As much as a cruise is intended as a way to escape from your everyday reality for a period of time – where you can lie by the pool and relax, read a book or just catch up on sleep – there are also plenty of opportunities on a cruise where you can learn a new skill to apply to your life at home, a cultural technique that can be applied in the home or even just a better way to do something you already knew.
Depending on the market demographic to which a particular cruise brand appeals, and in many cases, the part of the world a ship is sailing at the time, this may dictate exactly what type of activities or seminars you’ll find offered, however go in with an open mind and you never know, you may enjoy it and pick up something new you can try when you get home.
We’ve taken a look at some of the skills you can learn across a number of the different cruise lines. This list is not a full list, with each line offering much more than can be listed here.
1. Carnival Cruise Line
Towel Animal Folding: Most of us have seen them waiting in our cabins on our return at the end of the day – an elephant, mud crab, puppy dog, frog or another creature creatively made using towels of different shapes and sizes. Carnival cabin stewards make over a million of them every year from over 40 different designs.
Some passengers end up making little zoos in their cabin, which over the course of a multi-week cruise can actually result in a towel shortage across the ship – so unfortunately your cabin steward may need to reclaim these animals and return these to towel use.
But in fact, you can take the skill with you to make the animals at home out of your own towels. Carnival runs semi-regular seminars in different lounges, bars and theatres across its ships where you can practice making the animals with your kids. Depending on how many towels you own, you can rebuild your little zoo to impress visitors, friends and family.
Learn to brew beer: A fairly new activity which debuted earlier this year on Carnival Vista is beer brewing and you can pick up some tips from the onboard experts who mix up the delicious ales and lagers you enjoy during your cruise. They will teach you the ingredients you’ll need and the process to cook up your own batch of Thirsty Frog Summer Ale at home.
2. P&O Cruises
Wine Education Seminars: Most people love a good glass of wine, but what exactly goes into making them as good as they are? P&O Cruises partnered with Glandore Estate on the NSW Hunter Valley, which provides many of the wines featured onboard their ships.
The Glandore wine making style is very hands-on and this process is taught onboard Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden at the Cellar Door experience for a small fee. Guests learn about the grape picking process through to the hand-operated basket press. As well as walking away with an enhanced wine knowledge, the seminar also includes several opportunities to taste.
Hone your comedy skills: As part of P&O’s regularly scheduled Main Event Comedy Cruises, which feature some of the funniest men and women from around the Australian comedy circuit, these cruises also offer travellers a chance to hone the art of cracking their own jokes through a Comedy Workshop.
Hosted by the performing comedians themselves, you’ll learn tips and tricks of delivering a good punchline and if you’re feeling really confident, you can participate in the onboard Comedy Gong Show, where the masters will judge their students’ shows with either a hearty laugh and round of applause, or the ultimate indignity in the form of a resounding gong.
3. Royal Caribbean
Learn a Language: All sorts of different activities make appearances on a Royal Caribbean cruise, depending on which part of the world you find yourself. Many international cruises visiting multiple countries, such as in Europe, will offer guests a chance to pick up a few of the local words and phrases to better communicate with the locals on shore.
These classes are not too in-depth, with generally only the basics provided, such as the most common phrases, greetings and questions to help if English is not so widely recognised.
Scrapbooking: Enjoying a resurgence in popularity, scrap booking is an activity enjoyed by young and old these days and is one wholeheartedly embraced by Royal Caribbean. With the help of the entertainment team onboard, you can chat about the best ways to display your photos, cards, programs and memories from your cruise and receive help on designing borders, themed pages, cut-outs and embellishments.
4. MSC Cruises
Professional Dance Classes: When they’re not on the stage wowing the audience, the professional dancers on an MSC Cruises ship will occasionally share their training and skills with passengers at scheduled dance classes. Depending on the ship’s itinerary, these may be scheduled during the day or even in the evening (such as on port-intensive cruises where there’s a new stop every day).
Arts & Crafts: Quite a variety of these sessions will take place on a standard cruise, where a whole host of different skills can be attained. Depending on your itinerary, these can include T-shirt painting, making and decorating sarongs and scarves, knitting, decoupage, paper arts, bracelet making, gift wrapping, newspaper weaving and making greeting cards.
5. Princess Cruises
Stargazing with Discover at Sea: As part of a partnership between Princess Cruises and the Discovery Channel, passengers can learn and participate in a number of different scientific endeavours during their cruise – one of which is star-gazing.
Depending on where in the world you are and if conditions are right, you can join the Princess Star Gazing Specialist up on deck, who will teach you how to find your bearings and use the stars to pinpoint your location, identify major constellations and learn some of the secrets of the stars and the stories behind the most famous ones.
Destination Themed Activities: This one is very much based on which part of the world you’re cruising. For a colourful dose of culture, your cruise can feature activities where locals from a particular port will come onboard to teach a class in a local dance or traditional ceremony. For example, among others, you can:
- Meet lumberjacks in Alaska
- Learn hula dancing in Hawaii
- Pan drumming in the Caribbean
- Mariachi music in Mexico
- A Maori performance in New Zealand
- Samba Dancing in South America
Sometimes, these classes will also coincide or be enhanced with a particular festival or ritualistic celebration taking place onshore. Princess ships are regularly finding themselves in Rio De Janeiro for Carnival, in Hawaii for the King Kamehameha Festival, in Sydney or New Orleans for Mardi Gras or Scotland for a Celtic Festival – among many others.
6. Celebrity Cruises
Microsoft Digital Workshop: There’s no need to be intimidated as technology becomes more and more advanced, as Celebrity Cruises and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a wide variety of seminars and hands-on classes where you can go step-by-step and pick up some cool new skills.
Among these will be a lesson in turning your digital photos into an artistic work of art which can be shared with friends and family online; organise your music; downloading podcasts; building a website; writing a blog; online video editing; mastering the social media platforms. There are more than 18 different Master Classes you can learn and if you pick something up quickly and would like to become an expert, there are also advanced skills classes to join.
Quickfire Cooking Skills: If you consider yourself a whiz in the kitchen, challenge yourself and take advantage of a partnership between Celebrity Cruises and American TV show Top Chef at its interactive Quickfire Challenges.
Just like on the show, you will race against the clock, your fellow guests and one of the ship’s expert chefs to prepare a full entree, test your existing skills and help you pick up new ones.
7. Holland America Line
Culinary Arts Centre: In what is a central part of Holland America Line’s focus on fine cuisine, the cooking theatre known as the Culinary Arts Centre is in action most days of a cruise with a huge range of cooking demonstrations. Sessions include how to perfect an appetiser plate, main courses and dessert decorating, among many more, with wine seminars also hosted – all of which designed by HAL’s expert Culinary Council.
The Culinary Arts Centre is perfectly set-up for hosting these sessions, with cameras and screens in the ceiling to take the audience right up close to make sure you don’t miss a single part of the preparation process. From time to time, the venue is transformed into a restaurant itself for a detailed farm-to-table dining experience.
If you’re unable to make it to a particular session, often you’ll be able to tune in and watch on your stateroom television.
BLEND by Chateau Ste. Michelle: A new wine-themed experience which made its debut on the line’s newest ship MS Koningsdam earlier this year, BLEND by Chateau Ste. Michelle appeals to both wine novices and experts due to its hands-on focus.
The small purpose-built venue hosts the wine making session regularly on a cruise and sees guests design their very own wine flavour by tasting and mixing from five barrels of single-vineyard red wine, using the varied flavours to fine tune their bottle to suit their individual taste. To complete the process, guests then customise and print a label for their bottle.
The finished product can then be transferred to one of the ship’s restaurants where it can be served with their dinner that evening or prepared to be taken home at the end of the cruise.
Acting Classes: Famed for decades of classic movies, TV shows and characters, Cunard celebrates its place as the quintessentially British cruise line by offering acting classes while on the high seas.
Graduates from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art are onboard many Queen Mary 2 cruises and host interactive workshops to help you tell a story onstage. Guests can even put together a short ‘street theatre’ style production which can play in some of the public rooms later in the cruise.
Fencing: The first cruise line to offer recreational sword-fighting at sea, Cunard has teamed up with the Leon Paul Fencing Company, which supplies the British Olympic Fencing Team, to also provide equipment for the provision of fencing classes while at sea.
The favourite past-time of Prince Albert, the husband of British Monarch Queen Victoria, fencing classes are held at no additional cost to travellers and no prior experience is needed, although you have to be over the age of 18. All safety gear is provided at the daily classes and a fully-certified instructor takes guests through the basics and more advanced processes and maneuvers associated with fencing. For first-timers, elementary foil fencing classes use a flexible, lightweight and blunted tip.
9. Norwegian Cruise Line
Learn about Craft Beers: Craft breweries are sweeping the globe with their popularity and Norwegian’s District Brew House specialises in these, offering more than 50 bottled beers and 24 draft beers from Florida brand Wynwood Brewing Company.
At different points of your Norwegian cruise, travellers can attend a seminar to learn more about the finer details of small-time brewing, the different types of craft beer, the ingredients used and how different processes affect the flavours of the final result. It’s sure to leave you sufficiently inspired to want to try and brew your own upon returning home.
Casino Gaming Lessons: The old saying that “the house always wins” doesn’t always have to be the case if you know all the (legal) tricks of the trade and believe in Lady Luck.
Norwegian Cruise Line is one of several which hosts the occasional tutorial in the most popular and widely known table and automatic games, including poker machines. Classes are held in Texas Hold-Em Poker, Blackjack and the slot machines including how to identify the different winning hands and develop your steely poker face.
These lessons are complimentary, however of course you’re learning a skill so you can’t actually win anything at them. But it might instill a bit of confidence in trying your hand later when you’re playing for real with your own money.