ONBOARD ENRICHMENT programs can impact your overall level of cruise satisfaction and your decision when considering a cruise vacation. And that's particularly the case if you are planning to cruise on a premium, upmarket or luxury line with an itinerary that includes a good number of days at sea.
Do enrichment programs appeal to first-time cruisers? You bet they do, particularly to the intellectually minded traveler who might be considering a topically intense cruise where they can stroll through ancient ruins, unique cultures or hear expert commentary from historians. Enrichment can help first-time cruisers feel more comfortable with a decision to cruise.
Here's a sampling of some oceangoing enrichment experiences for 2012.
When Enrichment Turns Up the Heat:
The hottest trend that we are seeing right now are cooking enrichment programs. This trend really got rolling with the Culinary Arts Center program offered by Holland America Line, and onboard Oceania Cruises two new ships, Marina and Riviera, taking it to another level with their hands-on cooking stations.
New for 2012, Oceania will organize 10 "Signature Sailings" focused on culinary, wine, music, and health and wellness themes. Depending on the voyage, Chef Jacques Pepin, up-and-coming jazz musicians, and noted editors will be special guests. For example, Pepin will sail on Marina's May 12 "Tuscan Artistry" cruise from Barcelona to Rome.
Guests sailing October 7 on Regent Seven Seas Cruises 10-night Monte Carlo-to-Venice Seven Seas Voyager cruise will enjoy "Spotlight on Italian Cooking" with Tommaso Barletta, executive chef and owner of several renowned Italian restaurants.
Silversea Cruises plans 20 "Relais & Chateaux L'Ecole des Chefs" interactive cooking school voyages on its luxury ships this year.
Celebrity Cruises "Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises" recently kicked off on March 24 on Celebrity Eclipse. The first of eight food-and-wine-themed cruises is a seven-night sailing hosted by Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity's master chef and vice president of culinary operations. Expect cooking classes in the galley, demonstrations and dinners.
When Enrichment is the Ship Itself:
During "The Ultimate Ship Tour" Princess Cruises will take guests where few cruisers have gone before. They can explore beyond the ship's public areas with guided visits to the ship's engine control room, medical center, incinerator room, print shop, laundry, photo lab, navigational bridge and other behind-the-scenes spaces. Cost is $150 per person.
When Enrichment Shows Guests How to Dance:
Royal Caribbean International allows guests to whirl, dip and glide across the dance floor during ballroom dance classes on, Jewel of the Seas from May 3 through August 31, and Independence of the Seas through November 11.
When Enrichment Tackles High-tech:
Crystal Cruises Computer University@Sea holds up to a dozen classes on average per sailing. Guests may take classes ranging from Photoshop picture retouching to Facebook tips, with both basic and advanced level courses. Full world cruisers can even earn college credit via Del Mar College (fees apply) for their computer coursework. Shipboard classrooms each have two dozen computer workstations. Computer skills and photography are perennial favorites, and the several cruise lines are keeping up with the current technology trends in their offerings.