|Chef David Bilsland hosts Silversea’s Relais & Châteaux L’École des Chefs cooking school.|
Onboard enrichment programs can impact both the customer’s overall level of cruise satisfaction and the initial buying decision. And that’s particularly the case if the customer is sailing on a premium, upmarket or luxury line with an itinerary that fields plenty of sea days, according to Amber Blecker, owner, CruiseOne, Miami.
Can enrichment programs help agents entice first-time cruisers? Yes, particularly when clients are intellectually minded travelers who might book a topically intense cruise offered by such lines as Voyages to Antiquity so they can stroll through ancient ruins and hear expert commentary from historians.
“Enrichment programs in my experience rarely drive a booking, but they do help first-time cruisers feel more comfortable with the decision to cruise,” says Blecker.
Here’s a sampling of oceangoing enrichment experiences for 2012.
When Enrichment Turns Up the Heat: “The hottest trend I’m seeing right now are cooking enrichment programs,” says Blecker. “This trend really got rolling with the Culinary Arts Center program of Holland America Line, and Oceania Cruises’ two new ships have taken it to another level with their hands-on cooking stations.”
In 2012, Holland America continues its popular portfolio of culinary cruises. For example, an 11-day Southern Caribbean Wayfarer cruise on January 23 will feature Chef Ed Cotton, the executive chef at Plein Sud, a French brasserie concept at Smyth Hotel in Tribeca, New York City.
New for 2012, Oceania will organize 10 “Signature Sailings” focused on culinary, wine, music, and health and wellness themes. Depending on the voyage, Chef Jacques Pépin, up-and-coming jazz musicians, and noted editors will be special guests. Pépin will sail on Marina’s May 12 “Tuscan Artistry” cruise from Barcelona to Rome.
Guests sailing October 7 on Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 10-night Monte Carlo-to-Venice Seven Seas Voyager cruise will enjoy “Spotlight on Italian Cooking” with Tommaso Barletta, executive chef and owner of several renowned Italian restaurants. Silversea Cruises plans 20 “Relais & Châteaux L’École des Chefs” interactive cooking school voyages on its luxury ships this year.
Celebrity Cruises’ “Excite the Senses Culinary Theme Cruises” will kick off on March 24 on Celebrity Eclipse. The first of eight food-and-wine-themed cruises is a seven-night sailing hosted by Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity’s master chef and vice president of culinary operations. Expect cooking classes in the galley, demonstrations and dinners.
When Enrichment is the Ship Itself: During “The Ultimate Ship Tour” by Princess Cruises, cruisers can go where few cruisers have gone before. They can explore beyond the ship’s public areas with guided visits to the ship’s engine control room, medical center, incinerator room, print shop, laundry, photo lab, navigational bridge and other behind-the-scenes spaces. Cost is $150 per person.
When Enrichment Provides Insight: Political figures, language skills development sessions and other non-itinerary related lecturers seem to be the most important on luxury lines, while lifestyle enrichment is appealing at all levels, according to Blecker. She also says popular celebrities or personalities in a particular field can influence the cruisers to book a specific cruise line or date. “Groups formed around personalities seem to be increasing in popularity again, and bringing new cruisers into the market,” she says.
|Guests can brush up their computer skills at Crystal Cruises’ Computer [email protected]|
Crystal Cruises’ Ocean Views program on its World Cruise 2012 and other select sailings throughout the year serves up panels of prominent political and world affairs experts, including James Carville and Mary Matalin, both political consultants; Marc Ginsberg, former U.S. ambassador to Morocco; General Hugh Shelton, a retired military officer of the United States Army; Robert Warne, international economics expert; Farhana Qazi, counterterrorism analyst; and Shelby Coffey, former editor of The Los Angeles Times. Ocean Views will also introduce new, interactive technology allowing guests to anonymously share their opinions during the debate via individual electronic polling keypads.
Guests on the February 4 sailing of Silversea’s Silver Shadow from Auckland, New Zealand, will hear lectures from Terry Waite, hostage negotiator, humanitarian and a former hostage in Lebanon.
When Enrichment Takes Drama to New Heights: On Cunard Line, performances by the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) will move beyond their normal venue of Queen Mary 2’s Royal Court Theatre this year. Actors portraying characters in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales or Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing will travel through the ship’s public areas in costume and reenact short scenes. In addition, RADA will conduct a series of writing and storytelling workshops for guests.
When Enrichment Looks to the Stars: Joining the June 2 “Tahiti & the Society Islands” sailing of Paul Gauguin Cruises is Bill Kramer, an acknowledged expert in solar eclipse prediction mathematics. Kramer will share with guests the opportunity to witness a rare astronomical event on June 5—the transit of Venus. Providing a unique opportunity to watch the solar system in motion, the event will last six hours and will not occur again until 2117.
When Enrichment Shows Guests How to Dance: Royal Caribbean International allows guests to whirl, dip and glide across the dance floor during ballroom dance classes on Enchantment of the Seas through March 19 and also later in the year, Radiance of the Seas through April 5, Mariner of the Seas through April 15, Jewel of the Seas from May 3 through August 31, and Independence of the Seas through November 11.
When Enrichment Tackles High-tech: Crystal Cruises’ Computer [email protected] holds up to a dozen classes on average per sailing. Guests may take classes ranging from Photoshop picture retouching to Facebook tips, with both basic and advanced level courses. Full world cruisers can even earn college credit via Del Mar College (fees apply) for their computer coursework. Shipboard classrooms each have two dozen computer workstations. “Computer skills and photography are perennial favorites, and the lines are keeping up with the current technology trends in their offerings,” says Blecker.
When Enrichment is Nautical: Onboard Star Clippers, low-key enrichment activities are nautically focused and integrated within the overall sailing experience. Guests who so choose may climb the mast wearing a safety harness and help the ship’s crew unfurl the sails. Guests can also learn how to tie nautical knots. Plus, Star Clippers’ captains give a daily nautical talk on deck about, for example, celestial navigation or the history of sailing ships.
For maritime history buffs, a 100th anniversary Titanic Memorial Cruise is planned onboard Azamara Journey of Azamara Club Cruises. Sailing on April 10 from New York, this charter voyage will include themed entertainment, talks by expert maritime historians, visits to Nova Scotia cemeteries where some Titanic victims are buried, and a poignant memorial service at sea directly over the spot where Titanic slipped to the bottom of the northern Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. Visit www.titanicmemorialcruise.co.uk for details.