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Cultural Cruising

Cultural Cruising

Years ago, it was enough for cruise lines to offer a compelling itinerary with a handful of exotic ports of call to attract prospective guests, but that’s lame for today’s cruise passengers with inquiring minds. Eminent lecturers, themed voyages, and high-profile celebrity guests are quickly becoming the norm as travellers seek to make their time at sea all the more fulfilling.


The concept of cultural cruising can trace its roots back to 1955 when Richard Kenneth Swan and his father chartered the elderly ship Aegaeon for cruises around archeologically significant Greek Islands. High-brow cruising was successful in its simplicity: offer a genuine travel experience that visits historic ports where a variety of educational excursions are included in the price, combined with renowned on-board lecturers imparting their wisdom.


With the greying of the baby-boomers a whole new generation are now seeking intellectual gratification. Vacationing with a purpose, as cruise lines call it, is one of the industry’s hottest trends and a host of cruise companies are now offering enrichment programmes.


Diplomats and politicians give insight into world events, learned professors bring foreign cultures to life, and celebrated authors discuss their best-sellers, while scientists or explorers reveal the secrets of the natural world. Occasionally lectures turn out to be less of a genteel romp through history, more brain aerobics but they are always fascinating and many passengers find these presentations a truly rewarding experience.


With a reputation for showcasing the finest speakers at sea, Cunard’s ‘Insights’ programme offers the chance to listen to the great and the good. ‘Seabourn Conversations’ programme sees renowned politicians and learned scholars from the arts, sciences, politics and the humanities impart enlightenment. ‘Silver Perspectives’ is the diverse programme offered by Silversea Cruises. Specialising in British and US political and diplomatic heavyweights, Crystal Cruises’ ‘Experiences of Discovery’ line-up is one of the most notable offerings. Voyages to Antiquity also offer a line-up of guest speakers including historians, geologists and wildlife experts.


It’s a well known motto that ‘travel broadens the mind’, with the enrichment programmes on this array of cruise lines, there’s the opportunity to feed it too. Your fellow passengers won’t be boffins or paid-up members of the intelligentsia, nor is your sojourn at sea going to resemble a remedial school; these are genteel discussions that transform a cruise into a truly rewarding experience. For more details about enrichment at sea call 0800 484 0370.

  • 18th September 2018
  • Chris Leviston

Gary Buchanan


Edinburgh-born Gary Buchanan has been a travel writer for over 30 years. He has been a specialist cruise writer for 25 years contributing to leading British publications including national newspapers and consumer magazines. He is the author of five books about cruising and spends over seven months every year at sea sailing the world’s oceans.