Enrichment at Sea

Not long ago it was unheard of to exercise your brain and body while on a cruise. The very nature of a cruise vacation was to relax, eat, lie out on deck and take in a few sights at port visits. Today, more and more cruisers are showing interest in a more cerebral and corporal experience, manifested in onboard lectures, hands-on activities and wellness classes. The cruise lines have identified the trends, and developed exceedingly robust programs to immerse guests in more than just sun and water. Enrichment programs are the latest trend in cruising: art and pottery classes are available on a Princess cruise

One of the most popular trends capturing the attention of cruise passengers are courses relating to food and fine wine. You can learn the art of Italian or even Norwegian cooking, or take a Le Cordon Bleu French-cuisine class. And as for wine, as you're sailing through France, you can take the opportunity to discern the differences in Bordeaux.

For those who tend toward health kicks instead of indulgences, there are many opportunities for picking up healthy eating and lifestyle tips as well, since wellness is another trend for which the cruise lines are providing programming. A gourmet cooking demonstration from master chefs on a Regent Seven Seas cruise; yoga (right) and other fitness classes are offered on Silversea's cruises

Those interested in exploring the world of art and auctions can take a cruise with a program lead by the head of Christie's, and film buffs can rub elbows with Rex Reed. And, have you always wanted to figure out how to come home with photos as great as your cousin Bill's? Take a cruise where you can learn about photography and put that advice immediately into practice.

And if you're a Mozart fan or have an interest in the card game bridge, come aboard an upcoming special-interest cruise that will surround you with like-minded people from all over the country, if not the world.

And the icing on the cake is that most enrichment programs are offered at no extra charge: Classes you would spend hundreds of dollars for at your local college or activity center—if they even offered anything close to the quality of class leader or classroom amenities—are included in your cruise fee. Yoga  and other fitness classes are offered on Silversea's cruises

Programs for Kids

As cruise vacations are often geared for the whole family, and most parents would jump at the opportunity for their kids to come away from a trip with more than tales of time spent in the pool, cruise lines are developing enrichment programs just for kids.

For example, Regent Seven Seas in March launched Ambassadors of the Environment Youth Circle of Interest through a partnership with ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau. The program, designed for Alaskan cruises, introduces younger guests to marine and wildlife through shore excursions and interactive activities.

And Holland America Line's new high-tech Culinary Arts Center, where scores of accomplished chefs impart their knowledge to the line's passengers, was so popular with adults that the line just announced it would be extending it to include teens and kids. It will launch this summer as part of Club HAL, the line's children's program.