For 69 trainees with Spain's navy, their stint on board the elegant ship known as the Juan Sebastián Elcano was a chance to consolidate everything they'd learned during their years of training.
During a six-month journey, they travelled 18,000 nautical miles (33,000km), passing through ports in countries as diverse as Norway and Colombia.
They also had the chance to meet top navy brass who visited the vessel en route.
For some of the paid sailors on the vessel, however, the cruise was an opportunity of a different kind.
On the ship's recent return to Spain, three crew members were arrested for allegedly transporting 20kg of cocaine from Colombia and then selling it on the streets of New York.
The arrest — the product of an international search warrant — came after their dealer in the US city gave them up.
Now it turns out their operations might have been a little larger than previously thought.
An extensive search of the vessel has revealed 127kg of cocaine stashed away in a storeroom for the ship's sails, Spain's El País newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to the investigation.
They stood to make as much as €555,000 ($735,000) on the back of the deal, the daily added on Thursday.
Spain's Civil Guard police force now believe this may not be the first time the Juan Sebastián Elcano has been used to ship drugs, and are proceeding with investigations.
The three sailors arrested in the case are currently on remand in a military prison near Madrid and face up to six years for drug trafficking.
The Juan Sebastián Elcano is named after the Spanish Basque explorer who captained the boat which completed the first circumnavigation of the globe in the 16th century.
It is one of the largest traditionally rigged sailing vessels in the world, and is also where Spain's King Felipe and his father King Juan Carlos completed their own navy training.