Learn at your leisure
Taking a cruise is no longer confined to pleasure seeking, as travellers eye new opportunities to learn and experience something unique.
As a result, operators are taking their floating hotels to the next level by introducing versatile and experiential programmes.
Crystal Cruises' Experiences of Discovery has hosted such events as wine and food festivals, with guest chefs and sommeliers, to golf cruises with celebrity pros, great destination courses and instruction.
The Emerging Artists series brought a cultural touch through a partnership with the Music Center, Los Angeles, and performances by Spotlight Awards grand prize finalists.
Crystal Cruises vice-president Philip Ordever explains: 'Many of our guests have seen the latest shows in London's West End, on Broadway or in Las Vegas, but they haven't seen some of the young talent that has come out of Los Angeles' prestigious Music Center, so this is an unexpected treat.'
Next year, Crystal Cruises will expand its series to include floral arrangements, with a guest designer sharing techniques during a Mediterranean itinerary, while seven sailings to Alaska will see performances by top young talent.
For something inspirational, look to Italian operator Costa Cruises' Cost Pacifica.
They boast that passengers can enjoy a unique musical experience on a cruise ship.
Music not only inspired the interior design and artwork (308 originals and 5,929 replicas), but can also be listened to, interpreted and 'experienced' in each area through a soundtrack by maestro Mauro Pagani.
Costa Cruises will also have the world's first vessel with a recording studio where guests can choose from a repertoire of 400 Italian and international songs to sing and record to create a memento CD.
Boutique luxury cruise ship company Silverseas Cruises has lined up best-selling suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark as guest speaker on a 16-day, Buenos Aires-to-Santiago cruise departing January 20, while its 119-day westbound World Cruise crosses both hemispheres, from Los Angeles to Southampton. Departing next January, it will be an extraordinary odyssey, covering 60 destinations in 25 countries. Emmy award-winning journalist Dan Rather, historian Geoffrey Blainey and marine biologist George Losey are among the speakers lined up.
Families are catered to by Royal Caribbean Cruise, which has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation SKG and 3D versions of Shrek, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. They will be available on board the newest ship, Allure of the Seas, from December.