Stretch your sea legs while ex­pand­ing your mind

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

CRUISE com­pa­nies are recog­nis­ing that time spent hol­i­day­ing afloat is an ideal op­por­tu­nity for pas­sen­gers to learn and de­velop skills.

Buck­ing the trend for me­ga­lin­ers, with their vast shop­ping malls, poker ma­chines and bars, such pro­grams of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to ac­quire knowl­edge from ex­perts in in­ti­mate and re­laxed set­tings.

For more than 50 years, nu­mer­ous cruise lines (par­tic­u­larly Swan Hel­lenic, whose early ed­u­ca­tional cruises re­main en­rich­ment bench­marks) have of­fered pas­sen­gers spe­cial­in­ter­est and lec­turer-es­corted cruises cov­er­ing top­ics such as his­tory, the arts, arche­ol­ogy and fine food and wine.

Karen Chris­tensen, Silversea Cruises’ re­gional di­rec­tor for Aus­tralia and New Zealand, says a qual­ity ‘‘en­rich­ment lec­turer pro­gram’’ has been an ‘‘in­te­gral part of the line’s guest ex­pe­ri­ence . . . since 1994’’. On-board per­son­al­i­ties in­clude author Bill Bryson on a Sin­ga­pore to Shang­hai cruise next March.

Richard Meadows, Hol­land Amer­ica Line’s ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent for mar­ket­ing, sales and guest pro­grams, says his com­pany’s menu of ac­tiv­i­ties in­cludes cook­ing demon­stra­tions and classes with top chefs in on-board Culi­nary Arts Cen­ters, plus Dig­i­tal Work­shops with Mi­crosoft-trained ex­perts. On a smaller scale, P&Ohas a four-night Aus­tralian coastal Food & Wine cruise in May, while Orion Ex­pe­di­tion Cruises and Voy­ages of Dis­cov­ery fea­ture sci­en­tists and nat­u­ral­ists on se­lected sail­ings.

Swan Hel­lenic (with its reg­u­lar paint­ing, writ­ing and singing work­shops) this month has a Vol­ca­noes of the Mediter­ranean cruise with se­nior lec­tur­ers from Bri­tish uni­ver­si­ties and mu­se­ums.

Pro­fes­sion­als (typ­i­cally in medicine and law) seek­ing con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion can also meet ac­cred­i­ta­tion re­quire­ments and net­work with their peers at con­fer­ences and sem­i­nars aboard var­i­ous lin­ers, or­gan­ised by Univer­sity at Sea.

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