Smart Sailing: Enrichment Programs On The High Seas

22 September 2016
Read Time: 3.5 mins

For many of us, no matter at what age, life’s journey is all about learning, and what better opportunity on those long sea days is there than to use the time to develop a different skill set or learn something new. This approach has been well and truly embraced with gusto by cruising companies, which in the last five years have heavily invested in their enrichment and specialist education programs.

Well-known cruisers like Royal Caribbean have ensured plenty of onboard “active” types of facilities on their newer ships, where guests can learn things like how to rock-climb or surf. In addition to these more action-based things to do, cruise lines have also hopped onboard the worldwide foodie movement and most now include a variety of culinary and wine appreciation courses.

 Lots of action packed things to do on deck. Photo: Getty Images.

Lectures to guests on the ports to be visited are now considered standard on most cruise lines, and with the rise of educational cruising, many cruisers are now incorporating specialist lectures as part of their onboard activities. Guests get to hear from speakers on a range of specific interest areas that may not have any direct connection to the itinerary.

Whilst there are a range of formal academic qualification cruises available, we have highlighted below the top educational programs available on the major cruise lines – where your next cruise might not just be the chance to re-charge but also be the kick-starter for a new hobby, interest or even a new career.

 Recharging - always a good cruising option. Photo: Getty Images.

Cunard as part of its Insights program features at least three speakers on every voyage. The transatlantic crossings on the QM2 have featured literary greats who have done readings, lectures, book signings, and Q&A sessions with guests. The best-selling authors and playwrights who have featured on the transatlantic crossings include Erica Jong, Amy Bloom and Susan Cheever. The 2016 program includes English television and film actor Robert Powell, a number of high-profile BBC presenters and an award-winning journalist from the New York Times – just to demonstrate the diversity.

 Always lots to learn onboard. Photo: Getty Images.

Crystal Cruises also has an impressive program that includes everything from computer and language classes, to piano lessons. Three or four speakers per voyage is quite the norm, with a mix of both destination-focused talks and generalist presentations. Authors, politicians, professors, archaeologists, thespians and chefs are part of the mix, and include Rita Moreno, Judith Krantz, Barbara Walters, Paul Theroux, and Buzz Aldrin - all have been guest speakers.

On longer cruises, at least two expert speakers are on board each all-suite ship in the Regent Seven Seas fleet. Highlights include famed adventurer and conservationist Jean-Michel Cousteau, who travels aboard Regent ships several times per year. World Cruises see an incredible variety of celebrity guest lecturers - from NASA Astronauts, ex-Ambassadors to authors, historians, great vintners, international chefs - Regent's guest lecturers are guaranteed to impress, no mater what the subject matter.

 Learn a new dish. Photo: Getty Images.

Silversea on its long voyages with lots of sea days, usually features two to four speakers, which include the likes of Relais & Châteaux chefs who conduct cooking demonstrations on board the Silver Whisper on the October Mediterranean cruise. There are speakers who are historians, authors, celebrities, conservationists and accomplished actors. A recent European cruise on the Silver Whisper featured actor and author, John Lithgow in a reprised part of his one-man show about his family, Stories by Heart.

Seabourn's trio of elegant 200-passenger mini cruise ships, and new larger 550-passenger Seabourn Odyssey, treat guests to five-star everything, from cuisine to cabins. On most sailings there are one or two lecturers who offer talks on sea days and occasionally after dinner. The eclectic range of speakers include author and lecturer Nigel West, a renowned military historian, specialising in intelligence and security issues; and Dr. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, a cultural historian and ABC film producer who specializes in Europe.

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Lindblad Expeditions, the forerunner in expedition cruising, has been offering small-ship cruises with a strong environmental education focus for nearly five decades. Its five ships explore the more exotic parts of Alaska, Antarctica, the Artic, the Galapagos, Mediterranean and the British and Irish Isles. In partnership with the National Geographic Society, world-renowned scientists, naturalists, researchers and photographers share their knowledge with guests in lectures and as part of after dinner presentations.

 Get up close to a fjord. Photo: Getty Images.

Princess Cruises' Scholarship@Sea offers classes on every voyage, sometimes as many as 40, from scrapbooking to computer lessons and ceramics classes. The ship’s professional photography staff teaches courses ranging from "Introduction to Photography" to "Using and Setting Your Digital Camera." On every cruise, an officer provides a comprehensive presentation on maritime history and the basics of operating a cruise ship. On select voyages, Princess makes sure it has a range of speakers onboard, who can lecture/talk on subjects that range from art history, politics and science subjects - there are also cooking demonstrations and wine tastings on many of the cruises. A new inclusion for Princess on voyages of over two weeks is the Princess’ own book club. New York Times bestsellers are selected ahead of time and once on board, a couple of meetings are scheduled for those who want to chat about the book.

 Finally join that bookclub. Photo: Getty Images.

Holland America is all about feeding your inner Master Chef with its signature HAL’s Culinary Institute cooking classes. Complete with a fully equipped demonstration counter, there are also wide-screen televisions, so all participants can get a good view of the chefs in action. Cruisers on other Holland America ships have the opportunity to learn about how the ship processes water and waste, including a Q&A session with an environmental officer.

Cruising is growing increasingly popular as a preferred method of travel, and suppliers have taken advantage of the growing desire of travelers to immerse themselves more fully in a destination. Book your own educational cruise today for an experience that will enrich both your holiday and your life.

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Tara Young

The experience of travel changes a person. I see my job as highlighting what amazing travel opportunities there are to broaden your knowledge of that great big world beyond your doorstep and what you may learn about yourself on the way.