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What It’s Like to Be on a 40-Day Long Cruise

According to a published report by the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, nearly 26 million people worldwide cruised in 2017 (over 11 million of which were Americans) and yet only a small fraction of those have experienced a long-haul sailing.

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Luxury cruise ship sailing from port on sunrise.NAN728/Shutterstock

A month+ at sea

Cruising is not only a great way to easily visit a variety of locations during a single vacation, but cruise ships themselves have become in-demand destinations with Broadway-caliber entertainment and ice skating rinks on board, and in the case of the new Norwegian Encore, go-kart racing on the top deck! Longer cruises offer all the fun of standard sailings. Additionally, longer cruises offer a whole lot more that sets the experience at sea apart. Before you book a cruise of any length, find out the tips for what to pack—and not pack for your trip.

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Cruise ship sailing in Alaska at duskCAN BALCIOGLU/Shutterstock

What’s a 40+ day-long cruise?

While you could technically book a cabin on a half-dozen consecutive weeklong cruises to spend over 40 days at sea, there are special, long cruises that offer all the fun you would expect on a cruise ship plus a whole lot of extra perks exclusive to 40+ day-long cruises. Find out the best cruise for every type of traveler.

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Two couples meeting on the deck of a cruise ship.Erickson Stock/Shutterstock

Sense of community

“One of the main differences between a standard length voyage and extended voyages can be summed up as the difference between a holiday and a journey,” shares Vitor Alves, deputy director, hotel, expeditions and new build at Seabourn Cruise Line. A 40-day-long cruise is a journey and those are, “More intense and dynamically engaging—in both onboard and ashore experiences–with a higher sense of community and human bonds forming with ships’ staff.” Alves goes on to point out that, “The sense of community and long-lasting relationships carry forward after the long cruise journey has ended.” And Seabourn should know, as they offer 140+ day world cruises. They also made it on to our list of the best all-inclusive cruise lines.

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people dancing on cruise shipMichael W NZ/Shutterstock

The passengers are different

Another big difference between a standard weeklong cruise and a 40+ day cruise journey are the passengers, shares Tanner Callais, founder and editor of Cruzely. Expect to see an older and more affluent crowd at the buffet and in the theaters on board a long cruise. Callais says, “It makes sense as not everyone can take off for a couple of weeks or afford the cost of these longer cruises; those that can are [usually] retired and financially secure.” A 40-day cruise might not be ideal for families but these best cruises for kids are.

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cruise ship crewSalvador Aznar/Shutterstock

Getting to know the crew

Of course, it is possible to get friendly with remarkable crew members over the course of seven days, but a 40-day cruise allows guests to really get to know the crew. “By the end of a long cruise, everyone knows everybody else by their first name,” says Sherry Laskin of CruiseMaven.

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rear view of young couple standing on ship deck during sunsetmichaeljung/Shutterstock

More opportunities to learn

“Don’t expect to see the ‘hairy chest’ contest poolside like you would on certain cruises to the Caribbean,” Callais says. “Instead, many activities on a 40-day-long cruise revolve around enrichment, including classes about countries and cultures visited on the cruise and even stargazing programs. It’s definitely a more refined atmosphere.” On Carnival’s Journeys (the name given to the line’s longer sailings), for example, ship’s officers will walk passengers through the historical art and science of celestial navigation—how mariners once navigated the seas before the invention of radar and GPS as part of Carnival’s Academy of Fun. Here are little travel hacks to make your next cruise easier.

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dubai cruise shipsseeshooteatrepeat/Shutterstock

Unique ports of call

Longer cruises often offer unique ports of calls that are not common during one-week cruises, giving travelers with the time and money to take a cruise of more than 40 days a distinctive cruise experience. On Princess Cruise Line’s 55-day Mediterranean Transatlantic cruise departing Dubai in March 2021, for example, guests will enjoy exploring ports in Oman, Monte Carlo, the Canary Islands, and Huatulco, an Oaxaca Mexican port not on most cruise itineraries. These are more under-the-radar cruise ports to visit before anyone else.

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A served table in a restaurant against the backdrop of a huge round window on a cruise ship.aerophoto/Shutterstock

Personal service

One of the special benefits of the familiarity that comes from being together for 40 or more days on a cruise ship is main dining room servers anticipating what you’d like to have on the table waiting for you to be seated, says Laskin. For example, on one long haul cruise she took, “On the first couple of nights, one table mate, would ask for a glass of milk with dinner. By the third or fourth night, it was waiting for him when he arrived.” She received similar treatment at dinner, with the little dinner rolls that Celebrity used to serve. “Those little crunchy bits were few and far between but the waiter always had two of my favorite rolls on my butter plate when I sat down!”

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cruise ship performanceJose Gil/Shutterstock

All-request performances

Audiences at cruise ship shows may have more of a say in the entertainment, says Alissa Musto, a professional cruise ship entertainer. “As a piano bar entertainer, longer cruises will consist of more ‘all-request’ performances rather than standard, themed shows with definite setlists,” to ensure guests don’t hear the same songs over and over again. Discover the behind-the-scenes secrets of Carnival Cruise Line.

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cruise ship entertainmentEWY Media/Shutterstock

Passenger-led entertainment

It’s not just professional entertainers who get in on the fun. “One thing that seems to happen a lot is that passenger-led entertainment tends to be more prevalent on long cruises,” Laskin shares. This involves more interactive participation from fellow cruises, “In the form of karaoke, game shows, and of course trivia—sometimes there’s trivia three times a day and trivia team friendships sometimes last years after the cruise has ended.” Sounds like you’ll want to brush up on the answers to these trivia questions only geniuses get right.

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Romantic vacation. Young loving couple enjoying sunset on cruise ship deck. Sailing the sea.kudla/Shutterstock


There’s no way to dance around it, even if the music is changing often to keep it fresh for passengers, you will probably get bored on a 40-day-long cruise. You’ll likely get bored with the people, the entertainment, and the dinner menu, which as Laskin points out is the “one thing that does get a little monotonous.” She goes on to say that “depending on the cruise line, the menu could repeat itself every week or ten days or so. Usually, whatever length itinerary the ship previously sailed, that’s how many days they’ll use the same menu. So if the ship just finished a season of seven-night cruises, chances are you’ll have the same menu rotation every week for however many weeks you’re on the long cruise.” One thing you’ll never get bored of? These stunning views you can only get from a Mediterranean cruise.

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Cosmo by the Sea on the Deck of a Cruise ShipEmily Luxton/Shutterstock

Extra perks

There are extra perks often included when booking a 40-day cruise, some of which are given before you arrive and others for you to enjoy onboard your long cruise, according to Callais. The Cruzely editor says that “it’s not uncommon for passengers to have their flights included to and from the embarkation port, free Internet, alcohol, and even free medical care on the ship.” Find out what cruise experts wish travelers knew before booking.

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Buffet on the deck of a cruise ship, pool partyIna Meer Sommer/Shutterstock

Regional food

Every cruise ship should pay homage to each port of call, in some way, especially in the dining room. To what degree the menu changes to reflect the port you’re arriving at or departing from depends on your itinerary, the size of the ship, and how many passengers are on board, but on a 40-day-long cruise you should expect the chef to have made arrangements for fresh provisions to be brought on board that reflects the cuisine of the region. On a cruise in Greece for example, you may get treated to fresh anchovies and grilled halloumi.

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Couple playfully relaxing on boat deck aboard a cruise ship.Erickson Stock/Shutterstock

More activities

Whether it is through educational lectures, cooking classes, local dance or music workshops, nature viewings, or art exhibits, longer cruises will often offer additional activities to make being on a ship for 40 or more days more enjoyable and also more unique than standard length sailings, thus increasing the value proposition of such a cruise journey.

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cruise ship cabinPhotoStock10/Shutterstock

Coming home to your cabin

Finally, Laskin notes that her cabin becomes something more than just a hotel room at sea when on a long haul cruise. In fact, that’s what she likes best about a longer than usual cruise. “The feeling like you’re coming home when you return to the ship after a busy day in port,” Laskin says. Certainly, a 40-day cruise is a bucket list trip you need to take once in your lifetime.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.