MY FAVORITE NOVEL by Jules Verne is Around the World in 80 Days, which I first read as a child. It was published in 1872, and documented Phileas Fogg’s attempt to circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The book has been made into a play, six movies and a half-dozen television series, including a recent entertaining PBS series. The Three Stooges even released a feature film version in 1963.
The Wikipedia entry for the novel lists 10 real-life attempts to replicate the fictional journey. In 1988, Michael Palin—of Monty Python fame—completed a similar trip in 79 days and seven hours for a BBC documentary.
The idea of traveling around the world has always intrigued me. A good friend took a Semester at Sea voyage in 1999. The trips are intended for fulltime students, but offer a handful of slots for “lifelong learners.” My friend fit that description. His stories from the trip were fascinating.
Another colleague and his wife took an extended South Pacific cruise. The cruise lasted about 100 days, with an equal number of days on land and at sea. It originated in Los Angeles and ended in Australia. In between, they cruised to Hawaii, New Zealand and a number of idyllic-sounding South Pacific islands.
My wife and I just booked a 2023 trip to Alaska’s Inner Passage with Road Scholar. My brother and sister-in-law are also going. They’re veterans of Road Scholar trips.
Road Scholar also offers a 107-day voyage on the Queen Mary 2. The trip begins and ends in London. In between, it visits 18 countries and four continents. The price starts at $39,999 for an inside stateroom and goes up to $49,999 for a suite with a balcony. This is the price per person, double occupancy.
That sounded pretty steep to me. But the trip includes 105 nights of lodging, 312 meals, 45 excursions, and transportation to and from the embarkation point. At the lowest price point, it amounts to $374 per day, or $2,617 per week.
To put this in perspective, I did a little analysis to break down the costs. These are my guesses, but I think they’re reasonable. The estimates are per person, and roughly add up to $40,000. The cost per couple would be double.
The Queen Mary 2 is a luxury ship. The lodging cost includes use of the ship’s amenities, such as the gym, library and planetarium. It also includes entertainment, like live music, magic shows and Broadway-style extravaganzas. And, of course, there’s afternoon tea.
A trip like this provides some real advantages. You don’t have to switch hotels, board flights or trains, or repack your bags. Your cabin includes a king size bed and private bath. Meals are prepared for you, and stewards clean your room.
Moreover, a trip like this offers the chance to see a large swath of the world with minimal effort. There are alternative voyages available, with price tags ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 per person.
I view trips like this as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m not sure I’m ready to fork over that kind of money—or, for that matter, to spend three months on a cruise ship. But the idea of a longer trip that hits many of the world’s iconic sites has its appeal, and not just to me: The 2023 Road Scholar trip is already sold out.
I have been on a German freighter ship “The Spirit of Sydney” from Charleston, SC to Auckland, NZ. These are working cargo ships that allow a few passengers (4-10). You get a nice cabin with a window. You eat with captain and crew. This ship went from Charleston to Columbia, Panama, through the Panama Canal and clear across the Pacific to Auckland. 22 days. I loved it. I spent mornings in the top observation deck watching sunrise (and later sunset). I would chat with Captain and his aides who explained navigational tools. I would sit there and read a book for hours. I would walk for 5-6 miles after breakfast around the lower deck (0.7 miles/round). We could watch movies in the library or in our cabin. At night I would sit out and watch the spectacular night sky. They had big parties when we crossed the equator, international date line and also for Christmas and New Year. Unlike cruise ships there is no forced entertainment here. You make your own. You can even do around the world freighter cruises. You can explore this further here: https://www.freightercruises.com/
My husband’s uncle and wife (the uncle worked in the shipping industry) did this decades ago. I didn’t know it was still possible. Thanks so much for your comment and the link!
Freighter cruises are far less expensive compared to cruise ships (about $100-125/day including food and board. Cargo ships ride deep in the water and roll much less than cruise ships, which ride high above water, so you are less likely to be seasick. You can also subscribe a freighter cruise newsletter. There is a dedicated group of people who love this way of travel. You can take a short trip across the Atlantic to Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
After reading an ad in travel and leisure in 1981 that advised “for once in your life, live”, I signed us,( me, wife, 10 year old son), up for the 80 day QE2 world cruise in 1982. I had saved enough for the down payment on a new house and spent it all on the cruise. We weren’t rich but it was the times when oil seemed to be running out and the trip had been on my bucket list since age 8 as a little boy in Staten Island watching the British ships come into NY harbor. I gave my partner my salary for three months and we taught our son fifth grade on the ship. I never regretted it and never built the new house. Every day was an adventure and my son would watch George C Scott play cards with Art Buchwald on sea days. We rode elephants in Sri Lanka, sampans in Hong Kong harbor, hydrofoils to Macau, met Christian Barnard in Capetown, cabled car up Table Mountain and Corcovado, watched ash spew from Sakurajima volcano, and cruised the Panama Canal. In a more secure financial position in 2005 we did it again east to west and splurged on five day land tours in China, India, New Zealand and Australia. What a memorable experience!
OMG! You knew the value of experiences over things long before that became the current parenting mantra. What an amazing time for your son and wise to have done it before the angst of the teen years hit 😉
I’ll admit I’m fascinated with the option of taking a lengthy cruise that allows you to see a ton of places in one fell swoop. My husband and I have talked about it for a post-retirement splurge in a few years.
We just (two months ago) took a 9-day Viking ocean cruise from Venice to Athens, with stops in Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and three different Greek islands. It was lovely and avoided the pitfalls that some other commenters have mentioned—there are plenty of dining options and no assigned seating or formal nights, the service is stellar, and Viking really focuses on history and culture. There are no children under 18 and no casinos. The ship was gorgeous and our stateroom with balcony was well appointed and comfortable.
I really have no complaints, yet I still wonder if I’d enjoy a much longer cruise. Even in nine days, I got tired of the food, but still, of course, managed to overeat and put on a few pounds. I also felt overscheduled, though that was partly our choice in terms of the tours we chose. There were no at-sea days on this itinerary, and while I think I might enjoy a couple of those, I might get bored if there were too many. So I’m not sure. The biggest draw is what you said—being able to see a lot of places with minimal effort. If we do it, that will be why.
Rick, I enjoyed this, and admit my jaw dropped at the price tag of some of the lengthy excursions you cited.
As for cruise ship voyages, I admit to an aversion. During the one and only one I’ve been on, the entire time I couldn’t get past the certainty that I was trapped—no way to escape from a ship!
Not exactly, we escaped from one ship to another in the middle of the Pacific – but I know what you means.
I totally agree with Richard Quinn! We went on a cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1980. It was my first cruise and the worst trip ever for me and my wife. We had booked an outside room with a window. When we boarded, we were told that the room was taken and we’d be given an upgraded room two levels up. We thought, great. Well, it was in the front bow of the ship–a room shaped like a triangle with bunk beds. I got the uppermost bed that was too short for my 6′-2″ frame. To top it off, the crew quarters were across the hall. They must have been heavy drinkers and sang and made noise all night for the rest of the trip. Oh, room service was a joke. We had to use the same washcloths and towels for several nights, and after spent much time trying to get our room cleaned and fresh linens before it happened. We had the same experience with snobby guests at our table, and weren’t permitted to switch tables. The vegetables that were served tasted like they came from a can–not fresh at all. Our assigned waiters weren’t attentive at all, and we had to almost beg to even get our water glasses refreshed. After the trip, we wrote to the White Star Line detailing our bad experience, and all they did was to offer a $100 discount on our next cruise with them. Needless to say, we’ll never go on a cruise on their line again. Fifteen years later, my wife talked me into taking another cruise–this time on a Royal Caribbean liner. It was for a week, and it was wonderful. My wife requested a table for two that we had to ourselves the whole week long trip, our room had a balcony, room service and wait staff were excellent. What a difference. But, to sum it up, all our other trips were either by plane, car, or train. I don’t do so well with the rocking ships in even calm seas–have to take motion sickness meds!
Thanks for the interesting article! I admit I lack the ‘travel’ gene. I’m a complete homebody. That said, I’ve recently become fascinated with the Viking culture–as it turns out, my DNA heritage indicates I likely have quite a bit of viking blood in my pedigree. If I ever were to travel, it would most likely be on the type of experience the Road Scholar folks offer.
Or Atlas Obscura. Check out their website if you’re not familiar. You can also travel virtually with them 😊, as you can with Road Scholar. Oh wait, I forgot this is an INVESTMENT advice column (Invest in experiences, I say, at home or awa).
About 20 years ago, we spent 3 weeks traveling around Norway, with Norwegian friends as travel guides. What an amazing country!
I have been round the world four times, twice in each direction. It was definitely not on a cruise ship – I would find the sea days boring, and the time in port far, far too short. I was also able to travel for much less than you estimate, even in expensive countries. For example, I spent five weeks in Japan in 2016 and my daily average was $175 – and I wasn’t sleeping in capsule hotels!
Wow. Those trips must have been amazing! We’ve done 1 round the world trip (W to E). It was my wife, our 2 kids, and me for 11 months with only our backpacks and none of the journey was on a boat (ok small ferries to some islands). I agree with your perspective and look forward to more.
Congratulations on the family trip! My longest (ten months) featured Scotland to Saigon by rail – lots of detours but including the Trans Mongolian route.
Rail travel – BINGO. I do hope much of our future travel is by rail. Overnight trains in countries like Egypt and Thailand were fun so I can only imagine a route like Scotland to Saigon would be extraordinary. I’m happy you were able to do that.
A cruise on the Queen Mary was a bucket list item of mine. A few years ago I bit the bullet and shelled out really big bucks for a short cruise. We flew to Quebec, boarded the ship, sailed north to Nova Scotia and back to NY.
To make it an experience we had a luxury cabin. It came with a butler, walk-in closet, a concierge on the deck, afternoon tea and we ate in the Queen’s Grill.
It wasn’t worth the expense. After the initial day we never saw the butler who did nothing the first day except show us to our cabin. Once I went to our concierge to ask for reservations at a different restaurant and she handed me the phone number to call. Our dining mates – all Americans- were the most obnoxious snobs I ever met. One evening we went to dinner early to avoid them and even though there were plenty of open tables we were given a hard time making the change. The high spot was in the Queens Grill you could ask for just about anything for dinner a night in advance. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I ordered lobster Thermidor one night just for fun. It worked.
The cafeteria (I’m sure it was called something else) was unappealing, but I went there just to find someone to talk to. It was filled with middle class Brits who had sailed from England to NY. I spent some enjoyable hours in conversation with several including union leaders talking about health care. It was far more enjoyable than listening to the blabber at dinner about the next three cruises that had already been booked.
It was an experience I’m glad we had, but it wasn’t fun. Much too structured and snobbish. To top it off on the way to NYC we ran into really rough seas so strong was the wind the balcony door would not open. The Captain reminded the guests that they were not on a cruise ship, but an ocean liner. Small comfort.
I doubt I would do it again, but it doesn’t matter. After the last three years I’m quite sure my tux no longer fits.
My most memorable cruise experience was on a Caribbean cruise when our kids were teenagers. Unbeknownst to me, my wife and kids signed me up for a ” hairiest chest” contest, complete with a walk down a makeshift runway in front of hundreds of fellow passengers. I thought about backing out, but after a few drinks I figured I’m never going to see any of these people again, so what the heck! (I came in third).
really funny Mike, your family has a sense of humor. Great story D. Quinn & R. Connor.