A cruise is what you make it, whether that be a relaxing getaway, a scenic escape, or a cultural holiday.
Culture is something that many cruise lines are dedicating more and more time and resources to, and today it’s almost impossible to set sail without having some form of fascinating cultural experience, whether that’s on board or ashore. As Princess Cruises say, you’ll ‘come back new’ from a cruise holiday, and the culture you enjoy is just one way in which you’ll learn new things, meet new people and discover new passions. Here are some cruise lines that are currently leading the way in terms of unforgettable cultural experiences:
Culture is something that has always been prominent on board Cunard cruises, and 2014 actually marks the 40th anniversary of ‘Cunard Insights’ – a guest speaker programme that has been entertaining cruise passengers since 1974. Cunard were the very first major cruise line to introduce the concept of guest speakers as a form of both on board entertainment and cultural enrichment and learning, and they are continuing to welcome some of the biggest names in the world of literature, sport, film and politics, as well as personalities from many more sectors. This year alone, Cunard passengers have had opportunities to attend lectures by highly acclaimed author Bill Bryson, former Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond, and Hollywood director Wes Anderson.
Oceania Cruises are dedicated to ‘enrichment’ on board all their vessels and while this idea of cultural enrichment may not be as structured as that on Cunard, it is instead more integrated, blending in with other on board activities. Oceania’s larger ships, Marina and Riviera, both include an ‘Artist’s Loft’, specifically designed to help budding artists and craft lovers develop their skills. If you’ve ever travelled on an Oceania Cruises vessel, a programme such as this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The cruise line’s founder, Frank del Rio, is passionate about art and has ensured the fleet are adorned with paintings and sculptures throughout. Recently, travellers had the chance to take a workshop overseen by Annelein Beukenkamp – an award-winning artists specialising in the use of watercolours.
P&O Festivals at Sea
Like Cunard, P&O are celebrating a very important event in 2014 – the 30th anniversary of the cruise line’s ‘Festivals at Sea’ event. Beginning in 1984, P&O have been featuring big names in the music industry on board select sailings each and every year and while this tended to be limited largely to classical music back in the 1980s, the concept of the festival has evolved over the years, and we’re now seeing pop stars and opera singers taking to the stage to entertain passengers. The aim is for the festivals to be quite diverse, showing the full range of skills of each performer. This year, P&O will be playing host to tenor Dan Holley, baritone Mark Oldfield, and pianist Michael Pollock.
Swan Hellenic Discovery Voyages
Swan Hellenic offer a number of ‘Discovery Cruises’ which feature not only a selection of guest speakers, but also a number of after dinner speakers. Lectures typically take place within the Darwin Lounge, although speakers can be found around the ship, and passengers are encouraged to chat, ask questions, and interact. Guest speakers in the past have included Canon Ralph Godsall of Westminster Abbey, Rosalind Whyte of the Tate Modern, and Sarah Staniforth of the National Trust. In addition, you’ll also find celebrity guests such as impressionist Alistair McGowan and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald. There’s never a dull moment on board MV Minerva.
Azamara Club Cruises ‘Destination Immersion’
Of course, it’s important to remember that culture isn’t just limited to at-sea activities – culture is all around us and immersing ourselves in the different cultures of different destinations can be as eye-opening and educational as anything we can do on board. Azamara Club Cruises are paying particularly attention to destination culture and have introduced the concept of ‘destination immersion’ – giving passengers more time to explore ports of call, and more options in terms of excursions than ever before. Azamara Club Cruises’ ships currently spend more time in port overnight than those from any other cruise line, and ‘AzAmazing Evenings’ ensure passengers experience the best of each destination, which could include seeing the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band, a night at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, or a trip to the Moulin Rouge.