Following the Footsteps of Famous Explorers


Although almost every inch of the world has been explored and mapped (with the odd exception), we still attach a certain romance to navigating the seas and exploring beyond the horizon. As the famous seafaring explorers go down in the annals of history, their spirit and courage lives on, and we continue to follow the paths they forged across land and sea.

Sea travel allowed Western countries such as Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Portugal to expand their horizons and explore new lands, with famous navigators such as Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo and Ernest Shackleton mapping the modern world. Here we have a look at how you can recreate history and follow in the footsteps of famous nautical navigators.

Christopher Columbus

Monte Carlo

Widely known for discovering the Americas (although it was already inhabited, and had been visited by an 11th century Norse expedition), Columbus is perhaps history’s most famous explorer. Born in modern day Genoa, Columbus is reported to have first taken to the seas at the tender age of 10.

Despite thinking the new lands he had discovered were Asia, Columbus completed four roundtrips to Central America between 1492 and 1503. Believing the lands to be part of East Indies, Columbus is responsible for Native Americans being falsely referred to as Red Indians for hundreds of years.

For the modern day Columbus, the Mediterranean Passage to America transports guests from beautiful Venice to the southern state of Florida. The Holland America Line ship, Nieuw Amsterdam, explores many of Europe’s most beautiful cities including Monte Carlo, Barcelona and the Portuguese Azores before making its way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Marco Polo


Like Columbus, Marco Polo was best known for his explorations of a previously-discovered region – but his depictions of Asia were the first comprehensive Western records of a region. Polo’s explorations through Asia began in 1271, at the age of seventeen, when he set off with his father and uncle.

The trio travelled throughout the region for 24 years, amassing a huge wealth of treasures and jewels. Upon returning to his native Venice, he discovered his home city was at war with neighbouring Genoa and he was arrested. During his imprisonment, Polo dictated his travels to fellow prisoner and romance writer Rustichello da Pisa. The Travels of Marco Polo became a hugely popular and influential tome – influencing, amongst others, the aforementioned Columbus.

Even if you don’t have 24 years to dedicate to a comprehensive exploration holiday, Princess Cruises’ Treasures of Asia cruise can introduce you to some of the continent’s most beautiful sights and cities. The cruise aboard the Sun Princess takes in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia as part of a two week cruise.

Captain James Cook


Not many explorers have contributed more to cartography than Captain James Cook who was the first man from the Western world to navigate much of the Pacific Ocean. Cook’s involvement with mapping the world started when he joined the merchant navy as a teenager – before moving to the Royal Navy at the age of 27.

Over three voyages, Cook sailed thousands of nautical miles across uncharted parts of the globe – exploring and documenting lands that no Westerner had ever heard of. From New Zealand to Hawaii, Captain Cook demonstrated incredible surveying and cartographic skills as well as physical courage and exemplary leadership. Cook was eventually killed in a fight with Hawaiians, at the age of 50.

Pay tribute to Cook on Carnival Cruises’ Hawaii trip. The Carnival Miracle completes a Los Angeles roundtrip which takes in a number of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands including Kaua’i, Maui and the big island of Hawaii.

Sir Francis Drake

2418536788_4c95e26b86_b_opt (1)

Sir Francis Drake was the first man to captain an entire circumnavigation of the world in a single expedition. Although a hero in England, Drake was regarded as a pirate amongst the Spanish – against whom he fought, as second-in-command of the English fleet against the Spanish Armada.

Sailing westwards, Drake’s famous circumnavigation started in Plymouth before travelling south to Africa and under the southernmost tip of South America. He then steered his ship, Pelican, through the islands of the South Pacific and towards South Africa, before returning to Plymouth. The circumnavigation took roughly three years to complete.

Southampton has overtaken Plymouth as the main cruise terminal of England’s south coast – but the city’s port still offers round-the-world trips for brave explorers. The Roundtrip Southampton cruise aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will complete the circumnavigation in a fraction of the time it took Captain Cook – a mere 118 nights. The extraordinary cruise takes in dozens of countries as it completes an eastward loop of the globe.

Ernest Shackleton

Buenos Aires

The most recent entry on this list and an explorer of one of the world’s last charted areas; Shackleton led three expeditions to the Antarctic. The intrepid explorer aimed to become the first man to cross the Antarctic from sea-to-sea via the pole. However, his ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed. Shackleton and his crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it melted then launching the lifeboats to Elephant Island, 720 stormy nautical miles away.

Despite being knighted and fondly remembered, Shackleton’s exploits always seemed to be slightly unfortunate, alongside the crushing of the Endurance, he was also beaten in the race to the South Pole, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 47 whilst his ship was moored in South Georgia.

The Celebrity Infinity is one of the few major cruise ships which regularly visits one of the most treacherous but exciting places on the planet. The Antarctic cruise sets sails from the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires, and visits the famous Elephant Island as well as Cape Horn and Port Stanley before returning to South America.

Alternatively, if you want to complete your own explorations – Cruise1st can offer exclusive deals on cruises to every corner of the globe. For more information about the great packages available from Cruise1st, visit the homepage or call our dedicated sales team on 0808 2746 777.

Images sourced via Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Rodrigo Soldon, Chi King, Ricardo MangualSouth African Tourism and Gisela Giardino.

Following the Footsteps of Famous Explorers
Article Name
Following the Footsteps of Famous Explorers
Although almost every inch of the world has been explored and mapped (with the odd exception), we still attach a certain romance to navigating the seas and exploring beyond the horizon.

About Author

Avatar photo

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

Comments are closed.