During a catamaran cruise and snorkel trip at St. Thomas.

During a catamaran cruise and snorkel trip at St. Thomas.

College at sea

Learning holidays combine an educational opportunity with travel to an exotic destination and some of the most popular programs are offered as “seminars at sea” aboard cruise ships.

Learning holidays combine an educational opportunity with travel to an exotic destination and some of the most popular programs are offered as “seminars at sea” aboard cruise ships.

Cruising is an ideal environment for those who want to have fun and learn at the same time. Classes are typically held on sea days and students go out and explore travel destinations on port days. Over the course of a one-week cruise, groups often become quite close-knit and such seminars can be a great networking opportunity for participants.

A little more than 10 years ago, Katey Markley of Elizabethtown, Penn., conceived of the idea of a canine college cruise.

As a registered dog breeder and dog show enthusiast, she was interested in attending seminars to help her take better care of her animals and improve their performance in competitions.

“The nice thing about the K9 Cruise is that instead of travelling to multiple seminars, we bring all the speakers to one place,” explained her husband Randy Markley, who helps plan and organize the cruises. “We have so many presenters that it’s virtually impossible to attend all of the presentations. But it works, because people can choose the presentations that are most relative to them and their animals.”

In January, Kim Johnstone and Lynda Hand of Lacombe participated in the annual K9 Cruise seminar at sea program. Hand is a dedicated Havanese dog breeder and show dog owner and Johnstone is a Havanese owner who has just recently become interested in breeding and showing her dogs.

“The cruise was really well-organized and even though it attracts a lot of show dog owners and breeders, it is also suitable for anyone who wants to learn how to better care for their dog,” Johnstone said. “They brought in some of the top nutrition experts, veterinarians, dog trainers, dog breeders, and dog show judges to discuss a wide range of topics ranging from injury prevention and canine rehab to how to pick a good puppy.”

Some cruise participants go back year after year to participate in the seminars and learn from the presenters. “The information from the seminars helped me to communicate better with my veterinarian and trainer to improve care of my dogs,” Johnstone said. “I was really impressed with the seminars I attended. I learned so much.

“I also met some amazing people and have an incredible network to draw on when I have questions about my dogs.”

The overall cruise experience was excellent and the two friends found that a girlfriend trip is far different from a couples cruise experience.

“The evening onboard entertainment on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship was excellent,” Johnstone said. “We did karaoke to dueling pianos one night and I’m pretty sure my husband would never have agreed to do that with me.

“We also enjoyed a Cirque du Soleil dinner theatre experience and watched the Blue Man Group perform. Our days were pretty full. We also took full advantage of the week-long spa access package to relax after classes.”

Ports of call for their cruise included the island of Nassau in the Bahamas, Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. On port days, they enjoyed a catamaran sail and snorkel trip in St. Thomas, spent time wandering around the city of Nassau, and experienced yacht racing in Saint Martin.

“Our day on Saint Martin was probably my favourite day,” Johnstone said. “We were racing on the Canada II and our boat won, which started things off really well. After the racing, we explored the island and did a little jewelry shopping. It was a beautiful island and a great day.”

Johnstone and Hand highly recommend the K9 College Cruise and said they might even go back and do it again at some point. For now, Johnstone is planning a trip to Cuba, where the Havanese breed originates, to acquire a new dog. She would not have been able to connect with the Cuban breeder if she had not made a connection with another dog breeder on this trip.

“The K9 College Cruise was definitely worth it,” Johnstone said. “I’m a novice to this world of dog breeding and showing and the seminars were invaluable to me.”

If you go:

• K9 College Cruises has been in operation for 10 years and utilize different cruise ships, itineraries and guest lecturers each time. The next K9 College Cruise is scheduled for Feb. 16 to 23, 2014, on Celebrity Silhouette. The ship sails from Fort Lauderdale, with stops in San Juan, Saint Kitts and Saint Martin. There are four at-sea days with dog seminars scheduled. Prices start at $1,199 per person, cruise only, for an inside cabin. The price includes the seminar-at-sea program. For more information, visit www.k9collegecruise.com.

Seminars at sea

Learning cruises are becoming very popular and you can find seminars at sea on almost any topic of interest.

Some seminars provide continuing education credits that can be valuable for advancement in a specific field. Other seminars cover topics that are of interest in other areas of life.

Since these seminars are organized by independent individuals or organizations, you have to carefully examine the seminar program and the presenters’ profiles to determine if the educational component is a good fit for your needs.

Here are just a few of the interesting seminars at sea that are on offer on the Internet:

• Quilting cruises: www.quiltcruises.com

• Health care cruise seminars: www.cruiseparadise.com

• Transform Your Life Cruise (lifestyle coaching at sea): www.itravelconsultants.com

• The Broadway Cruise (theatre camps and performances): thebroadwaycruise.com

• Dance Camps at Sea: www.dancingatsea.com

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.