Of course, when history's most famous navigator first set off on a westerly course more than 500 years ago he was looking for a passage to Asia, and while he may not have made it to the Orient, he did discover an entirely new continent while at the same time proving once and for all that the Earth is round.
Back then it was known as the New World, although these days the American continent is one of the most tried and tested holiday destinations on the planet, and if you're looking for a novel way to explore the region then taking a sailing trip could be the perfect solution for you. Here's a look at just a few of the best places in the Americas to raise anchor.
Cruising from the UK to New York is one of the classiest ways to cross the pond, and in doing so you'll follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers the world has ever known, as well as many of the most glamorous ships from more modern times. Ships such as the iconic RMS Queen Mary helped to make this route famous during the middle years of the 20th century, and those who undertake the voyage will even get the chance to sail right past the spot where the Titanic sank.
Once in New York, you will no doubt want to explore the many amazing attractions to be found on dry land, although if you fancy a bit more nautical action then be sure to head upstate to the Finger Lakes, which are among the top sailing destinations in the US. The deepest and most popular of these is Seneca Lake, although there are in fact 11 lakes to choose from, all of which boast some of the most impressive aquatic landscapes you're ever likely to see.
The turquoise waters of the Caribbean have long been synonymous with sailors, and it was in fact here that Columbus first landed – on the island of Hispaniola, to be specific. In the centuries that followed, the region became infested with pirates searching for treasure, although these days you won't have to fight anyone to get a taste of the good life.
Destinations such as the British Virgin Islands – which consists of 40 idyllic isles – are among the most spectacular sailing spots in the world, while many other Caribbean locations are known for their amazing duty free shopping. Indeed, if you're looking for the ultimate retail holiday then be sure to visit islands such as Nassau, Curacao and St Maarten, all of which offer luxury shopping with no tax.
Sitting some 900 km west of mainland South America, the Galapagos Islands are among the most fascinating destinations on the planet, with all sorts of unique wildlife to discover here. It was of course in this very archipelago that Charles Darwin developed his theories of evolution and natural selection, and to this day the islands continue to attract visitors in search of the world's most intriguing animals.
From equatorial penguins to giant tortoises, there are literally hundreds of unique creatures to be found here, and with activities like scuba diving, kayaking and snorkelling offered on most sailing trips around the islands, there really is never a dull moment.