If you don't want to take a concentrated study cruise but still want to keep your brain in shape during the long days at sea, many cruise lines are adding education-related activities to the usual fare of exercise and dance classes. "A lot of people want to come home from their cruises with more than souvenirs. They want to come home with enlightened experiences," says Nancie Nichols Svenson, head of Miami-based Nichols Cruise Consultants.
In August, Silversea Cruises began its Written Word program, inviting an author or editor to provide lectures and mingle with passengers. Brian Hoey, who has written books about Britain's Royal Family, traveled from Barcelona to Monte Carlo on the program's maiden voyage.
Crystal Cruises runs the Creative Learning Institute -- 45-minute classes offered in partnership with Berlitz International, Yamaha Motor, the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and Pepperdine University. Passengers can take piano lessons or hear lectures by doctors on maintaining healthy lifestyles. Pepperdine professors offer tips on financial and estate planning.
Warren Lefkowich, 50, says he took Spanish classes with Berlitz on an 18-day Crystal cruise in February which sailed from Australia to Hong Kong. "I always wanted to brush up on Spanish, and there aren't many opportunities on Cape Cod," says Lefkowich, who owns an inn in Provincetown, Mass.
Starting this year on Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, passengers can participate in the Oxford Discovery Program. During transatlantic voyages, professors from Oxford University are conducting seminars on a range of subjects. In October, one professor, in a lecture called "Cool Britannia," will discuss the changes in the monarchy and the House of Lords.
That's an apt subject for folks who will disembark in Britain, and just one more example of how travelers can improve more than their shuffleboard skills while onboard.