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Experiential Cruises

Written by  Lillian Africano


Whether on land, sea or river, the buzzword is “experiential.” Not content to merely “see” or “visit,” seasoned travelers want to participate, to connect with the culture and people of a place - and to come home feeling that their lives have been enriched. 

Voyages of Discovery cruises aboard the 550-passenger mv Voyager embrace this concept by offering guests an education about the history, culture and people of the places the ship visits. During the Tales of India and Arabia itinerary, for example, guest lecturers cover the history of India, starting from the days of the Raj, trade across the Indian Ocean and two of the world’s richest cities, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. This allows cruise passengers to relate to the people and places they see on a deeper and richer level than if they disembarked armed only with brochures listing well-known attractions.



The enrichment programs aboard Crystal Cruises are without equal. Instructors from Yamaha, Berlitz and the Society of Wine Educators give piano classes, foreign language courses, classes on wine appreciation - and more. Crystal has also amped up shore excursions with more adventure offerings like cliff-climbing in Croatia and sea caves expeditions in Corfu, Greece.

Like Crystal, Regent has a solid onboard enrichment menu that might include wine tastings, computer classes, dance classes and lectures by visiting writers, historians and naturalists.

Regent’s Spotlight Cruises feature in-depth explorations of wine, theater and music. During the wine cruises, guest experts share techniques and knowledge through lectures and demonstrations.

Holland America’s shore excursions go beyond marquee attractions by also including experiences like a barbecue with Argentine gauchos and a ride on an Icelandic pony in Reykjavik. HAL’s “Cruise with a Purpose Collection” gives passengers opportunities to contribute to the places they visit - for example, to bring needed supplies to an orphanage or to plant a native Australian tree after spending the day on a sheep farm.

Lindblad Expeditions’ eco-cruises to the Arctic and Antarctica offer adventure experiences enriched by a partnership with National Geographic. Passengers travel in the company of world-renowned scientists, naturalists and researchers and explore natural environments using the latest technology and tools.

Silversea’s association with Britain’s Royal Geographic Society provides specialists who teach guests about their expeditions to nearly 500 destinations in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Galapagos, South America, Africa and Europe. Silversea’s Relais & Chateaux cooking school at sea offers workshops and cooking demonstrations, as well as shopping trips with the chef at
local markets.

As the cruise line with fully equipped Bon Appetit Culinary Centers aboard both the Marina and Riveria, Oceania offers a wealth of food-centric enrichment. Master chefs teach classes using ingredients that class members find at local markets during shore excursions called Culinary Discovery Tours. During the Venice to Istanbul itinerary, for example, the full-day tour in Rhodes includes a visit with a Greek family at their restaurant, followed by lunch. Guests learn how the family shops for fish and produce, help with hands-on cooking and then share a lunch of Greek dishes and local wines. Later in the day, at the Bon Appetit Culinary Center, guests have a 60-minute cooking class reviewing the techniques and ingredients sampled on shore. Recipes are provided so the Rhodes culinary experience can be reprised at home.

River cruises have kept up with the experiential trend, too. Viking River Cruises experiential learning component, Old World Highlights, is coordinated by each ship’s Program Director and is designed to complement shore excursions through activities such as apple strudel workshops and regional wine and cheese tastings in Europe. Aboard Russia cruises, guests enjoy traditional Russian tea and Russian cuisine workshops. China itineraries include a Peking duck dinner and a Tang Dynasty Dinner Show. Guests on the Roof of the World itinerary share tea with a Tibetan family in Lhasa.

As the only river cruise line inducted into La Chaine des Rotisseurs, one of the world’s most prestigious culinary organizations, AmaWaterways includes a “Culinary Delights” itinerary among its experiential options. This complimentary (but limited) tour provides guests a taste of the area visited with local guides and allows them to shop in local markets, plan menus and prepare meals.

Bottom line: As cruise companies build their programs for coming seasons, one thing is certain; they will be adding and enhancing experiential itineraries and tours to meet the ever-growing demand.


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