It’s become something of a rite of passage, leaving school or university and heading off around the world on a gap year, before you finally have to face the reality of boring jobs and endless bills. Alternatively, you can take the advice of a seemingly endless number of travel blogs encouraging you to pack in your job, pack up your life, say ‘ta-ra’ to the family and jump on the nearest plane. While we love the idea of doing this, we also live in the real world. The one where we have to cram 365 days of wanderlust into 25 days annual leave. Those lucky enough to have retired are keener that ever to spend their days seeing more of the world, but leaving behind family for a new home in the sun is a pretty big deal. Our answer? Cruising, of course.
A cruise holiday is often cast aside, thanks to misconceptions of endless days at sea and stuffy ports of call. Luckily this couldn’t be further from the truth and if you’re looking to see more of the world without jacking it all in and leaving the family behind, a world cruise might just be the answer. We may not want to want to slum it in hostels and B&B’s, but we do want to see parts of the world that your standard package holiday won’t take us. Is a world cruise the equivalent of a grown-up gap year? We think it might just be.
As Princess Cruises announce their 2016/17 programme, we thought we would take a closer look at the most epic voyage of them all: 111 days, 35 destinations, 26 countries, 3 overnights and 3 maiden calls. Sound good? Here are some of our highlights from Pacific Princess’s 2016 world cruise.
Bay of Islands
Located between Cape Brett and the Purerua Peninsula are 144 islands that attract keen travellers year after year. If you’re looking for the picture postcard New Zealand experience, you will certainly find it here. The marine adventure playground off Tapeka Point is home to wildlife including penguins, dolphins and whales, and the towns of Opua, Paihia, Russell and Kerikeri are equally as gorgeous as each other.
A perennial gap year favourite, Sydney is Australia’s oldest and most populated state. The city is a hive of outdoor activity and locals spend their days everywhere from the meandering waterways of Sydney Harbour, to the beaches and parks that hug the coastline. The Sydney Harbour Bridge provides an amazing backdrop for your entrance into port, while days are well spent exploring the uninhabited islands of Fort Denison or Shark Island, a kayak being the perfect vessel for discovering hidden coves.
The prospect of an overnight call in Hong Kong is an exciting one for any traveller. Home to the notorious and spectacular Victoria Harbour, this is a city that sizzles with energy and offers a unique combination of rural and urban enclaves. Dine at street carts in the Temple Street Night Market or head to Victoria Peak; the city’s most famous vantage point. Take a seat on a traditional junk or the Star Ferry sightseeing ship to see Hong Kong from the coastline; time it around 8pm and you’ll be perfectly placed to witness the Symphony of Lights that illuminate 47 buildings in Hong Kong’s harbour every evening.
The Middle East is hotly tipped as the next big thing and my, does it live up to its reputation. Bold, brash and everything in between, Dubai takes luxury to the next level. Star-spot and shop at Dubai Marina or venture into the desert for adrenaline fuelled adventures on the sand dunes.
If it’s history you’re looking for, Rhodes is your place. There’s little wonder this destination is the most visited of all the Greek islands, thanks to its 35 beaches and clear emerald waters. Venture into the 14th century Old Town, where you’ll find narrow paved streets, Byzantine Churches and a Venetian castle. The acropolis of Lindos is another must see.
The floating lagoon city of Venice deservedly features on many a bucket list and is one you can tick off on a Princess Cruises World Cruise. Ride a gondola, people watch in Piazza San Marco and explore Basilica di San Marco. Read our blog for more tips on free things to do in a city that captures the hearts of everyone who visits.
Get lost in Bermuda and soak up the Caribbean sun in Hamilton. View the whole city from Bermuda Cathedral or grab everything you need for a picnic in the gorgeous Queen Elizabeth Park. Front Street is the first place you’ll come across when arriving here and it sits at the heart of the destination, thanks to jazz clubs, restaurants, street stalls and live bands that flock to fill the area with the vibrancy one expects from the Caribbean.
The island of Curaçao isn’t just famous for its home grown liquor but for its laidback vibes and Dutch Caribbean heritage too. You may choose to stay on dry land and explore the region’s pretty pastel coloured homes, however we think much of Curaçao’s appeal lay in its waters. Secluded beaches are hidden around the island, each of them home to crystal clear waters and stunning coral reef. Colourful marine life makes diving and snorkelling a must, whilst adventures can go all out with mountain biking, horse riding and off-roading.
The man-made marvel of the Panama Canal is an undisputed bucket list destination, especially for keen cruisers. This feat of engineering was years in the making and now its huge locks control the level of water to enable ships to pass through its 51-mile length. Ships are lifted and lowered a total of 170 feet as they pass from the Caribbean to the Pacific, crossing over the Isthmus of Panama and into the Continental Divide.
A full transit along the Panama Canal as part of a world cruise is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime!
Is it about time you started planning your grown-up gap year? Find out more about the Princess Cruise 111-day voyage here.