Learning on the Go
Thanks to these cruise lines, tour providers and resorts,
the world is your classroom
By Lucy Spicer
Lectures, classes and hands-on workshops enrich itineraries by providing cultural context and insight into your vacation destination. Whether you're interested in picking up a casual hobby like cooking, expanding your repertoire of dance moves or diving headfirst into an artistic endeavor, your travels could be the perfect time to try your hand at something new.
To get more information or to plan your next educational adventure, contact the travel experts at Vacations To Go through the links below.
One of the best ways to experience a new culture is to sample its food and drink. While many cruise lines offer local flavors on board and excursions that provide tastings, some go further to make regional cuisine a real centerpiece of the journey.
Holland America Line caters to gourmands with its Food and Beverage Aficionado program. Each of these itineraries features a member of the Holland America Line Culinary Council, a group made up of seven expert chefs and one master mixologist.
One such itinerary is an 11-night cruise aboard the Koningsdam that calls on ports in Greece, Turkey and Italy. Included within your cruise fare is access to the onboard America's Test Kitchen, a series of live cooking shows and workshops sure to entice any food lover.
This round-trip voyage from Rome has several shore excursions that celebrate local flavors. Day 7, for example, dawns in Kusadasi, Turkey, where a sojourn to Sirince offers a wine tasting, lunch in a villager's home and a cup of much-revered Turkish coffee. In Greece two days later, a Santorini excursion to Oia includes a cooking demonstration by master chefs at a local restaurant. This special sailing sure to inspire home chefs departs on Sept. 13, with prices beginning at $1,566.
You're never too young or too old to pick up a new hobby, and escorted tour companies like Adventures by Disney create family-friendly journeys with learning opportunities for all ages. The eight-day "Scotland" itinerary abounds with castle visits and views of the rugged Highlands, but foodies can get their fill here, too. In addition to a tour of the grounds and a falconry demonstration, a visit to Floors Castle in the town of Kelso provides a shortbread-making lesson. Guests learn about this traditional Scottish treat from the private chef of the duke and duchess who call this castle home.
Grownups get another chance to discover a Scottish favorite with a tour of the Glenturret Distillery in Crieff. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the hand-mashing process grants insight into the whiskies made at the country's oldest distillery, opened in 1775. Five departures in June and July are available for this Scottish adventure, with prices from $6,199.
While cruises and escorted tours present unique opportunities for lessons like these, vacationers can pick up some kitchen tips even without planning their whole trip around the experience. Amateur bartenders, for example, can drop in for a 30-minute class at the Flamingo Las Vegas resort and casino. The resort's Bird Bar offers Flair It Up from Wednesday through Sunday, with a host walking guests through some theatrical bartending tricks that won't fail to impress friends when you return home. Check rates for the Flamingo and other hotels on the Strip here.
Have you ever been dazzled by artistic creations you've witnessed in your travels, only to wish you had more than a photo to remember them by? You might not be able to take the works of the masters back with you, but you can create some original art of your own after observing the talents of others in workshops.
Oceania Cruises' fleet has three ships equipped with an Artist Loft. Guests sailing on the Marina, Riviera and Insignia have access to a number of classes held in this space, all led by professionals who have experience working with beginners and experts alike, so budding sketchers and advanced painters are welcome. Past topics have included watercolors, photography, collages, T-shirt decorating and more.
Consider an itinerary that will kick-start your artistic talents. An Aug. 14 sailing on the Riviera, for example, spends 14 nights traveling around the Mediterranean, starting from Rome and visiting ports in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France before ending in London. With stunning architecture surrounding you and myriad museums at your fingertips, you'll have no trouble finding inspiration for your future creations. Prices for this voyage start at $3,999.
Art classes do more than unearth hidden talents within yourself -- they also can help you connect with the culture around you. Two experiences on the "Cultural Treasures of Japan" tour from Collette detail the country's rich artistic history while giving guests a hands-on lesson that ends in a souvenir they can cherish forever. Day 9 of the tour journeys to Kanazawa, where people have been using gold leaf to embellish temples, shrines and precious objects since the 16th century. Around 99 percent of the gold leaf used in Japan is produced in this area, and you can work with it firsthand during a lesson in decorating your very own lacquer box.
Day 12 invites travelers to marvel at the intricate architecture of the 1603 Nijo Castle complex in Kyoto before heading to Marumasu-Nishimuraya for a workshop in stenciling. Here, you'll learn the traditional techniques used to dye objects such as kimonos, fans and handkerchiefs. More than two dozen departures for this 14-day trip are available through April 2020, with prices starting at $4,499.
River cruises with Emerald Waterways organize optional activities by interest: EmeraldActive programs include fitness classes and other outings to let passengers stretch their legs, while the EmeraldPlus category seeks to immerse guests in the culture and heritage of the destination. One EmeraldPlus activity that might interest art lovers is onboard mosaic tile-painting lessons on the "Lisbon and Secrets of the Douro" voyage.
Portugal, especially the capital, is famous for its azulejos, ceramic tiles that have been produced here since the 14th century. Usually blue in color, these mesmerizing patterned squares adorn the exteriors and interiors of buildings and have become a national icon. Learn to paint your own on this 11-day exploration, which also includes a visit to a Pocinho museum featuring prehistoric stone carvings and a guided tour of the historic Spanish city of Salamanca. Prices start at $4,145 for a handful of departures through September, or $3,495 for 2020 trips.
Today's technology has made it easier than ever to access music from all over the world, but there's something special about experiencing it in its native environment. Since some form of music and dancing pervades almost every culture on the planet, travelers have something to learn whenever they reach a new destination.
Tour operator Abercrombie & Kent offers the "Family Switzerland" itinerary with two melodious lessons that guests would be hard-pressed to find back home. The first is yodeling instruction taught by a professional in Lucerne. Though its origins are unclear, yodeling became popular in Alpine regions in the Middle Ages for herding cattle, and today there are Swiss songs and choirs devoted to its distinctive lilting.
Two days later, in the resort town of Interlaken, the tour visits one of the last remaining family-owned workshops to produce alphorns, long wooden horns originally used for communication between Alpine herders. Guests see how the imposing instruments are made, followed by a lesson on how to play them.
These unique opportunities are interspersed with other decidedly Swiss demonstrations such as woodcarving and cheese- and chocolate-making. The eight-day, round-trip tour from Zurich has three departures from June to August, with prices from $8,295.
Maybe you don't consider yourself much of a musician, but you still find yourself moved by the melodies. Consider putting those tapping feet to good use with some dance lessons. These are commonly available on oceangoing cruises, but a river cruise provides a more intimate environment that perhaps is better suited for a dance like the waltz, which scandalized 18th-century critics due to its tactile nature.
Avalon Waterways' "Danube Dreams With Habsburg Royalty" features onboard waltz lessons as its host ship sails from Bratislava in Slovakia to Vienna, a city often called the "capital of classical music." Those who enjoyed the experience may wish to attend an optional royal waltz concert the following evening in Vienna, where they can savor the music in an elegant setting. This eight-day voyage sets sail from Budapest, Hungary, and also docks
in Germany, with rates from $3,299. A 10-day version adds a hotel stay and sightseeing in Prague, priced from $3,769.
If you prefer your dance lessons to have a more relaxed approach, investigate the possibility of classes during a resort stay. Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa in Mexico and Dreams Punta Cana Resort and Spa in the Dominican Republic offer relaxed dance classes on-site, so you can jump straight from the beach to learning some moves. All-inclusive pricing at these properties covers your meals and drinks.
Your vacation time is precious, so ensure some extraordinary memories by indulging an inquisitive mind with unique learning venues. Princess Cruises' Discovery at Sea programs are made for those who love to learn, even while out in the middle of the ocean.
The cruise line partners with Science Channel for stargazing sessions. Depending on weather and lighting conditions, a guide leads guests on a tour of the night skies, explaining how to identify constellations and revealing folklore behind the stars. Should the weather refuse to accommodate the activity, passengers on the Caribbean Princess, Golden Princess or Ruby Princess have an astronomy alternative: the Voyage to the Stars Planetarium, which displays real-time images of celestial wonders.
A 10-night cruise with several days at sea leaves plenty of time for scanning the heavens, especially if it sails outside of the rainy season. A Dec. 10 voyage on the Caribbean Princess departing from Fort Lauderdale, FL, visits the Turks and Caicos Islands, Colombia, Panama (with a partial Panama Canal transit), Costa Rica and Jamaica, with rates from $769.
You're in luck if history is your hobby, as virtually every river cruise and escorted tour features a guided excursion or lecture brimming with historic context. The onboard experts at American Cruise Lines, however, take lessons beyond the classroom. Costumed storytellers, naturalists, historians and "riverlorians" (experts on the history and folklore of America's rivers) form a dynamic cast like no other.
ACL cruises of the Mississippi River often call on Hannibal, MO, once home to Mark Twain and the model for the setting of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." A Twain impersonator with 30 years of experience enriches themed itineraries by bringing the author to life. The eight-day "Mark Twain Upper Mississippi River Cruise" travels between St. Louis and St. Paul, MN, with departures in September and October; prices start at $4,270.
While some destinations take a relaxed approach to learning, others dive right into intensive instruction. Anse Chastanet Resort in St. Lucia, for example, has partnered with Scuba St. Lucia and SeaLife Cameras to host four weeklong sessions devoted to underwater photography. All photographers from beginners to experts are invited to expand their skills through twice-daily dives and afternoon seminars. What better place to practice underwater snapshots than the miles of protected coral reef teeming with wildlife near the resort? The weeks will take place May 25 to June 1, Aug. 10-17, Oct. 5-12 and Dec. 7-14.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Summer 2019. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 338-4962 for current rates and details.