Seabourn has done it again (that's what we call an Encore) with a star-studded line-up of lecturers for their onboard cruise enrichment program, Seabourn Conversations. In late 2015 and early 2016, three experts in the fields of technology and media will take to the floor on selected sailings aboard the Seabourn Odyssey to share their vast knowledge and experience. You might recognize some of their names: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, former CBS news anchor and renowned television journalist Dan Rather and Chairman of Forbes Media Steve Forbes are amongst the speakers.
Seabourn's senior vice president, John Delaney, said of the announcement: "We always seek the most engaging speakers to participate in our Seabourn Conversations program on Seabourn vessels around the world. With global perspectives drawn from personal experiences in the realms of culture, history, innovation, adventure and art, we're very excited to welcome the line-up of distinguished speakers for our guests."
Other speakers set to cruise with Seabourn in the coming months include a maritime historian, marine biology professor, author and filmmaker, royal portrait painter, and member of the House of Lords. With so many distinguished experts joining the conversations, cruisers will disembark not only more relaxed and widely travelled but a lot more knowledgeable than when they set off!
If you like some learning on your holiday but Seabourn is a little out of the budget, there are other cruise lines offering great enrichment and lecture programs. Here are our top picks of lines, ships and specific sailings to broaden your horizons.
Cunard does a lot of things very well, and the Cunard Insights program is one of them. Their onboard lecture series regularly features prominent writers, actors, scientists, film-makers, explorers, politicians and even occasionally astronauts as guest speakers. In the coming months Cunard cruisers will encounter, amongst a far-reaching host of experts: Award winning cellist and conductor Julian Lloyd Webber, talented comedian and broadcaster Pam Ayres, Admiral Alan West, BBC correspondent Jane Corbin and celebrated biologist George McGavin.
The learning doesn't stop at the lectures and discussions either - the line also offers Royal Academy of Dramatic Art workshops and a planetarium by the Royal Astronomical Society on the Queen Mary 2, as well as a Book Club across the line for literary discussions.
The Scholarship@Sea program on Princess is a very good one, and on a line that is attainable for many cruisers - i.e, not a luxury or premium line with the associated price tag. Along with expert guest lecturers, there are some unique classes and seminars in which Princess passengers can participate.
An interesting part of the program is Navigation@Sea, presented by one of the ship's officers and covering the basics of how everything operates and the different ways of keeping you headed where you want to go. It's a fascinating look at the practicalities of cruising.
Digital Basics workshops are handy for the technologically challenged, with topics from smartphone basics to blogging and social networking tips. Foodies aren't forgotten, as Princess offers culinary demonstrations and wine tasting seminars, and there is also a series of art history lectures.
Holland America's Culinary Arts Centre
If you love to cook, a Holland America cruise might be just your taste. All ships across the line are now equipped with a Culinary Arts Center presented by Food and Wine Magazine, which offer a range of demonstrations, classes and workshops to passengers.
In the CAC you could learn new skills in a hands-on class, get your cookbooks signed by renowned chefs, taste and critique wines with visiting vintners, learn about cuisine local to the regions you are visiting, and even enjoy a basic cooking demonstration with the kids to teach them kitchen safety and simple cooking techniques.
With an impressive demo kitchen and many itineraries welcoming special guest chefs, the Center is fast gaining a reputation as one of the the best culinary experiences you will find at sea.
P&O, one of Australia's favourite cruise lines, offers some great sampler cruises called Seabreaks. With just one port call or none at all, and lasting only 3 or 4 nights, these are affordable and great for a quick getaway or as a trial for first-time cruisers. Some of them are also themed, offering special interest itineraries for cruise lovers who also love comedy, food and wine or music.
The music cruises last three or four nights, and you can pick from blues or rock themes. They include plentiful live shows, jam sessions, music quizzes and musician Q&A seminars- a dream holiday for any muso. The comedy cruises follow a similar format with laughs instead of tunes as they bring aboard funny people from Australia, New Zealand and around the world.
It would seem food and wine is a recurring theme in the cruise industry! P&O gets on the bandwagon with entire 3-night itineraries devoted to eating and drinking the good stuff. Specially crafted menus are just the beginning - a Food and Wine cruise might also include masterclasses, tastings of wine, liqueurs and cheese, mixology workshops, fruit and vegetable carving, and culinary demonstrations.
National Symphony Orchestra on Queen Mary 2
It's Cunard again, but this particular cruise deserves special mention for music fans. Departing on the 27th of August 2015, the westbound transatlantic crossing will host the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Inglis. As well as two amazing onboard performances, the cruise will feature a talk and a Q&A session by Mr. Inglis.
The UK's National Symphony Orchestra dates back to the 1940s and is one of the best freelance groups in the country. Musicians and orchestra lovers will appreciate the chance to combine a classic Cunard transatlantic itinerary with some incredible symphonies and musical education.
So there you have it - cruising isn't all about lazing by the pool and turning your brain to mush. In fact, with lectures, guest speakers, classes, demo facilities and themed seminars so readily available, it is one of the best holidays for someone who wants to stimulate their brain.