Want to learn to play the pi­ano or be­come a cor­don bleu cook? Sign up for classes on a lux­ury cruise, sug­gests He­len Hutcheon

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

PAS­SEN­GERS on a leisurely sea voy­age have time to learn a new skill or brush up on an old one and edu­tain­ment is the new buzz word in the cruise in­dus­try. Ship­board lec­tures cover much more than in­for­ma­tion about the next port of call and nap­kin-fold­ing demon­stra­tions have been su­per­seded by cour­ses in ev­ery­thing from an­tique hunt­ing to ce­les­tial science.

Crys­tal Cruises is top of the class with its Creative Learn­ing In­sti­tute and Com­puter Univer­sity@Sea. On se­lected sail­ings of Crys­tal Sym­phony and the com­pany’s flag­ship, Crys­tal Seren­ity, there are com­pli­men­tary work­shops for as­pir­ing ac­tors, cabaret per­form­ers and fash­ion de­sign­ers. Other work­shops cover art his­tory, cal­lig­ra­phy, Chi­nese brush paint­ing, wood­block print­ing, in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing and event plan­ning.

At the writ­ing work­shops, pas­sen­gers are en­cour­aged to pen their au­to­bi­ogra­phies or de­velop plots for chil­dren’s books and who­dunits.

Yamaha pi­ano lessons are on the cur­ricu­lum, as are Ber­litz lan­guage classes in Can­tonese, French, Ger­man, He­brew, Ital­ian, Ja­panese, Man­darin, Nor­we­gian, Rus­sian and Span­ish. Spe­cial­ists from the Cleve­land Clinic hold health and well­ness sem­i­nars.

My gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists trained on type­writ­ers and a car­bon pa­per copy was our idea of a print-out. I was still plod­ding away on my trusty Rem­ing­ton when I joined Crys­tal Sym­phony in Barcelona for a cruise around the Mediter­ranean in 1998 and that is when I grad­u­ated from the Com­puter Univer­sity@Sea.

Com­puter classes will be held through­out Crys­tal Seren­ity’s 108-day 2008 world voy­age, which de­parts Los An­ge­les for Lon­don on Jan­uary 19 next year and calls at Ho­bart, Melbourne, Syd­ney, Bris­bane, Cairns and Dar­win. There is an hourly fee for private tu­ition.

Golf has shot to the fore in edu­tain­ment. Sil­versea Cruises — Sil­ver Wind, Sil­ver Cloud, Sil­ver Whis­per and Sil­ver Shadow — has a hard-to-beat Sil­ver Links pro­gram on some of its most glam­orous itin­er­ar­ies through­out Europe, the Caribbean and Mex­ico. Com­pli­men­tary clin­ics are held on board, with op­tional shore ex­cur­sions to world­class golf cour­ses with the ship’s pro.

Pas­sen­gers aboard Sil­ver Whis­per’s seven-day Mediter­ranean Med­ley from Monte Carlo to Barcelona, which de­parted last week, for ex­am­ple, will have had the op­por­tu­nity to play at the Sainte Maxime Golf Club in St Tropez, Fregate Golf Club in Mar­seille and Ma­jorca’s Club de Golf Son Vida. Did some­one men­tion a gin and vodka mar­tini, shaken not stirred, at the 19th hole?

Ex­plor­ing ports with like-minded, new-found friends will be one of the bonuses for en­rolling in what Re­gent Seven Seas Cruises calls a Cir­cle of In­ter­est dur­ing Seven Seas Voy­ager’s 10-night cruise from Dover to Nice on Septem­ber 12.

Marta Wendlinger, an Amer­i­can ex­pat liv­ing in Spain who founded One2One Fash­ion, will con­duct the Style Cir­cle, which costs $US250 ($311) to join and cov­ers ev­ery­thing from how to cam­ou­flage fig­ure flaws and choose the most flat­ter­ing colours to the best lengths for skirts and jack­ets.

When the ship docks in Barcelona on Septem­ber 21, Wendlinger’s exclusive group will sashay ashore for se­ri­ous shop­ping along Pas­seig de Gra­cia.

There’s an­other Cir­cle of In­ter­est on this voy­age that will ap­peal to male and fe­male pas­sen­gers: a cor­don bleu cook- ery class. It costs $US395 and in­cludes a mar­ket tour with the chef when the ship is in Bordeaux on Septem­ber 15.

Din­ner guests back home are sure to be im­pressed with Le Cor­don Bleu chef’s hat and apron that grad­u­ates will re­ceive at a gala pre­sen­ta­tion cer­e­mony.

Hol­land Amer­ica Line turned up the heat when it launched the first culi­nary arts cen­tre aboard Ryn­dam in 2004. The whizzbang pur­pose-built show kitchen, now a hall­mark of the HAL fleet, re­sem­bles a movie set. Film of the free one-hour cook­ing demon­stra­tions by res­i­dent and visit­ing celebrity chefs is beamed on to over­head plasma screens so the au­di­ence, in theatre-style seat­ing, can get an up-close look. The per­for­mances also go live-to-air on the ship’s TV chan­nel for pas­sen­gers who want to watch in the com­fort of their state­rooms.

Michael Bloise, the Ital­ianViet­namese ex­ec­u­tive chef at Wish, a din­ing hotspot in The Ho­tel Mi­ami Beach, will be on board Sta­ten­dam when the 1258-pas­sen­ger liner sails from Syd­ney to Auck­land on Novem­ber 4 dur­ing its third ex­tended trans-Tas­man sea­son. Bloise will also hold work­shops that cost about $US25. Early book­ings for th­ese and RSSC’s Cir­cles of In­ter­est are rec­om­mended.

Orion Ex­pe­di­tion Cruises, which show­cases some of the most re­mote des­ti­na­tions in Aus­tralia, has a for­mi­da­ble line-up of speak­ers for the Art of An­cient Arn­hem Land 10-night round cruise from Dar­win, de­part­ing Septem­ber 6. They in­clude Howard Mor­phy, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Cross-Cul­tural Re­search at the Aus­tralian Na­tional Univer­sity, and Frances Mor­phy, an ANU re­search fel­low flu­ent in the Yol­ngu lan­guage of East Arn­hem Land.

As Orion’s ex­pe­di­tion pro­gram co­or­di­na­tor Justin Friend says, ar­riv­ing by sea at sel­dom-vis­ited Abo­rig­i­nal art cen­tres is a great al­ter­na­tive to trav­el­ling long dis­tances over rough roads. Pas­sen­gers in the mar­ket for the au­then­tic bark and can­vas paint­ings on sale at th­ese out­posts will have ex­pert ad­vice on what to buy.

Howard Mor­phy is the au­thor of An­ces­tral Con­nec­tions: Art and an Abo­rig­i­nal Sys­tem of Knowl­edge and Colin Laverty, whose col­lec­tion of in­dige­nous art has been ex­hib­ited in gal­leries around the world, is tak­ing part in Orion’s en­hance­ment pro­gram.

You don’t have to at­tend lec­tures to put leisure time to good use at sea. Cu­nard’s new Queen Vic­to­ria, which will visit Melbourne, Syd­ney, Bris­bane and Port Douglas next Fe­bru­ary on her maiden world voy­age, will have a two­s­torey li­brary with a spi­ral stair­case and 6000 ti­tles.

Look and learn: Sil­ver Cloud glides un­der Lon­don’s Tower Bridge; Sil­versea and many other lux­ury cruise com­pa­nies of­fer spe­cialised ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences

Top end: See Abo­rig­i­nal art and craft on an Orion cruise to Arn­hem Land

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