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Learning on the High Seas - 5 Educational Cruises

Learning on the High Seas - 5 Educational Cruises

In recent years, there has been a sea change in what cruise travellers demand and expect in the form of onboard entertainment—especially during long sea days. Simply lying by the pool, reading a book, taking in a show or, perhaps, having a flutter in the casino is just not enough.

In response, cruise lines have enhanced their educational offerings, known as enrichment programmes, which aim to make cruising more interesting and fulfilling. Enrichment programmes now come in many different forms, such as interactive workshops, lectures, demonstrations and presentations on a huge variety of topics. Some programmes focus on educational topics that include personal finance, history, art and technology. Others may concentrate on health and well-being, covering subjects like stress management. Passengers can also learn or improve skills by attending acting, painting, language or perhaps music classes.

A poll about enrichment programmes, recently conducted by cruise news and reviews Web site, found that British cruise travellers mostly want to learn about ports (70 percent), followed by cooking (20 percent); fitness and health only attracted 6 percent of votes. 

Said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of, “A lecture about the history of your next port of call, a cooking class or a wine-tasting seminar not only provides an interesting way to spend an afternoon, but it’s also a great way to meet new people who share a common interest.”

Looking at what the cruise lines have to offer, Cruise Critic has assembled its top-five list of the best passenger enrichment programmes:


1. Cunard Insights offers a variety of programmes for erudite cruisers (or aspiring ones) with guest speakers that include luminaries and celebrities from academia, television/film, literature and the diplomatic corps, to name just a few. Astronomers enlighten passengers in Queen Mary 2’s unique planetarium—the only one of its kind at sea—and lead on-deck stargazing. Acting and stagecraft classes are taught with RADA members, who also perform abbreviated versions of theatre classics. Courses are free of charge, and passengers can participate in as many as they like.

2. Crystal Cruises’ Creative Learning Institute has one of the most comprehensive programmes afloat and is aimed at teaching skills like language, music, wellness and art. The line partners with expert organisations, such as the Society of Wine Educators, and features guest lecturers that include theatre and film stars, comedians, Olympians and sports heroes, authors, scientists, diplomats and ambassadors. All group classes and guest lecturers’ presentations and workshops are free to attend.

3. Princess Cruises’ [email protected] offers a less academic series of classes, covering subjects like pottery (the ships even have kilns), Web-page design, digital photography and cookery, as well as wine tastings and dance lessons. Each cruise also has a guest lecturer or two, specific to that voyage, who offers insight and knowledge about the ship’s destinations and other relevant issues. Guest lectures are free of charge, but classes cost around £15 to £20.

4.  Holland America Line’s Explorations programme combines enrichment with entertainment. Its Explorations Team typically consists of a party planner, lifestylist, travel guide, “techspert,” dance director and book club leader who run classes in their areas of expertise. Courses include cookery demonstrations in the ship’s Culinary Arts Centre, wine-tasting and flower-arranging, wellness classes and seminars, lectures and presentations from travel guides about destination history and culture, as well as computer classes, digital photography and dance.

5. Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Life features enrichment options in three categories: Savor, offering a mix of cooking demonstrations, wine tastings and cooking competitions; Discover, which teaches passengers something new through lectures from the Smithsonian and Rosetta Stone; and Renew, a wellness programme that blends spa treatments with fitness classes and well-being seminars. Classes are often presented by prominent names in their fields, but they can command high fees: approximately £5 to £70 for language classes, £5 to £70 for food and wine tastings and £15 for select technology classes.