Have you always wanted to learn about the cosmos, Roman history or Modern Art. Perhaps it time to upskill your computer knowledge. Have you ever considered your next cruising holiday as an opportunity to enrich your mind and body with a range of programs that focus on everything from zumba to photography.
Perhaps it's been a lifelong dream to learn how to navigate a cruise ship, create a website, or improve your Bridge skills, all of which are great for exercising the brain power. By experiencing the pleasures of cruising coupled with taking advantage of engaging in any number of enrichment programs at the same time, is a growing trend, I've looked at the some of the popular cruise lines and their programs to give the reader a taste of what is out there to get your synapses working.
For many of us no matter the age, life is a continuous journey of learning. Cruising these days presents a great opportunity to spend many a long day at sea learning something new. This approach has been embraced cruise ship companies who in the last five years have heavily invested in a range of enrichment and specialist education programs.
Well-known companies including the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line have ensured plenty of on-board facilities on their newer ships including activities such as rock climbing or surfing. In addition to a range of physically based activities cruise lines have also aligned to the worldwide foodie movement with most now offering a wide variety of culinary and wine appreciation courses.
Guest lectures on the ports to be visited are now standard on most cruise lines and with the rise of educational cruising many ships are now incorporating specialist lectures as part of their on board activities. Guests have an opportunity to hear from speakers on a range of specific areas of interest.
The range of enrichment programs varies from ship to ship with many interactive workshops on offer to the consumer including amongst many others;
- Culinary Demonstrations and Classes
- Educational Lectures
- Health and Wellness Programs
- Oil and Watercolor Painting
- Guest Lectures
- iStudy Classes
Holland America Line
Holland America's multifaceted Explorations program combines a D.I.Y enrichment program with on board educational talks. The offering includes a speaker series featuring a range of guest lecturers during their longer voyages.
On Koningsdam, passengers are able to create customized bottles of wine at the first wine mixing course at sea called 'Blend'. Other enrichment classes include hands on cooking demonstrations in the theater styled Culinary Arts Center, Digital Workshops and other classes including mastering the internet and digital photography. They also offer self guided on board art tours.
Reservations are required for the Blend sessions which cost $129 per person. Ninety-minute cooking classes at the Culinary Arts center cost $29 and include lunch at the Pinnacle Grill. Cooking shows at the Culinary Arts center are offered on sea days at no cost to the passenger.
Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Program: The Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys
Regent Seven Seas partnered with the Smithsonian Institute in 2015 and rolled out the 'Smithsonian Collection by Smithsonian Journeys', a fleet wide enrichment program featuring prominent guest speakers on most sailings. The Collection is presented with an emphasis on interaction, including Q and A sessions post discussion together with intimate, social interactions with on board speakers.
The Smithsonian Collection program brings stars of academia, authors and professors on board to discuss art, culture and history. The program offers a more traditional style of educational experience as opposed to an entertainment heavy program featuring celebrities, CEO's or the latest Jeopardy winners.
Azamara Club Cruises
Program: Guest Lectures
Azamara offers on board talks through its Guest Lectures program on top of its already standard cooking type programs. The line up includes experts such as scientists, professors and authors on board to discuss a range of topics including politics, history and culture. The lectures end with a Q and A session allowing cruisers to interact with the lecturer directly.
The line also offers a program called 'eConnections' which features classes on computer programs such as Power Point, Excel and Photoshop. A small fee applies. Azamara publishes its list of on board guest lecturers on its website. More exact schedules can be found in their daily newsletters and on the Azamara TV channel once on board.
The Program: Cunard Insights
Cunard offers a variety of enrichment programs for passengers. One example of which is The Cunard Insights speaker series, iStudy classes features guidance on using new technology and Cunard Book Club for literary discussions all of which are offered on all three ships including Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. Queen Mary 2 also offers additional programs its sisters ships don't have including Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) acting workshops and Royal Astronomical Society astronomy and stargazing presentations.
Cunard Insights guest lecturers include the very best speakers from the world of academia, television, film, literature and the diplomatic corps. Courses range from criminology to Jane Austin. Astronomers are brought on board to enlighten passengers in Queen Mary 2's unique planetarium. Illuminations, the only one of its kind at sea, lead on-deck stargazing demonstrations.
Many voyages also include celebrities like John Cleese of Monty Python or Billy Collins, the former poet laureate of the United States. Acting and stagecraft classes are taught with RADA members who also perform abbreviated versions of no longer than one hour of theater classics like Canterbury Tales or Much Ado About Nothing. All courses are free of charge, and passengers can participate in as many as they like.
Program: Culinary Center and Artist Loft
Oceania Cruises main enrichment focus is on food. Both ships, the Riviera and Marina feature a Culinary Center with convection ovens, two-person cooking stations and themed classes, ranging from basic knife skills to the art of fish cookery and trend setting world cuisines. Classes are heavily hands-on and are available for an additional fee.
Oceania also offers an enhanced culinary arts program featuring foodie tours uniquely designed around 25 individual ports. Available on all four ships, the Culinary Discovery Tours can sometimes include a visit to an artisan cheese-maker, chocolatier, vineyard or fish market. Programs incorporate mini-lectures, demonstrations or a luncheon before returning to the ship's culinary center, or a local restaurant's kitchen for a hands-on cooking class related to the theme of the tour undertaken.
Marina and Riviera also offer a hands-on program for budding creative types, where an artist in residence provides step by step instructions in painting watercolors, needlepoint or arts and crafts.
The culinary center's high tech chef stations with convection ovens are a nice touch and the variety of classes on offer will have any participant salivating. Pizza Master Class, Ottoman Palace Feast and Cuban Family Table. Tours and individual classes don't come cheap. Escorted market tours with cooking classes start at $169. Individual one and two hour cooking sessions are $39 and $69 respectively.
Princess Cruises Scholarship@Sea program reaches across all of the line's ships and itineraries offering a lighter side of life series of classes. If you'd ever dreamed of finding out how to navigate a cruise ship or learn maritime technology from one of the ship's officers via the line's Navigation@Sea offering then here is your chance. Other classes include art history, hands on cooking and meal preparation, wine tasting and food pairing, scrapbooking and dance lessons.
Each cruise has at least one guest lecturer ready to offer special insight and knowledge about a ship's destinations and other relevant issues. The on board book club program draws passengers together to discuss award winning titles and bestsellers. Princess put an emphasis on hobbies rather than education with some of the programs on offer costing only a small fee with most starting at $10. Lectures are complimentary.
There are many components to Celebrity's enrichment programs which strike a balance between educational experiences and others that are just plain fun. Taste programs include culinary tours and classes on food and wine pairing or molecular mixology. Their Revive seminars focus on sessions like acupuncture. Activities in the Learn category can include anything from dance lessons to ship navigation. Play sessions cover activities like sports, video games and trivia.
Under the "Learn" arm of Celebrity's enrichment offering, iLounge staffers lead classes on digital photo enhancement, website creation and travel blogging and offer environmental programs featuring talks on energy generation and recycling by the ship's officers. Some courses may cost an additional fee. The enrichment programs are available on all Celebrity ships but specific courses and workshops vary by cruise.
Program: Creative Learning Institute
Crystal Cruises' enrichment program, The Creative Learning Institute is designed to teach passengers skills in areas including language, music, wellness and art. The line has partnered with well known names including Yamaha, Berlitz, Tai Chi Cultural Center and the Society of Wine Educators bringing best possible instruction on board.
At the same time the Crystal Visions program brings aboard guest lecturers, such as theater and film stars, comedians, Olympians and sports heroes, authors, scientists, diplomats and ambassadors. The Computer University@Sea educates passengers on computers, the internet and social media while Technology Concierges will reveal the trends and nuances of the latest tech gadgets including iPads, iPhones, Kindles, and GPS devices. Crystal Cruises also host a range of themed cruises with a focus on photography, wine, food, fashion, music, theater, sports and fitness.
Crystal has one of the most comprehensive programs compared to that of its competitors, with all group classes, guest lecturers, presentations and workshops are free to attend. The program is geared to senior travelers and can be a little staid or old fashioned. There is no state of the art show kitchen, for example. The other minus is that Crystal's syllabus is not published with the cruise brochures, so while prospective cruisers can only get a general idea of which programs are on offer on their cruises the exact details are only available much closer to sailing or once on board.
Program: Seabourn Conversations
During Seabourn sailings celebrities, artistic luminaries, scientists, media moguls and captains of industry appear on board to provide topical talks on everything from history and literature to business and technology. Past speakers include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and CBS news anchor Dan Rather.
The prestige level of some visiting lecturers' rivals that of a commencement speaker at a major university. Don't be surprised if you see distinguished celebrities as well as lesser known leaders sharing stories and information at sea. These speakers cruise alongside guests so it's not unusual for passengers to run into a favorite author or famed scientist on the way to dinner.
Program: Silver Perspectives
Hear talks by scientists, writers, diplomats, professors and other distinguished professionals via Silversea's Silver Perspectives enrichment program. The offering features guest speakers together with members of Silversea's Expedition team discussing a wide range of subjects both on board during sea days, and in port. Guest speakers in the past have included artist Alexandre Renoir, great-grandson of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and NASA scientist Donald Yeomans.
Silversea's L'ecole des Chefs by Relais & Chateaux cooking school which is available on select sailings feature everything from in-port 'Lunch & Learn' excursions to competitive cooking demonstrations at sea. Passengers who attend the line's Bahian Cooking Class accompany the chef to the Ceasa Market learn to prepare moqueca, a classic Bahian dish and enjoy lunch together. In addition, Silversea offers a number of culinary and wine themed voyages. L'ecole des Chefs is only available on select ships so check their website for details.