In 1872, Jules Verne, one of the pioneers of science fiction, published his remarkable novel, Around the World in Eighty Days. It’s testament to how much science fact has replaced fiction that the journey could now be made in about three days by commercial airliner. But honestly, where’s the fun in that? What if you could travel at a more serene pace, stopping off at interesting and exotic places along the way, and travelling exclusively by sea on a cruise ship with as much food, drink and entertainment as you can handle? That would take about … eighty days, wouldn’t you think?
Welcome to Fred. Olsen’s most ambitious and memorable cruise, named in honour of Verne’s masterpiece, a travel goal that can genuinely be described as “once in a lifetime”. As you sail around the world, you’ll cover around 50,000 kilometres, more than 20 cities, three oceans and two feats of maritime engineering. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Southampton to Singapore
Your voyage starts in February as Balmoral leaves the final blast of the British winter behind, and you steam south into the Atlantic. Three days later you reach your first port of call, Lisbon, where you disembark in the morning and have a look around before re-boarding in the afternoon. (The city stops on this cruise are from morning to afternoon, evening or night.) Then it’s through the Strait of Gibraltar and onwards to Brindisi on the heel of Italy. Another three days in the Mediterranean will see you arrive at bustling Port Said, where you’ll spend the day, before two days making your way through the awesome Suez Canal en route to Safaga in Egypt.
Another week at sea in the balmy Indian Ocean carries you to Mumbai, Goa and Kochi, to take in the breath-taking sights and aromas of these Asian jewels over the following few days. And then it’s back on board towards the Malacca Strait and the city state of Singapore, a really impressive place where you can eat at a high end restaurant or a street food kiosk, shoulder to shoulder with its 5.5 million citizens.
Singapore to San Francisco
After Singapore you’ll sail up to Nha Trang in south-eastern Vietnam, where you’ll clock off your first month since leaving the UK. It’s a lovely fishing town where you might even try a little scuba diving in your day around town. But don’t miss the ship, because your next port makes Singapore feel like a country village – it’s Hong Kong, where 7.5 million people are crammed into just 2,700 square kilometres and it all somehow works perfectly. Your smaller-sized cruise ship leaves late at night so you can definitely enjoy some of its famed evening entertainment.
Another three days in the East China Sea is all you need to get you to Shanghai on the Yangtze, home to 25 million and with one of the most iconic skylines in the whole of Asia. Next, you’re heading north east to start your mini Japan cruise.
This part starts at Hakata in the south west of Japan, then head to the port of Kobe, from where you can take a day trip to Osaka, Japan’s second city. It’s everything you imagine Japan being – efficient and modern yet dignified and peaceful, a real eye-opener for anyone used to chaotic European city living. Next you’re going around the Kii Peninsula to Nagoya for a day, and on to Yokohama for your final stop in your four-city Japanese tour.
There’s now a whole week’s sailing before you reach Honolulu in Hawaii … or is there? Because about half way across, you’ll pass the International Date Line, where the calendar jumps forward 24 hours, meaning it’s really only six days’ sailing. It might play havoc with your Wordle streak, but you’ll get over it. After Honolulu, Lahaina and Hilo on this captivating volcanic island, you’ve got just four days before you reach the west coast of the USA.
San Francisco to St Kitts
How do you spend your day in San Francisco? Marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge or ride the trolley cars? Or perhaps you’ll want to view the infamous Alcatraz Island? San Fran is a foodie’s paradise, too, which is something you’ll no doubt want to experience. San Diego is a couple of days away, and a bit of a contrast to your previous stop, being a populous city but one that just lives a gear or two slower – and the beaches are spectacular.
Next stop: Acapulco, synonymous with celebrity, excess and debauchery, but again, you might be happy with a day on the beach, sipping cocktails. Your three-day sail to Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica will take you past the two month mark, and once you arrive you’ll be struck by the calmness of this place after your last few city stopovers. It’s definitely a place to just sit and look at the mountains or the ships sailing by. You’ll certainly get used to seeing ships on your next leg, through the incredible Panama Canal that links the Pacific in the west with the Atlantic in the East, via three locks. A bit of trivia for the dinner table: the Pacific entrance is actually about 40km to the east of the Atlantic entrance, as the canal doubles back on itself.
Once out of the canal, you’ve got two Colombian cities to explore: Cartagena de Indias and Santa Marta. The first is a historic relic of Spanish colonial times, but is a lively and exciting place today, full of terrace cafes and music. The second is a delightful Caribbean resort, with miles of immaculate beaches and one of the most impressive cathedrals in Latin America.
After this, the journey home starts, but not before visiting Tortola in the Virgin Islands, and Basseterre in St Kitts, two romantic and lush locations under the (almost) guaranteed tropical sun.
St Kitts to Southampton
A mere five days’ sailing later you’re technically back in Europe, once again in Portugal, but this time it’s Ponta Delgada. But don’t worry, you’re not quite home yet. This port is on the island of São Miguel in the Azores, 1,400 km west of Lisbon. It’s a true tropical paradise, and will be the last time you step foot on terra firma before you arrive back in Southampton three days later.
This terrific experience is a voyage through the Med, an Asian cruise, a holiday to Japan, a trans-oceanic odyssey, a tour of the Americas and a Caribbean cruise all rolled into one. We’ve whistled through the stops here, but if you want a full day-by-day breakdown, get yourself a coffee and head over to the cruise’s itinerary page for details.