On a day-to-day basis, though, living aboard a world-cruising ship is getting more and more like living ashore. "It's a change in mind-set," Maryanov says. "You're not out of communication or missing life's major events just because you're on a cruise." That's making the whole business a lot more attractive for the burgeoning number of younger, working-age passengers, many of whom still need to keep in touch with projects back home. "We have a family business, investing in and managing real estate," says Dianne Schoolfield, a 59-year-old Florida real estate investor who sailed aboard Crystal this year with her husband, Wayne, 64. "We had our laptop computer and a printer with us. We were able to stay in touch with the office almost every day." Plenty of world passengers are like Schoolfield, using the ship as a second home. "It's a lifestyle purchase," Maryanov explains. "Instead of spending the winter in Florida, they winter on board a cruise ship. They come back each season to the crew and the friends that they met during previous trips. That's why there's a loyalty."
Even devout world cruisers like a little variety, so the plotting of itineraries is designed to take advantage of special events. The Prinsendam timed its arrival off the coast of Turkey this past spring to coincide with a total solar eclipse. During next year's sailing, Crystal Serenity will stop in Rio during Carnival. The sailing route, too, has to be more interesting. Next year, Regent Seven Seas' Mariner will make a first-ever stop at Maputo, in Mozambique; next year, Silversea will make maiden calls at Pitcairn Island, Robinson Crusoe Island, and Easter Island. Upon reaching these distant ports, the ships may stay for several days, to let guests explore in depth, or even arrange land-based overnight excursions. On Crystal's 2006 world cruise, passengers took side trips to explore Uluru, Victoria Falls, and the Ngorongoro Crater, among other places.
Although it may seem to some that embarking on a lengthy cruise is too much of a good thing—a means to checking off different destinations like options on a luxury car—consuming travel on this scale somehow still feels more, well, fulfilling than accumulating wine bottles or stuffing new acquisitions into a four-car garage.
Back aboard the Prinsendam, Mary Rendas is finishing up her unpacking and getting ready to track down all the friends she hasn't seen in the past eight months. "We've become like a close-knit family," she says. "It's wonderful to see everyone, and catch up on news, and relive old memories. It's like a homecoming."
Jeff Wise is a T+L contributing editor.