CRUISING AS AN EDUCATION?

Crystal Symphony offers one of the best lecture programmes afloat anywhere

Crystal Symphony offers one of the best lecture programmes afloat anywhere

Some people think they know it all once they have graduated. They are possessed of a seemingly unshakeable sense of faith in their own infallibility, knowledge and decisions. I’ve always pitied such people profoundly.

My take on life is- and always will be- that you keep on learning from cradle to grave. Life itself is a continuous, ongoing lesson. And if you’re asleep at the back of the class, the only person that’s truly losing out is you, I’m afraid.

And one of the best places for learning is, without doubt, on a cruise or long ocean crossing. Here’s why;

You’ll generally meet an incredible cross section of people with a whole wealth of different backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and life experiences. Taking the time to sit back and listen to others is a wise investment of that precious resource of time.

You might not always agree, approve. or even fully understand what they tell you. Sometimes you might be shocked, and on occasions even downright appalled. But that’s not the point.

The point is that everything you learn is like a piece in the jigsaw puzzle of life. Not every bit fits perfectly. Not every bit is meant to.

I find it fascinating to just sit and listen to people as they open up about their lives, their experiences- good and bad- and the way that those events shaped and moulded them into (hopefully) rational, well rounded human beings. if you can’t learn from the past, there’s precious little hope for the future.

See the haunting ANZAC War Graves at Gallipoli

See the haunting ANZAC War Graves at Gallipoli

No two people ever have exactly the same take, even on the same event. But cruising as an educator and enabler? You bet.

And, of course, there are cruise lines out there whose entire raison d’etre is to inform and increase our knowledge of the world around us, past and present. Lines such as Voyages to Antiquity, Voyages of Discovery and, of course, the venerable institution that is Swan Hellenic.

These are the sort of lines that eschew Las Vegas style floorshows in favour of high quality, extremely well qualified lecturers on subjects as diverse as the ancient world, military and socio-economic history, pre and post war politics, and even religion as well. All of these lines tailor their programmes to specific parts of the world that they happen to be cruising in at the time.

For instance, a recent Voyages to Antiquity cruise that I did in the Far East had a distinguished former Australian army officer, lecturing on the fall of Singapore and the battles along the infamous Kokoda Trail. Being in these same waters brought his insights to life with an immediacy- and a poignant sense of clarity- like nothing I have ever experienced.

It should go without saying that those cruises are more for the types intent on feeding their minds, rather than ravaging the midnight buffet (assuming you can still find a ship that serves one, that is). Think cerebral caviar, rather than round the clock pizza, and you get the gist.

Many of the more upscale lines, such as Crystal, Regent and Silversea, generally feature an excellent roster of on board speakers and lecturers, with details listed in advance on their respective web sites. This is a big help when it comes to planning and perusing for the topics and areas that interest you the most. And these are regularly updated, too.

The excellent Aegean Odyssey returns to the Far East in 2014

The excellent Aegean Odyssey returns to the Far East in 2014

There are also cruises that bring you up close and personal to nature; bird watching cruises, Arctic expeditions, and even voyages to view the surreal splendour of the Northern Lights.

But in the end, you’ll learn as much about life- and humanity in general- from the people all around you. How they speak; how they behave- or don’t.

It’s an endlessly fascinating dance. And, best of all, it comes free with the price of the ticket. Have fun out there.

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