Hidden Educational Experiences

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Susan SchaeferWhen most passengers board a mainstream cruise ship they may be anticipating fun in the sun, exotic ports of call, or stunning scenery.  What they may not be expecting is lectures or other educational opportunities.  Many people often mistakenly associate lectures more with world cruises or luxury cruise lines.  Cunard often has guest lecturers onboard, but it seems to be a secret that mainstream cruise lines also bring lecturers onboard as well.

Not too long ago we were onboard the Celebrity Equinox on an 11-night Caribbean cruise.  Fortunately we scour the daily schedule (Celebrity TODAY), otherwise we would have missed out on some hidden gems.  On our particular sailing Celebrity had brought aboard two guest lecturers; one was Jim Kennedy, a retired director of the Kennedy Space Center, and the other was Dr. Dave Plourd, an OB/GYN by profession and an quasi-expert on marine life.  Throughout our cruise each of them presented four one-hour lectures (on the days at sea).  Jim Kennedy, of course, spoke about space and the history of the US space program.  Dr. Plourd spoke about sea turtles, whales, dolphins, and the mysteries of water.

Both speakers were engaging, educational, and very entertaining.  They easily had a couple hundred people in every audience.  Sadly, I was amazed at how many people were not aware of the lecture opportunities onboard.  Speaking with other passengers throughout the cruise, we found many weren’t aware of the speakers or what topics they were speaking about.  The lectures were listed in the daily schedule, actually bolded to be more noticeable, plus highlighted on the front page of the daily schedule each day that they spoke.  Somehow many passengers glossed over them and never noticed or attended.  Towards the end of the cruise, a couple of passengers I spoke with were lamenting about how they only saw the fourth installment of both speakers, and had missed the previous three presentations.

This is not unique to Celebrity.  Many of the mainstream cruise lines arrange for special entertainment and educational opportunities onboard many of their ships. Besides guest lecturers there may also be computer classes.  Celebrity has a partnership with Apple, so they offer several workshops around Apple products.

I, admittedly, am a bit of an education nerd, but I think more passengers would take advantage of these opportunities if they simply knew about them (meaning, if they actually paid more attention to the daily schedule).

As travel consultants it’s not necessarily our job to hold our clients hands throughout every single aspect of their travels.  However, I think when we are talking to them about cruising (especially if they are cruise neophytes) we can give them more information about what to expect onboard.  Yes, there are pools, spas, fitness centers, movies under the stars, more bars and restaurants than you can count, wave riders, bowling alleys, hockey rinks, and even bumper cards onboard.  But we should also take a few minutes to tell them about the hidden treasures, and where to look for them.

In my pre-travel agent days we had gone on four cruises before we ever heard about behind the scenes tours, in the galleys, on the bridge, and in the theater.  My daughter was a drama geek in high school, and was all over the chance to go behind the scenes in the theater.  My husband jumped at the chance to tour the bridge.  The only thing that would have made him happier would have been an engine room tour.  Our only regret was that we had missed these opportunities on four previous cruises, because no one had told us about them.  Now it has become one of the many tidbits that I share with my clients.


Susan Schaefer is the owner of Ships ‘N’ Trips Travel located in Tennessee, and specializes in leisure travel with a focus on group travel and charity fundraisers. Through their division Kick Butt Vacations, she focuses on travel for 18 to 23-year-olds. Susan can be reached by email at susan@shipsntripstravel.com or by phone at (888) 221-1209.

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