option 2: Live on a Residential World Cruise Ship
For those with a desire to pursue a world cruise beyond their typical length of 4-6 months, living on a residential cruise ship can be a good consideration. While you may have to pay more upfront, the per-day cost on a residential ship can be even less than the cheapest world cruise.
Residential ships start at about $37,000 per person, per year, which includes most of the same amenities as regular cruise ships (meals, entertainment, etc.), plus extras such as wifi and laundry. So additional expenses can be minimized to adventures pursued in port.
Affordable residential ships can offer great value overall, particularly when calculating the per-day cost. If you limit spending ashore to no more than $100 per week, you could reasonably pursue a world cruise on a residential ship for about $42,000 per person per year, or $84,000 per couple per year. That works out to about $7,000 per month for the cabin.
So it’s still not entirely cheap, but this works out to a less expensive rate than the prior method discussed, booking the lowest cost world cruise. So a residential ship is a great option to consider using for a world cruise for those that have the time and want to go all in on the experience.
Pros of taking a residential ship world cruise:
- Itineraries & Ports: These ships tend to have excellent itineraries and stay in ports longer.
- Vast Experience: See more of the world, visiting many countries.
- Community: Living on a residential ship allows you to form a community with fellow residents.
- Convenience meets cost: Least expensive turn-key world cruise on a per-day basis.
Cons of taking a residential ship world cruise:
- Committing to live for multiple years on a cruise ship
- While per-day costs can be quite reasonable, the upfront cost commitment may be prohibitive
- Limited options: this is a new and untested concept with very few ships/companies to choose
The least expensive world cruise residence we’ve found is Life at Sea Cruises. They require a three-year commitment. Their itinerary over the three years is incredible, spanning 135 countries and all seven continents, with frequent ports and overnight stops. This new residential ship experience begins in November 2023 from Istanbul, Turkey.
While rates are said to start at $33k per year, at last look the cheapest interior cabins still available were listed at $37,398/year, per person. That’s a grand total cost of $224,388 for the cabin for all three years, based on double occupancy. All the details can be found at lifeatseacruises.com.
Option 3: Combine Multiple One-Way Cruises to Form Your Own World Cruise
This is the absolute cheapest way to cruise around the world. This is the method we created to achieve our dream of an affordable world cruise. In its most basic explanation, this method involves combining a series of one-way cruises to form a cheap world cruise route around the world. But it’s not quite that easy to pull off.
It takes careful planning, knowing how/when to book, honing independent travel skills, and taking advantage of repositioning cruises. We’ll show you how to do all of this.
Pros of combining cruises to create a world cruise:
- Cost: It’s truly the least expensive way to form a cheap world cruise
- Variety: You get to experience different ships and cruise lines
- More time ashore: In between cruising segments, you can enjoy more time exploring on land
Cons of combining cruises to create a world cruise:
- Complexity: It takes a tremendous amount of planning
- Limited Schedule: One-way cruises are seasonal and rare, limiting options
- Itinerary gaps: Additional forms of travel and (potentially lengthy) stays on land are required
- Travel skills: Strong independent travel skills are needed
The remainder of this article reveals all the details of how we achieved cruising around the world for a daily cost of about $60 per person, per day. We’ll show you how you can plot and plan a similar budget-minded grand voyage.
Luxury on a Budget: How to Form a Cheap World Cruise
Our secret weapon to accomplishing a cheap world cruise would be to carefully utilize a series of repositioning cruises.
During six years of traveling around the world, we’ve regularly used repositioning cruises as a cost-effective means of transportation to get from one continent to another. This is when cruise lines reposition their fleets using one-way voyages in the spring and fall when the seasons change.
For example, during the fall many cruises will be repositioned from the Mediterranean to Florida and the Caribbean. Rather than floating an empty ship across the ocean, cruises are instead loaded with entertainment and interesting itineraries.
Never heard of these one-way seasonal voyages and want to learn more? Then be sure to read our Ultimate Guide to Repositioning Cruises: Everything You Need to Know.
These lengthy voyages with many sea days typically aren’t popular, so prices often get slashed in attempts to fill the ships with paying passengers. When that happens, we take advantage of astonishingly low rates and set sail across the ocean in luxury. (Example: This 4.5* Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas repositioning cruise, is sailing from Barcelona to Florida on Nov 13, 2023, and is currently priced at $420 per person, for the two-week cruise across the Atlantic.)
Rather than sitting in a cramped coach seat on an overnight flight, you can instead get to enjoy two weeks of island hopping, fine dining, entertainment, and relaxing in a comfy stateroom. Such repositioning cruises have given us a way to afford luxury that is often otherwise unattainable to our travel budget ways. The crazy thing is that these repositioning cruises are often priced less than a flight between two continents.
Over the years, we’ve used repositioning cruises to cross the Atlantic numerous times, in addition to crossing the Pacific, crossing the Indian Ocean, voyaging between Asia and Europe (Suez Canal), from Europe to South Africa, and between North and South America (Panama Canal). Repositioning cruises can be a wonderful and inexpensive way to travel the world, for those who have the time.
Armed with a keen awareness of these different repositioning cruise routes and the corresponding seasonalities, it’s possible to stitch together a series of repositioning cruises in a grand attempt to form a cheap world cruise.
Doing so admittedly takes a great degree of planning, a bit of gambling on the ever-changing rate fluctuations, and a little luck to ultimately form a patchwork of a cheap world cruise.
Using this method will not allow for a one sole world cruise residing on a single ship entirely around the world for a 100+ day voyage. Rather, to catch these rare one-way cruise deals, it would require carefully plotted timing, while also traveling overland in between the oceanic cruise segments.
These overland travel segments can be a welcomed concession to make in order to achieve the financial feat of a cheap luxury cruise entirely around the world. Personally, we’ve found it to be nice to break apart all this time at sea with some extended adventures on land.
In summary, our method involves two components that are absolutely critical to taking a cheap world cruise:
- Understanding repositioning cruise routes and timing
- Having the time and desire to spend time on land in between repositioning cruises
We’ll break all that down.
Proof of Concept: Our Cheap Around the World Cruise
While we largely wanted to embark on this journey for our personal travel desires, we also to demonstrate to others that a cheap world cruise can be achieved.
Budget travel in low-cost destinations can be fairly easy to pull off. But our goal for this grand trip around the world was to achieve some level of luxury on a budget while also visiting higher-cost countries that we’d been avoiding.
To up the ante and prove this concept, we decided to plan our cheap world cruise route through some of the most expensive countries to travel to. Lingering in budget travel havens like Thailand and Mexico would be far too easy of a strategy to keep travel costs low.
Instead, our cheap around-the-world cruise route would wind through all three of the world’s top 3 most expensive countries to visit: Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and France (source: BusinessInsider: Most Expensive Countries to Visit). The journey would further include prolonged stays throughout notorious budget-busting nations like Japan, Canada, and Italy.
We further raised the stakes by visiting many of the world’s most expensive cities, including Singapore (#1), Hong Kong (#4), Seoul (#6), Tokyo (#11), Rome, London, and Beijing. (source: Economist Worldwide Cost of Living survey)
We would attempt to carry out this seemingly expensive feat by staying in mostly nice hotels and renting out entire homes, which would even include our very own Italian villa on the Mediterranean. Throughout the voyage, we would partake in quintessential high-end culinary experiences from eating Kobe beef in Japan to indulging in fondue in the Swiss Alps, and even some Michelin-stared restaurants in between.
We would go on to have such costly experiences as downhill skiing across South Korea’s Olympic mountains, visiting an international Disney theme park, and sipping on bubbly while touring France’s Champagne region.
✅ We did it all.
But to top it all off, our primary form of transportation to get to all these pricey places in the world: luxury cruise ships!
We spent a total of 2½ months cruising entirely around the world on luxury cruises, getting wined and dined each night before taking in an awesome show, retreating to our lavish stateroom, and then being transported to the next exotic port for another day full of adventure on land.
And we accomplished this all on a fairly low budget.
For those with champagne tastes on a beer budget, this is how a cheap world cruise is possible.
Our Cheap World Cruise Itinerary & Travel Stats:
Our inexpensive world cruise journey began in somewhat of an unlikely location of Halifax, Canada. This city in Atlantic Canada is a popular cruise port but is rarely (if ever) used as an embarkation point. Yet while spending a summer exploring the Canadian Maritimes, Halifax became our embarkation point to begin this around-the-world journey without flights.
There are arguably better places to begin a pieced-together world cruise. Yet the best place to begin any around-the-world adventure is from wherever you are right now! And Halifax, Nova Scotia, was where we were when we began concocting this crazy idea.
Part of the reason we spent so much time in Canada was because it acted as a staging ground for us to meticulously plan and plot this complex trip, cruising around the world for so cheap. So we set off from Halifax to travel overland to the other side of Canada, reaching Vancouver, where the cruising portion of our journey would begin.
Our cheap world cruise itinerary:
🚗🚆 Rental cars & train (Amtrak Empire Builder): Halifax to Vancouver
🛳️ Cruise 1: Holland America Volendam – Vancouver, Canada to Japan
🚅 Mostly trains Across Japan, ⛴️ ferry to Korea + more trains, ⛴️ ferry to China + more trains to Hong Kong
🛳️ Cruise 2: Celebrity Millennium – Hong Kong to Singapore
🛳️ Cruise 3: Costa Victoria – Singapore to Italy
🚆 Mixed transport: Italy to England
🛳️ Cruise 4: Norwegian Bliss – England to NYC (Stopping in Halifax to complete our circumnavigation)
Our cheap world cruise journey ultimately took us to:
- 22 countries,
- visiting 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites,
- sleeping in 74 beds, and
- through over 100 different cities in the world!
The trip from Halifax completely around the globe and back took exactly 300 days, utilizing four repositioning cruises in combination with some overland travels and stays in between the cruises. This effectively formed a world cruise on a budget! We traveled entirely around the world without flights.
Yet much more remarkable than the travel route or a list of countries visited was the vast amount of amazing travel experiences this grand adventure allowed. After all, the low price isn’t the only benefit of piecing together a cheap world cruise. You also have more time to experience so many international wonders!
Highlights during the 10-month trip around the world included:
🇨🇦 Tidal Bore Rafting Across the Most Extreme Tides in the World
🇨🇦 Hiking among Moose in the Canadian Wilderness
🇨🇦 Lobstering in Prince Edward Island
🇺🇸 Taking the Amtrak Empire Builder Across the US
🇺🇸 Cruising through Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park
🇯🇵 Exploring Japan’s Most Atmospheric Ancient Temples
🇯🇵 Hiking Japan’s Ancient Komono Kodo Pilgrimage Route
🇯🇵 Eating Everything in Japan
🇰🇷 Skiing on Downhill Olympic Ski Runs in South Korea
🇰🇷 Attending a local Ice Fishing Festival (and actually catching!)
🇰🇷 Venturing to the DMZ at the North Korean Border 🇰🇵
🇨🇳 Exploring the Great Wall of China without any crowds
🇨🇳 Taking a River Cruise Down the Yangtze
🇨🇳 Hiking Across China’s Fabled Avatar Mountains
🇻🇳 Floating on a Junk Boat Through Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay
🇹🇭 Relaxing on a Tropical Thai Beach
🇮🇳 Experiencing the Wonderful Culture Shock that Incredible India Delivers
🇴🇲 Roaming around the Desert in Oman
🇪🇬 Cruising Through the Suez Canal
🇮🇹 Hiking from Seaside Village to Village in Cinque Terre
🇮🇹 Discovering Just How Delicious Fresh Pasta in Italy Is
🇨🇭 Trekking the Swiss Alps
🇫🇷 Drinking Champagne within France’s Champagne Region
🇧🇪 Cycling to a Remote Belgian Monastery to Seek the World’s Best Beer
🇬🇧 Pub Crawling around London‘s River Thames on a Sunny Day
🌊 Taking the Inaugural Cruise on the Brand New Norwegian Bliss to Complete Our Journey
^Phew and that’s just the highlight reel. It was truly a trip of a lifetime.
Detailing the Total Costs of Forming a Cheap World Cruise
Throughout the next several sections we’re going into the deep details to break down the cost of this entire trip around the world, connecting four cruises to travel entirely around the world. This trip budget includes the four cruises in addition to detailing the expenses of our stints traveling overland across the world’s most expensive nations.
We are doing this because we want to show exactly how it is possible to actually afford a trip of this caliber.
Our travel expenses during the ten-month journey can be grouped into four large categories of costs:
- Eating & Drinking
- The cruises themselves
Before drilling down into our detailed financial data, it’s worthwhile to take a second to understand some accounting challenges we faced when tracking our travel expenses.
Many expenses are tricky to categorize because many of these groupings often overlap. For example, we regularly seek out accommodation that includes breakfast, as we’re willing to pay a bit more for that. In such instances, we only allocated the expense to “accommodation,” even though the price we paid for the hotel included breakfasts. As a result, hotel expenses are a bit overinflated since cheaper places were available that didn’t include meals.
We often used taxis and public transport for sightseeing, which could logically be attributed to transportation. Yet given that our intention of using such transport was to pursue activities, local transportation was instead allocated as entertainment. There are many more blurred lines like these aforementioned examples, but you get the point.
Perhaps our biggest accounting challenge is with the cruises themselves. Their costs are all-inclusive of our transportation, dining, onboard entertainment, and accommodation. This is what makes cruises such great value! But it also makes it near impossible to categorize. As such, we’ve separated cruising expenses entirely from our land-based travels in between.
This preface is simply to let you know that these allocations may not be a perfect science, but we made a solid effort to categorize expenses the best we could to give you a glimpse into our personal finances of this cheap world cruise route we’ve attempted to achieve.
Minimizing Eating & Drinking Costs on a Cheap World Cruise
Part of the value of taking a world cruise is the ability to indulge in the wonderful dining, which is included in the cost of your world cruise fare. While on the ship, you don’t need to spend a dime on food expenses.
During this cheap world cruise, we indulged in the included fine dining every day while sailing across the world’s oceans. The four-course dinners are an absolute treat that can otherwise be out of reach for budget travelers, with decadent meals such as filet mignon, lobster, chateaubriand, and beef wellington.
Despite the inclusive nature of dining during a world cruise, there are three potential food & beverage costs that can inflate any world cruise budget:
- Specialty dining
- Alcoholic beverages, sodas, and other specialty drinks
- Local food & beverages when exploring ashore
💡 Tip: Avoid Specialty Dining to Keep World Cruise Costs Low
Those trying to pursue a world cruise on a budget can save by simply avoiding specialty dining, which comes with an upcharge. These shipboard restaurants can easily be avoided. Many people love specialty dining, particularly so on lengthy cruises because returning to the main dining room every night may become monotonous.
There’s no doubt that many of these specialty restaurants are great and some would argue they’re absolutely worth the splurge. Personally, we never find specialty dining experiences to be worth the upcharge, given the excellent meals available for free in the main dining rooms.
Even if returning to the main same dining room each evening, the chefs develop a brand new menu for each night of the cruise. So there’s always something new and interesting to look forward to. For a change of scenery, have a quick and informal meal in the buffet or one of the ship’s other complimentary dining venues.
If you have the extra cash to enjoy the specialty restaurants, go for it! But those pursuing a cheap world cruise should avoid it.
💡 Tip: Do Spend Money to Eat Ashore during a World Cruise
With limited time on land, make the most of the experience by diving into the local cuisine. Although it will certainly add to your world cruise budget, we find it to be very worthwhile for the negligible spending to eat local when on land.
During days in port, we always roam around to try the local cuisine. In Vietnam, we devoured banh mi and pho. In Thailand, we slurped up as much tom yum and pad thai as possible. We chowed on kottu in Sri Lanka, followed by curries in India. We couldn’t possibly stop into a Greece port without stuffing our faces with a traditional Greek salad.
Eating locally is a wonderful way to experience a country’s culture, contribute directly to the local economy, and do so at reasonable costs. Depending on the country, there are many wonderful dining experiences to be had for cheap.
You can see this separate post that details our top nine favorite meals during our cruise around the world from our world cruise journey. And they were all under $25!
💡 Tips: Use These Hacks to Drink during a Cheap World Cruise
Alcoholic beverages are typically not included during a world cruise. Drinks on these ships are very expensive. For example, a beer typically costs anywhere from $6-$8 and cocktails are around $10 and up. It’s budget-busting prices for anyone who likes to kick back a few. (We do.)
Alcohol costs can add up quickly during a world cruise. Consider if a couple had two glasses of $9 wine each night with dinner. That seemingly minor indulgence would ultimately add about $2,500 to your cruises! ($9 per glass x 2 glasses x 2 people x 100 days = $2,520)
Due to high costs, we have to recommend having great restraint from visiting the bars on a cruise ship. But that doesn’t mean we’re suggesting not to drink during a world cruise. Instead, use some clever hacks and tips to stretch your alcohol budget and even score free drinks while cruising around the world.
For example, most cruises allow you to bring aboard your own wine. So researched the rules in advance and bring the maximum allowance. Attend the Captain’s Toast for more free cocktails. Visit the duty free liquor store during free sampling events. There are lot of tactics to get free booze during a world cruise.
Booking cruises during promotions often give perks such as wine or champagne gifted to your room once onboard. Occasionally, you may even be lucky enough to score a cruise promotion that includes a beverage package. Having a loyalty status is another solid way to get free cocktail hours or more gifted wine.
On one of our world cruise segments, we brought our own wine, got gifted wine from a promo, received gifted wine from loyalty, then we further won bottles of champagne by participating in a shipboard trivia contest. We ultimately had more alcohol in our stateroom than we knew what to do with!
Just as we suggest eating locally on port days, we also recommend drinkers to drink locally while docked. Seek out local breweries or whatever interesting libations are native to the country you’re passing through. And although security won’t let you bring liquor back to your world cruise stateroom, we’ve often found security to be lax about bringing a few cans of beer back onto the ship, even though it was technically not allowed.
To further enjoy some beverages while on the ship, take advantage of any drink promos being offered.
And although it can be fun to party hard during a 7-day cruise, you may find a lengthy world cruise can be more relaxed, with less temptation to drink. We would purposely give our livers some much-needed breaks during these long voyages since booze was often a costly commodity.
Those aforementioned tips just scratch the surface of our cheap cruise drinking strategies. For even more hacks to drink for cheap on a world cruise, be sure to read our comprehensive article:
💵 Cost Breakdown: Total Food & Beverage Expenses during World Cruise Segments
During the four cruises we used to form our cheap world cruise, we managed to keep our food & beverage budget under $500. Between eating & drinking in ports and some very minimal bar bills on the ships, our eating & drinking expenses totaled: $238 per person during the 2½ months aboard the cruises. That’s about $3.45 per cruise day, per person.
We were very content with this amount
💵 Cost Breakdown: Eating & Drinking Costs When Traveling in Between Cruises
We spent very minimally on food and drink while cruising, given the included dining and our thrifty tricks to drink cheaply onboard.
But during our land-based travels in between cruise segments, we went from gorging ourselves with endless fresh sushi in Japan to sipping French champagne, all in a matter of months. That can’t be cheap!
Well, it wasn’t entirely cheap. Overall, we spent an average of $21.89, per person, per day on eating and drinking around the world, during the days we traveled overland in between cruises. This cost may be slightly overinflated, as it also includes all groceries such as medicine, toiletries, and other knick-knacks we picked up along the way.
This is an area of our budget that could easily be much less for frugal travelers. But we really enjoy eating and drinking!
Given the quality of food we sought out and our penchant for tipping back a few pints, we’re content with our budget here.
Cheap World Cruise Accommodation Costs & Strategies
We spent 2½ months sleeping in luxury on the cruises themselves. It was heavenly waking up to the lapping of rolling swells and the sweet ocean breeze, as we often scheduled a morning pot of coffee to be delivered to our stateroom upon waking up.
Of course, this is included in the cost of the four cruises we used to travel entirely around the world.
💡 Tip: Cruises with Overnight Ports Contain Excellent Value
Overnight port calls are a nice perk that can be found on some world cruises and other one-way voyages. When ships do stay in port overnight, not only does it give you a chance to explore more and experience the nightlife, but the ship essentially acts as a floating hotel in a prime location.
Our overnight port calls were fantastic cost savings, with stops included both Singapore and Hong Kong. These are two of the most expensive cities in the world! Decent low-end budget accommodation starts at about $100 per night, while hotels easily cost well into the hundreds of dollars. Yet our accommodation cost while in Singapore and Hong Kong was fully covered on the Celebrity Millennium, as it docked in ideal waterfront locations right within these two cities.
Our nightly cost in these most expensive world cities was $59.50 per person for five-star accommodation, which included breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
💵 Cost Breakdown: Accommodation in Between World Cruise Segments
While piecing together one-way cruises to form a cheap world cruise, you’ll be challenged with finding good value accommodation in between cruise segments. Unless booking a true world cruise, you’ll inevitably need to stay on land for considerable amounts of time in various locations around the world.
During the cheap world cruise we strung together, we spent more time on land than we did on cruises. In doing so, our ability to find inexpensive accommodation was thoroughly tested in expensive destinations like Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, and throughout high-priced countries such as Canada, Italy, and France.
During all this time paying for accommodation on land, we spent an average of $39.26 per night ($19.63 per person) while traveling through the most expensive countries in the world. Costs shown here are the total costs paid, including any taxes and cleaning fees.
At a nightly rate of less than $20 per person, we were quite happy with this rate, particularly considering the expensive destinations we were traveling across, for such prolonged periods of time, and frequently in nice 3 & 4-⭐ hotels.
💡 Tip: Be Flexible and Open to All Types of Accommodation
A key strategy for keeping accommodation costs low is to be flexible. Don’t completely ignore budget accommodation when there is a significant difference in price. Given the theme of this trip, we attempted to stay in mostly nicer establishments. But that wasn’t always the case.
We readily made occasional concessions to stay at budget hotels and private room Airbnbs whenever passing through high-cost locations, or when it just made sense financially.
In between the four cruises we used to travel around the world, we stayed in six countries for a week or longer and this is our average nightly costs:
There are different strategies to pursue good value accommodation throughout the world, but it depends on the country, as accommodation prices vary from one region to the next. For example, when in China during the off-season, we enjoyed 4-star hotels for a low cost. But that would have cost us a fortune along the Italian Riviera, where we instead found exceptional value at a beautiful seaside vacation rental (Airbnb).
Meanwhile, in Japan, the best accommodation bargains were at business hotels that had so many nice amenities we could utilize. Having a rental car throughout France afforded us the opportunity to travel to lesser-visited destinations and stay outside of pricy city centers. Perhaps most interestingly, we found bargain rates at Korea’s “love motels,” which turned out to be rather nice.
The key to finding the best accommodation deals is to be flexible with the type of places you stay at. What may be an excellent value in one country, may not be in the next. Cast a wide net, be creative, and find some great places to stay at a low cost!
World Cruise Costs for Excursion and Activities
Cruising and independent travel are like oil and water. They usually don’t mix together. Yet we enjoy both forms of travel and love to combine the two! Traveling independently was an absolutely critical strategy for keeping our world cruise costs low.
💡 Tip: Forgo Shore Excursions to Explore on Your Own
Shore excursions can be a very expensive proposition for a world cruise, as this is yet another expense that can easily snowball during lengthy voyages. On a weeklong cruise, using a few shore excursions might only add a couple hundred dollars to your portfolio. But using shore excursion at every port on a world cruise will potentially add tens of thousands of dollars to your final bill – yikes!
For budget travelers like us, shore excursions offered by the cruise line are entirely cost-prohibitive. Therefore a critical component to keeping any world cruise within a reasonable budget is to simply step off the ship and explore on your own.
Shore excursions can be an extremely convenient and efficient way to explore ashore, but they’re not cost-efficient.
For those who are comfortable traveling independently, exploring on your own comes easy and saves loads. A little advanced research and planning goes a long way. Look up transportation logistics and things to do nearby wherever the ship is docked. Or find local tour operators and deal directly with them. Or after arriving, negotiate with a taxi driver to take a taxi tour of the city.
Also, be sure to leave yourself some room for error to get back to the ship with plenty of time. Cruises do not wait for late passengers and world cruises are no exception. Minimize this risk by being back in the direct vicinity of your ship with an hour to spare, just in case. If there are any attractions or activities near the ship you wanted to visit, do so at the end so you’ll have quick access to return to the ship.
With over 30 port calls during the four cruises we used to travel around the world, we never once took a single tour that was purchased from the cruise ship. This ultimately saved thousands of dollars (likely tens of thousands) by exploring on our own throughout our cheap world cruise.
For example, when we docked in Juneau, Alaska, most glacier tours were well into the several hundred dollars per person. Instead, we hopped on a $2 public bus, which took us directly to the impressive Mendenhall Glacier.
When we arrived in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, most cruise passengers got on a bus to take them on a boat tour around these most scenic islands, for hundreds of dollars. Instead, we hopped on the back of a scooter taxi, which took us to a boat and a $17 half-day tour of the same famous islands that our fellow cruise passengers were splashing the cash to see.
Those are just two small examples, but we used these same independent travel tactics in every single port we visited. In many of the ports we pulled into, like Heraklion, Greece, or Kushiro, Japan; the ship docked only steps away from the city center. So we could just walk off the ship and easily sightsee on our own.
⚠️ Don’t Pay for Pricey Taxis during a World Cruise
Given the often exotic itineraries of world cruises, ships will occasionally dock at industrial ports with nothing to walk to. This presents logistical challenges, requiring transportation. These situations often bring out aggressive taxi drivers ready to take advantage of cruise passengers. Unknowing cruisers often pay extremely inflated costs to these money-hungry taxi drivers.
It wouldn’t be entirely uncommon for taxi drivers to ask the equivalent of $100 USD to drive a few miles, looking to take advantage of cruise passengers that don’t have a firm grasp on the exchange rates. Some taxi drivers wouldn’t budge in negotiations, knowing they would be able to get this inflated rate from the next group of cruisers who walked by. It’s all a frustrating situation that we regularly faced while walking into ports from a cruise ship.
Use these strategies to avoid overpriced taxis:
- Use public transportation if available.
- Use rideshare apps, like Uber, available in the majority of ports, and keeps drivers honest.
- Walk away from the cruise port, then catch a taxi.
💵 Cost of World Cruise Shore Excursions: on Your Own
In total, we spent $303 per person during all of our DIY shore excursions, including all local transport and activity costs. That comes out to about $10 per person in each port visited.
This is an enormous cost savings when attempting a cheap world cruise. It’s not uncommon for a single shore excursion to be priced at $300 or more. Yet we managed to stretch that same amount across all 30 ports that we docked in.
💵 Cost Breakdown: World Cruise Shipboard Entertainment & Activity
Yet again, one of the nice things about taking a cruise around the world is that all that time on the ship is completely inclusive of activities and entertainment. People sometimes wrongly assume repositioning cruises are boring stripped-down versions of a cruise. But we’ve found that usually to be quite the opposite. Often cruise lines add even more lecturers, activities, and entertainment to repositioning cruises, as they want to keep passengers having fun during the additional sea days.
Broadway-style shows, rock concerts, themed parties, and comedy filled our evenings. While during sea days, we regularly attended enrichment activities like complimentary cooking demonstrations and language classes. It was fun to learn Japanese on the way to Japan!
Some cruise lines, like Norwegian, do have a small fee for certain activities, such as their longest go-cart track at sea ($6). We had to pay it to give that a try. We also paid $25 to see their Prohibition burlesque show, which was actually a good deal because it included 5 craft cocktails during the hilarious performance. Beyond those two minimal expenses, all onboard entertainment was entirely complimentary and included during the 2.5 months of cruising.
So our entire entertainment costs while on all four cruises for 2.5 months was a mere $31 total per person, averaging to $0.44 per day.
💵 Cost Breakdown: Entertainment & Activities in Between World Cruise Segments
Meanwhile, we also incurred entertainment and activity costs while traveling overland too. Local transport, attraction entrance fees, museums, and adventure activities all contributed to this amount.
In places where we traveled slower (Canada), these costs averaged less. In China, when we traveled at a fast pace and incurred some higher expenses like a Yangtze River cruise, expenses averaged more. It was easy to keep costs lower in places like Europe as sightseeing around the historic towns and hiking are free. Our funds were better used on French and Italian cuisine.
After all, many of the best sights and experiences around the world are free!
Maintaining Low Transportation Costs during a Cheap World Cruise
When stringing together a series of one-way cruises to form a cheap world cruise, it’s nearly inevitable to incur some transportation costs in between these cruise segments. It can turn into a big game of
planes, trains, and automobiles. But we switch out the planes for cruises!
When piecing together our cheap cruise around the world, we used the following transport methods:
🚆 71 trains,
🚌 52 buses,
⛴️ 11 ferries + 1 river cruise,
🚗 7 rental cars,
🚕 6 long-distance taxis, and
🚢 4 ocean cruise ships carried us around the world for a total of 2½ months!
Of course, navigating all of this foreign transit does take a knack for independent travel. There are useful transit websites and resources that can help, such as Rome2Rio, Seat61, and even Google Maps.
During our world cruise segments, the lengthiest overland transportation segments included: (1) Tokyo to Hong Kong, (2) Halifax to Vancouver, and (3) Italy to England.
Those keen on avoiding such lengthy overland segments should know that, while rare, additional cruise routes exist to minimize these stretches of overland segments.
Use the following two cruise routes to effectively eliminate the lengthy overland segments we pursued:
- Panama Canal cruises can take you between the US east coast (usually Florida) to the US West Coast (usually California, although occasionally Seattle or Vancouver).
- Infrequent cruises also exist between Tokyo and Singapore.
💵 Cost Breakdown: Transportation to Connect World Cruise Segments
We spent about $2,275 per person on transportation costs while traveling overland clear across North America, Eastern Asia, and finally from Italy to England. That averages out to about $10 per person, per day during our overland travels.
Our itineraries were almost never the most direct, efficient, or cheapest routes to cross the countries. That would be a boring trip. Instead, we carefully planned our itineraries with major points of interest in mind and often spared no expense to divert there.
Here’s what we spent on transport by country:
We always carefully weighed out costs as a leading factor in choosing our form of transport. Taking the easiest or fastest route was not always the cheapest. Also, taking what would be presumedly a cheap form sometimes would not be the most economical.
For example, we chose one-way rental cars over Canada’s more expensive Via Rail. We then rode the US’s Amtrak Empire Builder for only $146, traversing the US to Seattle in three days.
We circumvented Japan’s pricey bullet trains using cheaper regional trains, buses, and budget rail passes. South Korea’s compact size made bus and rail travel affordable. China, being vast, required us to use the expensive high-speed rail often, which was worth it for us to cover as much of the country as we could during our time there.
Meanwhile, in Italy, regional rail lines and low-cost buses proved economical. France’s rail strikes necessitated costlier rental cars, with country roads used to avoid pricier toll roads.
A bus to London and train to Southampton concluded our thrifty transport segments, before crossing the Atlantic on our final cheap world cruise segment.
Cost of Flights during a Cheap World Cruise: $0
One awesome aspect of embarking on an around-the-world trip entirely over land and sea is that there are no flight expenses involved. Nothing. Nada. Zilch!
It’s a huge money-saver not having to account for the cost of flights!
Usually, the cost of flights on a trip around the world would total well into the thousands of dollars!
We instead put this nonexistent flight budget towards the cruises, which can often be priced about the same (often less!) than flights going along the same routes. Yet the cruises offer so much more value since they cover meals, accommodation, and so many luxury amenities all while stopping along into the fascinating destinations you get to explore while traveling from one part of the world to the next.
An added bonus was going the entire year of traveling without having to deal with airport security, baggage fees, shrinking seat space, rude passengers, airplane food, and flight delays, among the many other hassles that come with air travel.
Grand Total Costs of Combining Cruises to Form a Cheap World Cruises
Up to this point, we’ve detailed all our cheap world cruise expenses except the cruise segments themselves. The four cruises we took to form our world cruises were indeed relatively large expenses. So let’s get into it.
💵 Cost Breakdown: One-Way Cruises to Form Cheap World Cruise
The cost of these world cruise segments was a greater expense than we had initially anticipated. Cruise rates do fluctuate. Despite our best efforts, the timing of our cruise bookings didn’t always secure the lowest rates. Prior to this around-the-world journey, we’ve taken repositioning cruises for far less than we paid on these four world cruise segments.
After adding in all port charges, taxes, fees and even adding in gratuities, the grand total of our cheap world cruise came out to $81 per person, per day. These cruise days averaged higher than our overland travels, which helps to bring down our entire trip cost average as we’ll get into in a bit.
First, let’s look at how the world cruise costs shook out: $5,574 total pp for all world cruise segments.
(Note: we scored a promotional deal with Celebrity that included prepaid gratuities, hence the $0 reflected in the above table. We also received some small onboard credits ($50), that we applied toward gratuities in other instances.)
Spending over $5,000 per person on cruises may not seem cheap. But this was over the course of 2.5 months of luxury living while being effortlessly transported all around the world. It’s also less than half the cost of even the cheapest world cruise.
Also, consider the cost it would take to fly between all of these locations. It would have likely cost tens of thousands of dollars. Using repositioning cruises to form a cheap world cruise is truly exceptional travel value!
💵 Cost Breakdown: The Grand Total of Entire Cheap World Cruise
Here is the total breakdown by country and by cruise, per person, per day. This includes all of the travel expenses we incurred during this 300-day cheap world cruise. So the cruise costs shown here absorb additional eating, drinking, and entertainment expenses that were incurred onshore during that cruising timeframe.
South Korea was the cheapest due to minimal transport costs, with Canada and Italy following thanks to spread-out transport costs and minimal entertainment expenses. China felt cheap daily but high-speed rail use increased our average costs.
The transpacific cruise was expensive due to heavy port fees, particularly in association with Glacier Bay National Park. Cheaper transpacific alternatives existed but the timing didn’t work for us. The high cost was easily justified by the luxury, having an Alaska cruise on the front end, and a cruise to Japan’s lesser-known ports on the back end.
If anyone really wants to examine our cheap world cruise budget, the table below gives a complete breakdown of every travel expense we incurred over this cheap world cruise journey.
We’re happy with coming in at about $19,000 per person for a luxury trip entirely around the world’s most expensive countries, lasting nearly an entire year! That averages out to about $1,900 per month or $63 per day.
But the above figures are expenses, as we technically paid less! Here’s how:
We used just a bit of travel hacking (points) to reduce our spending. We redeemed $382 worth of accommodation using points and travel credits, such as from Hotels.com, SPG, and Priceline. We still accounted for those expenses in all the budgeting we’ve detailed, even though we didn’t actually pay money for them.
Furthermore, we tried to use our Capital One Venture credit card for nearly every expense possible, which earns us 2% cash back that we then used to erase whatever travel expenses we chose. So we racked up enough expenses on that credit card over the course of this trip to erase $639 worth of travel expenses!
This brings our actual out-of-pocket cost to $18,500 per person.
That’s a travel budget of $1,850 per month or just above $60 per day for this around-the-world trip of a lifetime!
It may be worth noting that a few additional expenses were not included in our budget, for example, Christmas/birthday gifts. Healthcare expenses, like a dental check-up in Thailand and our $59/month international phone plan were also omitted. We further didn’t include the cost of running our business (this website), which includes hosting, domain, etc. These regular expenses that have nothing to do with the trip itself were not included in the totals listed above.
Travel Tips: How to Plan a Cheap World Cruise
Now that we’ve shown our finances of how we budget for our cheap world cruise, we want to relay some more tips to get you on your way! If you would like to attempt an unconventional voyage around the world like us, there are a few more details you should know.
Where to Begin Your Cheap World Cruise Journey
As we’ve already mentioned, the best place to start such a voyage is wherever you’re currently located, even if it’s not a port town served by cruise lines. Determine your nearest major cruise port hub and start researching when long-distance cruises depart from there.
Common ports include:
- North America Atlantic ports: Miami, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Port Canaveral (Orlando area), Tampa, New York City, and more.
- North America Pacific ports: Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver
- Asia Ports: Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore
- European Ports: Piraeus (Athens), Civitavecchia (Rome), Barcelona, Copenhagen, Southampton, and more.
If you’re reading this from the southern hemisphere, don’t feel left out. It is also possible to begin a cheap world cruise from international ports such as Sydney, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, and Valparaiso (Santiago). Repositioning cruises exist from each of these cities to some of the other aforementioned hubs, where you can then proceed east or westbound above the equator.
How to Book With the Changing Seasons
To catch these repositioning cruise deals to form a cheap world cruise, you have to be keenly aware of when and where cruise lines are shifting their fleet during the changing of the seasons. Here’s where they flow:
Common fall routes:
- Transatlantic: Europe to Eastern US and Caribbean (most common)
- Transatlantic: Europe to South America
- Transpacific: North America to Asia
- Transpacific: North America to Australia and South Pacific
- Europe to Asia (Suez Canal)
Common spring routes:
- Transatlantic: Eastern US to Europe (most common)
- Transatlantic: South America to Europe
- Transpacific: Asia to North America
- Transpacific: Australia or South Pacific to North America
- Asia to Europe (Suez Canal)
While rare, it’s also possible to find rogue cruises that aren’t seasonal. Occasionally a ship will be moved to/from a dry dock location for refurbishments, which can form a non-seasonal repositioning cruise to utilize.
And when brand new ships launch, they don’t necessarily follow the seasonal shifts either. For example, we caught the brand new Norwegian Bliss eastbound across the Atlantic in the late spring, a time when most cruise ships are being repositioned in the opposite direction.
So it’s certainly worth doing thorough research to see what your options are. Or contact an excellent travel agent that specializes in cruises.
By carefully scouring through every potential cheap repositioning cruise option, we even managed to find two cruises lined up in Singapore on the exact same day. So we cruised from Hong Kong to Singapore on the Celebrity Millennium and were able to step right off and move our luggage onto the Costa Victoria for the remaining voyage from Singapore to Italy. It took a bit of planning, but when it finally happened, this was such a beautiful sight!
World Cruise Direction: East-to-West or West-to-East?
Pursuing a cheap around-the-world cruise can be accomplished by piecing together repositioning cruises in either direction. But which way is better?
First, that depends on where you’re starting your voyage and the time of year. For example, if you’re beginning in the US in the Fall, your best options are transpacific repositioning cruises heading west. If you were to begin in the US in the Spring, the likely option would be to begin on a transatlantic from the East Coast and head east.
We took a westward route around the world and find that direction to be ideal. You skip a day jumping the International Date Line while crossing the Pacific, which is interesting. But the beautiful part about a westbound itinerary is the frequent rolling back of the clock, which regularly gives you 25-hour days!
Throughout a westbound world cruise, you’ll have 24 nights in which you get an extra hour of sleep! That’s a great perk about traveling slowly by sea around the world. You won’t experience jet lag!
Meanwhile, it’s the opposite traveling east, as you lose an hour of sleep during each time zone crossing. Doing these time zone transitions little by little does ease the jet lag effect, but you’ll still feel this loss of sleep when having to change the clocks forward multiple nights in a row.
There’s an old travel expression that we found rings very true: “East is a beast, west is the best.”
Planning Tip: Determine Your Asia-Europe Cruise Segment First
In order to form a cheap world cruise, you must rely on three main segments:
- Crossing the Pacific (North America – Asia)
- Crossing the Indian Ocean (Asia – Europe)
- Crossing the Atlantic (Europe – North America)
- Optional: Across America (Panama Canal cruise)
The Atlantic crossing is the easiest to schedule as there are dozens of transatlantic cruises every spring (eastbound) and fall (westbound), plus the occasional outliers in between. Fewer ships make the Pacific crossing, but there are still enough to choose from, usually at least a half dozen or so.
The Asia-Europe cruise segment that is needed is the rarest and most infrequent route. Typically there are only a few of these Asia-Europe cruises throughout the year. Yet it’s a necessary piece of this puzzle. So we suggest working out the feasibility of this Asia-Europe cruise segment first, then letting the other puzzle pieces fall into place.
The most common hub to search to/from is Singapore, although occasional connections exist from Tokyo and Hong Kong too. In addition to repositioning cruises, it’s also possible to join a segment of a world cruise. Also, find one-way cruises that are heading in your general direction. It’s possible the cruise continues onward in a subsequent cruise.
Here’s A Real Itinerary to Form Your Own Cheap World Cruise 2023-2024
To fully demonstrate how you can form your own cheap world cruise, here are some cruise segments that you can book right now for your own cheap world cruise using a westward approach.
Use these cruises segments to form a one-year world cruise, with stops in Tokyo, Singapore, and Europe. We’ve provided two examples for each of the four segments needed to form a cheap world cruise.
The prices reflected below are per person and not including taxes and gratuities unless noted. Also, understand these prices are current as of the last update to this article (June 2023) and have likely changed (possibly lower) by the time you’re reading this. You can click on each link to confirm up-to-date pricing.
Fall 2023: Transpacific World Cruise Segment – Seattle to Tokyo
Each of these are very cheap transpacific cruises that will get you from Seattle to Tokyo at low rates with stops along the way throughout Alaska and Japan:
- Norwegian Jewel, 16 nights, Oct 3-19, Seattle to Tokyo: $799 ($50/night)
- Holland America Westerdam, 13 nights, Oct 1-15, Seattle to Tokyo: $819 ($63/night)
Winter 2023-2024: From Tokyo to Singapore by Cruise or Other Transport
Spend the winter traveling throughout Asia. You can enjoy colder winter climates like we did in Japan, Korea, and China. Or breakaway to warmer climates by catching a cruise or even a series of land transport and ferries to get to Singapore, which you could further use as a gateway to Malaysia and other cheaper destinations around Southeast Asia.
If you prefer to cruise, after spending a month or so in/around Tokyo, consider these one-way cruises from Tokyo to Singapore:
- Diamond Princess, 15 nights, Dec 1-16, Tokyo to Singapore: $1,138 ($76/night)
- Celebrity Millennium, 12 nights, Nov 17-29, Tokyo to Singapore: $1,649 ($137/night)
Spring 2024: Singapore to Europe World Cruise Segment
After spending a few months exploring Asia, begin your cruise from Singapore to Europe in the Spring as things start to heat up.
- Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas, two back-to-back segments:
- Azamara Journey, 26 nights, May 3-29, Singapore to Athens: $3,360 ($129/night)
- Note: although priced relatively high – this is a 5.5-star ship that includes gratuities, a beverage package, wifi, and laundry, so it’s an excellent deal!
Summer 2024: Summer in Europe
After arriving in Greece, enjoy the summer in Europe traveling by rail or take some more cruises! Head to Eastern Europe to get out of the Shenzhen Zone and to linger in cheaper countries to help keep your budget down. Eventually, make your way to the west where you can catch a final transatlantic back to North America. Popular ports to depart from include Copenhagen, London (Southampton, Dover), and Barcelona.
Fall 2024: Transatlantic World Cruise Segment
Exactly one year later, now cruise across the Atlantic Ocean to complete your trip around the world without flights. There will be several cheap cruises making this journey across the Atlantic in the Fall and prices will likely drop from current rates. At present, there are dozens of cruises making the journey for well under $1k and well under $1,000/night. Here are simply two examples, showing (1) what is currently the cheapest transatlantic and (2) an earlier fall transatlantic cruise.
- Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, Barcelona to Miami, Nov 2-14, 2024: $524 ($44/night)
- Princess Sun (Sphere), Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, Sept 23-Oct 9, 2024: $1,235 ($77/night)
Total Cost of Sample Cheap World Cruise 2023-2024:
If you were to follow the above-suggested itinerary to form a cheap world cruise, you can reasonably spend about $5,000 or so on those cruise segments.
The Asia-Europe segment is the budget-buster of this world cruise equation, at $3k. Typically, there are more economic connections across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal. But prices do fluctuate and there are a handful of other options between Asia and Europe.
By the time you’re reading this, there may already be a far cheaper connection available to book. In 2024-2025, we expect even more great options all around the world. Yet looking so far ahead, many of those options to build a cheap world cruise have yet to be listed for sale.
More Money-Saving Tips: Form a Cheap World Cruise For Even Less!
There are three areas of our actual travel expenses, where it would be very easy to bring costs down even less. Forming a $50/day cruise around the world isn’t impossible. Here’s how to cut costs even lower than us.
World Cruise for Less: Book Cheaper Cruises
We’ve taken cruises across the Atlantic for as low as $159 per person ($12/day)! More realistically, $500-600 can be a good price to shoot for on a transatlantic. Due to some timing issues, we paid a bit more (~$1K) for our Atlantic crossing on a brand new 5* ship, the Bliss. And it was our high-cost transpacific cruise, on the Volendam, that really rose the budget.
Typically transpacific repositioning cruises are on sale for as low as $600 between Seattle or Vancouver to Japan. Unfortunately, the timing didn’t quite work out for us to grab those deals, as we weren’t able to make it to the Pacific coast in time to take advantage of those low-priced transpacific cruises.
Additionally, we splurged a few hundred dollars extra for two cruises to have a stateroom with a window during these lengthy voyages. If you’re okay with an interior cabin, you can easily shave off even more from the world cruise expenses we’ve shown throughout this post.
World Cruise for Less: Visit Cheaper Countries
We traveled through the most expensive countries in the world and our daily costs reflect that. It would be easy to plan an itinerary through cheaper countries, which would significantly lower costs.
In Asia, Singapore is the common connection for repositioning cruises. From there, it’s a quick ferry ride into Indonesia or a hop across the land border to Malaysia. Both countries are extremely economical to travel through and Malaysia then opens up to Thailand and all of SE Asia to explore cheaply overland, living off daily budgets closer to $20, rather than the $60 per day we averaged when traveling overland.
Meanwhile, in Europe, instead of passing through the budget-busters of France, Switzerland, and UK, there are two other much more economical approaches. Barcelona is a very common hub for repositioning cruises and Spain (along with Portugal) is the most budget-friendly country to travel in Western Europe. So that’s an easy way to drive down costs. Otherwise, the cheap destinations throughout Eastern Europe are another good idea, and you can sometimes find repositioning cruises, to or from Athens.
World Cruise for Less: Travel Slower
We often have a bad habit of fast travel, racing around a country while packing in as much as we can. Traveling at a slower pace allows you to spread out transport costs, secure lower long-term accommodation rates, and simply become attuned to the inner rhythms of a locality in which you’ll gain a better understanding of where the value lies.
“Slowmads” could successfully execute a world cruise itinerary similar to ours at a much lower daily average by simply relaxing the pace of travel. Stay in places for longer periods of time and don’t constantly move from one destination to the next as we often did.
When to Book World Cruise Segments: A Tricky Proposition
Cruise prices regularly fluctuate based on demand, cancelations, promotions, and a variety of other factors. Often waiting until the last minute (within a month or so) can be a smart move to get a rock-bottom deal. It’s a strategy that has proven to work very well for us many times.
In other instances, it turned out to be a bad move. Booking last minute can be risky. Cruises can unexpectedly sell out or increase dramatically in price, even at the last minute. It’s high risk, high reward.
When trying to plot out all these different routes & connections to form a world cruise while prices constantly fluctuate, the planning becomes increasingly complicated.
One wrong move or a sold-out cruise can break apart an entire world cruise itinerary being strung together. There are a lot of moving pieces that form one giant puzzle. And it’s a puzzle you may be working on while simultaneously traveling, which makes assembly all the more difficult.
Tip: Make Multiple Reservations and Cancel
Yet one positive aspect to booking cruises is that if you’re willing to place a deposit of a few hundred dollars, such cruise deposits are usually cancelable and refundable up until about two months or so before the cruise is scheduled to disembark.
Therefore what we do, and recommend, is to make refundable reservations on whatever repositioning cruise fares around the world look attractive at any time. Even though we only took four cruises, we had actually made eight reservations. We ended up canceling four reservations for completely different cruises (similar routes) that we never took. We received full refunds.
It was nice to lock in those rates as contingency plans while keeping an eye on the prices of other potential cruises. We booked our cruise on the Celebrity Millennium from Hong Kong to Singapore over a half-year in advance and locked in a rate of $883 with prepaid gratuities. It was a great deal that only lasted two days before the price for that cruise later shot up to $2,500 and never dropped again. So we certainly held that reservation and were really happy we booked the refundable reservation when we did.
Meanwhile, we had booked a particularly expensive cruise from Singapore to Barcelona that we ultimately canceled because a better deal suddenly emerged.
Tip: Monitor Prices of Your World Cruise Bookings
It can prove very wise to regularly keep an eye on cruise prices and promotions since there can be sudden sales and price changes. When planning our world cruise, we checked the prices every day. Some people check the stock market on a daily basis. I check cruise prices.
There are pay sites that will actually monitor this for you and send you emails. Or find an excellent travel agent, who may offer to do this.
Yet a simple approach is to bookmark the cruise fare pages and make it a 1-minute morning routine to see if rates have changed. I make notes on the bookmarks to remind me of what the cost was and what promotions they were offering, so I can easily recall and compare how rates may have changed.
Above, you can see my bookmarks and the crazy notes that help me keep track of it all. Being the data geek that I am, I also make spreadsheets. It’s admittedly a bit of work to keep track of. But it’s work that can pay off in the form of a cheap world cruise!
Tip: Mitigating the Risk of Last-Minute Bookings for Cheapest Rates
If you don’t have a booking during the month before sailing, this can be extremely risky. If the cruise sells out, you potentially don’t have passage to the next region when forming your own world cruise. However, taking this risk can often yield extremely low last-minute cruise fares. Here’s a booking strategy to mitigate this risk and score an ultra-low fare.
Once the cancelation period rolls around, make your best guestimate as to whether the rates may rise or fall. If there are other cruises embarking on similar routes at similar time frames at similar price points, you may feel comfortable canceling a booking and holding out for a cheap last-minute rate, knowing there are multiple options to watch and consider.
But if there is only a single cruise on a critical route, it’s best to keep the reservation and pay the remaining balance. Don’t risk it.
The most crucial component to employing this cheap world cruise strategy is to ensure you are well aware of the cancelation periods. You need to meticulously know this so you can cancel on time and get a refund.
Best Cruise Lines to Book with When Forming a Cheap World Cruise
People ask us all the time what’s the best cruise line to attempt this patchwork world cruise with.
Our honest answer is:
whatever cruise is currently the cheapest!
We’ve sailed on almost every major cruise line now (Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity, Costa, Pullmantur, Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, MSC, etc.) and have never had a bad cruise. Each cruise line has its own appeal, novelties, strong points, and drawbacks. Any cruise is a great cruise to us if the price is right.
For us, a cruise ship is a comfy form of transport to amazing destinations. We’re easy to please. Although we very much enjoy the amenities that cruises offer, this isn’t the main draw for us. For others, the cruise ship is the destination and the shipboard experience is a huge part of the appeal.
Most people do have strong preferences towards certain cruise lines. We understand that.
There are some lines we’ve personally enjoyed more than others. Celebrity tends to be one of our favorite cruise lines. So if we can utilize a Celebrity ship to form a world cruise, that’s a big bonus for us. Yet if that Celebrity cruise is hundreds (or thousands) of dollars more than another cruise taking a similar route, it’s usually not worth it for us. Whatever the cruise line is, we’re still going to enjoy our time in ports, the decadent meals, and relaxing at sea.
If you’re taking a one-week vacation on a cruise, it can be worth spending more to go with a cruise line that fits you. But if attempting to piece together a cheap world cruise, we advise booking the least expensive segments that fit your itinerary!
Best Sites to Book With
Most cruises will be at similar rates between different booking sites. But there can be some variances. Some cruise booking sites do sometimes offer stronger promotions than one others. So when you’re ready to pull the trigger on a cruise, it’s worth cross-checking across a few different cruise booking sites just to ensure you have the best deal and best promos. Or call a travel agent.
Our favorite site to search (not necessarily book) is CruisePlum. CruisePlum acts as a comprehensive cruise search engine, with many filters to drill down your search when piecing together a cheap world cruise.
Once you find an attractive price on a cruise to build your world cruise itinerary, then determine where to book your best price and promotion. This may vary slightly from one booking platform to the next, so it can be worthwhile to spend a few minutes comparison shopping.
Hence, we’ve typically found the best price/promos for our world cruises segments using CrusieDirect. Lately, they’ve even been offering generous Visa gift cards (hundreds of dollars) when booking with them, which we essentially view as cash back.
We also like how CruiseDirect shows the total price, cabin availability, and the ability to complete the entire booking transaction online yourself without the need to speak to an agent over the phone. The search functionality of CruiseDirect isn’t the best, so we don’t use it to search but rather to book.
Cheap World Cruise Tip: Book Guaranteed Cabins
A “guaranteed cabin” is the least expensive room you can book on a cruise. That’s what we book every time. The only downside to booking this way is that you don’t get to choose the exact location on the cruise. Instead, your exact cabin location is assigned to you a week or so before the cruise departs. (We’ve always been fine with our locations.)
On the upside, you have an off-chance of potentially getting an upgrade. You also are guaranteed to be paying the lowest possible rate within the category you book (inside, outside, balcony). In the past, we’ve booked a guaranteed inside cabin and have gotten an elusive upgrade to a balcony stateroom. It does happen.
We weren’t so lucky on any of these four cruises, although we did indeed get a free balcony upgrade on the brand-new Norwegian Bliss, using a different method.
- Further Reading: 10 Secrets to Get a Free Balcony Upgrade
How To Obtain Visas the Cheap Way
During any world cruise, you will likely few different visas to legally enter some countries. Holding a US Passport, we’re fortunate to be able to enter many countries free on arrival. Other countries have a more complicated and bureaucratic approach, which can take some advanced planning to sort out.
One interesting aspect about cruising is that some countries actually waive the required visas and associated fees for cruise passengers as a way to lure cruises to come there. For example, the costs associated with the letter, stamp, and fee to procure a single-entry visa to Vietnam in advance is $100. That fee and the process are waived for cruise passengers. This is yet another way how cruises can really save!
Yet other countries do impose fees on cruise passengers. Sometimes the cruise charges a fair rate for this but other times it is very inflated. So it can be worth inquiring about these fees and determining whether it may be worth it for you to procure your own visas to sustain significant cost savings during your world cruise.
For example, we paid a $32 fee to enter Cambodia, which the cruise handled entirely for us at this fair rate. Meanwhile, a visa was also required for India and the cruise was charging a very inflated rate (hundreds of dollars) to procure. We instead secured the e-visa ourselves electronically for $77. It was still a hefty price to enter the country for only a single day, yet it could have been much more had we not gotten it ourselves.
Visas are always cheaper if you go through the hurdles of obtaining them directly. Just be very careful that you go through the proper channels to procure them correctly.
Bottom line: Research any required visas for any countries being visited. Plan accordingly.
Travel Insurance: A Must-Have for Any World Cruise
Another worthy expense that we strongly urge for any worldly adventurers is travel insurance. If you were to encounter any sort of major disaster along the way, travel insurance will have you covered. Whether a nasty car accident or a violent earthquake, travel insurance can cover your foreign medical expenses and help get you home.
When world cruising, travel insurance can be even more important. Medical services on cruises is notoriously expensive. Visiting a ship doctor for a simple cold can easily be serval hundred, or even thousands, of dollars. Travel insurance can have you covered and reimburse you for such financial burdens.
Unexpected emergencies are our primary reason for having this coverage during a world cruise. But travel insurance has many additional benefits such as rental car insurance, petty theft, minor medical issues that may arise, trip cancelation, missing passports or credit cards, and so much more.
As it relates to cruising, it can be wise to find travel insurance that includes (air) emergency evacuation. If you were to need to be evacuated by helicopter from a cruise ship this would potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that would likely prove financially devastating to anyone that might need such a life-saving service.
It’s best not to book travel insurance with the cruise company directly. Often the rates are very high. It won’t cover any travel in between cruise segments. And if you have any disputes with the cruise company, it’s best to have an independent travel insurance company to help with that fight.
For long-term travel, we use and recommend World Nomads. They offer a great mix of coverage for the price and include $300k/$500k of emergency evacuation coverage, depending on the plan.
You can’t book a plan for more than 180 days but you can extend or book a new plan mid-trip to cover your entire world cruise. Tip: It’s best to book the longest period possible, as we’ve found that the per-day rate becomes higher, the shorter the coverage length is.
Thankfully during our cheap world cruise, we never had any major incident requiring us to use the travel insurance we purchased, despite being hit by a typhoon in Japan. But we have made claims with World Nomads on previous trips to cover rental car damage, illness, and lost luggage, in which we found the claims process was efficient and fair.
Key Strategies to Pull off a Cheap World Cruise
To keep costs low and actually accomplish a cheap cruise entirely around the world, there are so many critical strategies to success. Here’s a recap of what we found to be the most important to keep in mind:
🚢 Book inexpensive repositioning cruise deals, rather than pricey world cruises.
🚢 Be comfortable and skilled at independent travel whenever not on the cruise (extremely important).
🚢 Research things to do and travel logistics in destinations you’re visiting.
🚢 Use public transportation whenever possible.
🚢 Have a travel partner. Single supplements are usually imposed on solo travelers on cruises.
🚢 Take a digital detox on the cruises, as wifi can be very cost prohibitive. Use Internet on land.
🚢 Don’t run up a high bar bill while onboard the cruises. It’s easy to do, but just as easy to avoid.
🚢 Pack as light as possible, yet for multiple climates. See what we packed here: Ultimate Packing List.
🚢 Take time to research & find low-price accommodation.
🚢 Book far in advance in popular destinations and/or high season.
🚢 Make concessions to stay at budget-friendly places occasionally, when necessary.
🚢 Have fun! This all takes a bit of planning and strategy to organize, which all leads to an adventure of a lifetime, cruising around the world without flights!
Conclusion: Is a Cheap World Cruise Really Possible?
We hope this post has demonstrated that for a mere $60 per day, a world cruise absolutely is a realistic possibility. We find that to be a very cheap way for such a luxurious and effortless way to travel entirely around the world without flights!
We hope the financials and strategies we’ve detailed in this article may help to spur some ideas of your own, whether you’re considering such an epic voyage or simply dreaming about taking the plunge one day.
If you want some further reading about cruise tips, you can check out these related posts:
- Read: Repositioning Cruises: Your Ultimate Guide & Tips to Know
- Read: 5 Things We Loved & Hated About Our World Cruise
- Read: Top 50 Cruise Hacks to Save Money
And if you’d like to save this post or share it, feel free to pin the image to the right to your Pinterest travel boards or share this Facebook video, below.
We’d also love to hear what you think about our cheap world cruise in the comments and any questions you may have about this crazy idea we lived out over the past year.
Otherwise, bon voyage! 🚢
Publishing note: This article was initially written August 2018 and was updated in June 2023 to reflect cruise industry changes and up-to-date pricing information.