When I read that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines was visiting Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, and oh yes, the Cape Verde islands off west Africa, with a wide choice of excursions in each port, we booked immediately.

Escorted by dolphins, Boudicca’s first port of call, Mindelo was in Cape Verde. Our tour included the lively fish market where exotic catches were displayed, then the African market. On to Cat Fish and North Bay, where mountain meets white sand dunes against the crashing Atlantic surf.

Immediately apparent was the infectious friendliness, intimacy and benefits of a smaller ship. Crossing the equator was fun with King Neptune and his entourage performing the ceremony. Life on board was equally entertaining with delicious cuisine, interesting guest speakers, amenities, activities, and evenings in the theatre.

In Brazil’s Salvador our walking tour took in the African and Portuguese architecture. The main square, Terreiro de Jesus, is an atmospheric hub of cultural activity, with women in traditional dress and musicians and dancers performing. We enjoyed a lunch of ‘queijo coalho’ – grilled goats cheese – which was delicious at just 50p a skewer. I had four. In the streets off the main drag, parades of drummers sounded out samba beats. The city is vibrant, colourful and intoxicating; no surprise then that it’s called ‘the capital of joy’.

Down the coast is Ilheus, and we journeyed back through lush forest to Tijuipe waterfall, which cascades into a crystal clear pool before weaving its way through a rocky tributary. With only the sound of the waterfall and tropical bird song, nature is at its best. No visit to Ilheus is complete without sipping a cold beer in bar Versuvio, among the most famous in Brazil.

Next was the island of Ilha Grande, once home to pirates. Boarding a schooner we sailed to Blue Lagoon – actually aquamarine in colour – and swam and snorkelled with tropical fish while gazing at amazing coral. Sailing on to a deserted beach we soaked up the sun, then it was on to Ilha Grande village – surrounded by rain forest, watered by clouds from the Amazon. The village is a labyrinth of quaint streets adorned with tropical flowers. Here we feasted on Brazilian-style chicken with local beer for £8 per person.

We sailed into Rio de Janeiro full of expectation. First meandering along Copacabana’s black and white pavements, absorbing its vibrancy, then Ipenema beach to enjoy its quieter sophistication.

A panoramic tour covered highlights, including a funicular ride through forest to the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Rio also has an efficient low cost tram and metro system, making it easy to visit places of interest, none more than Ipenema market with its leather goods and silver.

Arriving at Ilhabela –the beautiful island – we climbed into a jeep. We travelled a few miles to Pedro do Sino, across rugged mountains, through the rain forest, to Jabaquara beach, where our schooner awaited us.

Next was Montevideo, Uruguay. Our guide walked us through the city’s impressive main squares. The city offers a balance of old and new districts. In contrast is Punte Del Este, an affluent resort, with villas and apartments facing an impressive promenade and beaches, and a harbour filled with stunning yachts. On the Brava Beach is the La Mano sculpture depicting a giant hand emerging from the sand.

Overnight we sailed to Buenos Aires, Argentina, then took a river boat on the Tigre Delta, its rivers, canals and islands lined with tropical trees and colourful shrubs. It is home to century old mansions, English style cottages, villas and smaller houses, some on stilts painted in bright hues.

The city has many highlights, most memorable being Recoleta Cemetery, resting place of Eva Peron, and La Boca, the cultural district for artists, musicians and the rhythm of the tango. My worst nightmare was realised when the beautiful Nina invited me to dance with her. Panicking I told her that I had three left feet, but to no avail. The applause, I believe was in sympathy for my partner.

This cruise fulfilled an ambition, exceeding all expectations; Boudicca and its shore tours leaving us with indelible memories.

* Balmoral’s L1803 cruise named Rio Carnival & River Plate calls into Rio during the annual carnival and involves three overnight stays. It departs Southampton on January 23, 2018. Details from fredolsencruises.com, call 0800 0355 242 or visit an ABTA travel agent.

* In 2017/18 Fred Olsen’s fleet of four smaller ships will be visiting 220 destinations in 70 countries.