Regardless of which term you prefer to use; Enrichment Program, Edu-tainment, Info-tainment, Purposeful Pleasure, Cultural Learnings to Make Benefit for Cruise Passenger…whatever…these on-board blends of education and entertainment are growing fast in popularity. In fact, I’m wondering if growth will continue until it surpasses food & dining as the primary reason to cruise? (Yes, I’m asking this question in all seriousness.)
Wait! Before you jump ship, thinking this is the food-for-thought equivalent of a Half-Baked Alaska, hear me out.
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Reflected in cruise line advertising, passenger surveys and attendance metrics, on-board edu-tainment has become such a huge draw that cruise companies are spending lavishly on additions and enhancements, constantly improvising to maintain a competitive edge.
Example: The newest Celebrity ships have state-of-the-art glass blowing exhibition facilities – located next to a lawn area. (Yes, real hot liquid glass next to real growing grass, not Astroturf. The lawn serves as sitting area, putting green, lawn bowling course, etc.)
Passengers can sit on benches or in the grass and watch glass blowers at work. The show itself consists of professionals – supplied by the Corning Museum of Glass of Corning, NY – creating works of art before your very eyes. Long, well insulated poles are utilized to manipulate 2,000 degree glowing globs of molten silica. It is quite a show!
Personal Note – To me, that super-heated, pulsating mass of glass looks alive…ready to pounce at any moment. So, like Steve McQueen in the 1958 horror movie The Blob, I float around the periphery, poised, ready to run should it lurch in my direction.
Celebrity has obviously spent a tremendous amount of time, money, and creative energy – not to mention prime on-board real estate – to bringing this special interest attraction to reality, along with it’s unique, lawn-side venue. Which begs the ultimate question – is it paying off? Has on-board glass blowing proven popular?
While admittedly unscientific, my own survey says…well, maybe. The observed abundance of grass stained white shorts immediately following a demonstration indicates to me there is sufficient attendance with animated responses.
Here now, for your edification, is a quick review of some of the nomenclature versus actual content of programs for the three most popular premium cruise brands:
Celebrity Cruise Lines – Offered under the heading “Celebrity Life” with three sub-categories:
- Savor – culinary & wine tasting courses
- Discover – computers, photography & all things digital, art, writing, languages, glass blowing, etc.
- Renew – spa treatments, fitness classes and wellness seminars
Holland America Lines – A new program titled “Explorations“, implemented by on-board Explorations Teams, consisting of a party planner, lifestyle coach, a “techspert” (technical expert), destination lecturer, dance instructor and book club leader. And, surprise, surprise, they work together as a team to lead:
- Lifestyle & Wellness Classes – nutrition, yoga, Tai Chi, etc.
- Cooking Classes – taught in state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Theaters by the ship’s chefs
- History & Culture – seminars, guest lecturers and book club literary discussions
- Digital Workshops – computer literacy, photography, the Internet, etc.
- Dance – lessons and dance related activities
Princess Cruise Lines – Risking confusion with an email address, this line has implemented their enrichment programs under the too-clever-by-half moniker “Scholarship@Sea“. Besides the usual Culinary Arts and Wine Tasting offerings, “@Sea” programs abound:
- Photography@Sea – beginners, advanced & Photoshop
- Ceramics@Sea – complete with on-board kilns
- Navigation@Sea – do you have to bring your own GPS?
- Computers@Sea – basic literacy, Internet, etc.
- Scrapbooking@Sea – ok, but is it graduate level?
(You can see why one Cruise Critic reviewer referred to some of the Princess programs as a “bit fluffy”.)
In conclusion – never would I stoop to scare tactics just to sell newspapers – but still have to ask:
Is there any danger that overdosing on these programs might cause brain swelling due to information overload? At this point in time medical science simply does not know. For now, we should error on the side of safety-at-sea. We don’t want otherwise well intentioned cruise lines to unwittingly contribute to a national epidemic of Informational Corpulence .
And what if this infirmity turns out to be just a figment of our imagination? We can still count on the pharmaceutical industry to come to our rescue – developing an over-priced, over-advertised supplement to cure another disease that we previously didn’t even know we had.
A Big Name celebrity (Sally Fields?) is probably already under contract to testify on Nightly News commercials about how her “IC” was reversed by a once-a-month dose of Boat-Niva – on sale in the gift shop, next to the Dramamine and Maalox.
Then, once the Sugar Free &, Low Fat versions of the on-board courses are launched, we will be doubly safe, free to ingest as much floating Brain Food as our five senses can absorb. It’s the American Way.
See you in class – Large Animal Taxidermy Lite – 12 noon, deck six – buffet lunch provided.