All-inclusive luxury cruise specialists Regent Seven Seas Cruises are one of our most popular luxury cruise lines. But what are, or indeed what were the Seven Seas? Where are they today? Could we explore them on a luxury cruise?
The phrase ‘sail the seven seas’ is sometimes used as a way of referring to travelling across the world’s oceans in general but it also refers to seven actual seas and as a term, dates back as far back as 2300BC to the time of the ancient Sumerians. In fact, there are over 100 bodies of water classed as seas today – so where were the seven seas themselves?
In medieval Arabian literature, the seven seas were described as those which one would have to cross to get to China – a key trade route in those times. As the 9th century author Yaqubi would have it, the seven seas were the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Khambhat, the Bay of Bengal, the Strait of Malacca, the Singapore Strait, the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. These days, on our Middle and Far East cruise, we could undertake this journey without a second thought, crossing many of those seas but in those days, it was a big deal.
In medieval Europe, the concept of the seven seas was popular too and can trace its origins back to ancient Greece and Rome. In literature from the time, the seven seas were the Adriatic Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea. Here, we can see, we’re getting into more familiar territory as far as cruise itineraries are concerned. Black sea, Red Sea and Adriatic itineraries are all popular, taking us to a host of Middle Eastern and Greek island ports and obviously, the Mediterranean speaks for itself as one of the most enduring cruise destinations. The Arabian Sea is part of the Indian Ocean, which we may cross on our cruise to India. The Caspian Sea however, would pose more of a problem for us, as it’s landlocked and the largest body of water on Earth which is enclosed by land.
The Chinese way
While we’re on the subject of phrases, you’ve probably heard ‘not for all the tea in China’ uttered on occasion. Well, back in Colonial times, the clippers would take the tea route from China to England and bring some of it back. Back then, Indonesia was known as the Dutch East Indies and those who cruised by it along this epic trade route crossed seven seas – the Banda, the Celebes, the Flores, the Java, the Sulu, the Timor and the South China Sea. If you’d sailed the seven seas in those days, it stood to reason that you’d gone literally to the other side of the world on your tea mission to China.
The Seven Seas today
These days, after the discovery of the Americas and the mapping of the entire Earth, things have understandably changed, including the seven seas. The older ones may still exist but it’s the world’s largest bodies of water which are widely regarded as the seven seas today. In case you’re a little rusty on your geography, those are the Arctic, Antarctic, North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Indian Ocean. Obviously, your transatlantic cruise will take you across one of those, depending on whether you’re setting sail for North or South America. The Pacific is the world’s largest ocean, and you’ll cross it on your journey to Asia or Australia, while the Indian Ocean can be sailed, naturally, on your cruise to India. As for the Arctic and Antarctic, you’ll only visit them on an expedition cruise which explores the iciest reaches of the world.
By Simon Brotherton