Updated January 2018
Today's cruises offer more than a relaxing way of going from destination to destination, you can enjoy world-class dining, Broadway-style productions, and a whole host of enrichment programs. Now the term 'enrichment program' doesn't sound appealing to all cruisers, but if you look closer at just what's on offer, you'll be in for a fantastic and rewarding surprise.
As well as the classic art tours, dance lessons, and bridge clubs, there are all sorts of perhaps less expected activities on offer. How does wine tasting with Olly Smith, or gaining a PADI diving certificate sound? These are just a snippet of what you might be able to do on a sea day.
A growing trend onboard ships are the cooking classes. Holland America Line are the pioneers here with their 'Culinary Arts Centre', an innovative, theatre-style demonstration kitchen where passengers can either watch one of the demonstrations or take part in cooking classes. These classes have been a hit, with passengers enjoying tips from the ship's top chefs and special guests. Viking Cruises also have a renowned and unique option, by dining at The Kitchen Table, those taking part will learn how to prepare a gourmet meal with the chef, before enjoying it in the company of fellow students!
P&O Cruises also offer the chance to learn from the experts, offering the chance to take part in wine tastings, or take a class on how to match your wine and food with Saturday Kitchen regular, wine expert Olly Smith. You can enjoy similar classes onboard many cruise lines, but only the Azura offers the excitable Smith.
Whether food, wine or both are your passions, take in one of the regular courses or wait for a celebrity chef and come home with a few more tricks to impress family and friends.
Learn The Lingo
This is another aspect of cruising that is becoming increasingly popular; why not try and pick up a bit of the local language of your next destination, while onboard? Whether this be French, Spanish, or something a little less familiar, many cruise lines pride themselves in encouraging cultural immersion into the destinations on their itineraries, and a few hours with these guys on a sea day should give you the confidence to have a go once you're in port.
Fancy A PADI
Did you know that on a Caribbean cruise you can now pick up a PADI diving qualification. This may not be the most relaxing day time activity, but in the warmer Caribbean waters and surrounded by the vibrant, colourful sea life, why not give it a go? Royal Caribbean, P&O Cruises, and Holland America Line all offer different courses, classes, and diving activities. Who said cruising was about sitting around or playing shuffle board?
Digital workshops are another activity growing in popularity onboard. You can learn how to use social media, write a blog, or take a photography course. Pick up some handy tips to share your holiday memories with friends and family and keep them posted while you're having the time of your life.
Whatever your passion, the chances are that there is a cruise out there just right for you. Cunard offer a fashion-focussed, transatlantic cruise during New York Fashion Week, ballroom dancing can be found on a variety of cruise lines such as P&O and Costa, and Princess Cruises offer fantastic star-gazing opportunities since teaming up with Discovery. Cunard even have RADA graduates onboard the QM2 should you wish to work on thespian skills.
So many cruise lines today boast a wide variety of both calm and exhilerating sports opportunities. From the race track onboard Norwergian Bliss, to the surf-simulator and rock-climbing walls on Royal Caribbean ships, both kids and adults will find plenty to do. Of course those who prefer something slightly less active, most larger ships have fantastic spa and gym facilities, where you can take part in classes such as pilates and yoga.
Next time you hear the term 'enrichment' when looking at your cruise, don't just think of art tours, spa days, and book clubs, take a look as you'll be surprised by what you may find.