Trip of a Lifetime

Richard Connor

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.

  • Airfare to and from London: $1,000
  • 105 nights of lodging: $200 per night
  • 105 dinners: $40 per meal
  • 102 lunches: $30 per meal
  • 105 breakfasts: $15 per meal
  • 45 excursions: $100 each
  • 54 lectures: $100 each

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.

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