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Culinary Center on Oceania's Riviera (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Best Enrichment Cruise Lines

Travel broadens the mind, they say, but most cruise companies offer the opportunity to feed it too by employing specialist guest lecturers to deliver a range of enrichment programmes. Celebrated authors discuss their best-sellers; diplomats and politicians give a perspective on world events; learned professors bring foreign cultures to life and scientists or explorers reveal insights into the natural world. While some lectures comprise of a genteel romp through history, others can be a little more challenging, but they are always fascinating.

Updated July 27, 2018

1. Crystal Cruises

Programme: Theme Cruises and Spotlight Cruises

Theme: Specialises in US and British political and diplomatic heavyweights.

Details: The collection of themed voyages ranges from food, wine and wellness to music, theatre and film. The noted experts and celebrated personalities on board educate and entertain. The "Crystal Wine & Food Festival” sailings attract the hottest stars of the culinary world, while the “Crystal on Broadway" voyages showcases top talent from premiere shows. "Spotlight Cruises" include specialty voyages featuring oceanographer Jean-Michel Cousteau. The renowned oceanographer, explorer and founder of the Ocean Futures Society shares tales from his lifetime of underwater exploration, puts forth his vision for a healthy blue planet, and discusses the legacy of his famous father -- the legendary Jacques Cousteau.

2. Cunard Line

Guest lecture hosted on Queen Mary 2

Programme: Cunard Insights

Theme: Leading academics and authors; a high-brow programme.

Details: Cunard's 2017 roster of high-calibre speakers on Queen Mary 2 includes Anthony Horowitz, one of the most successful writers working in the UK. He has created some of the UK’s most popular TV series, including Midsomer Murders. He is also the writer and creator of award-winning drama series Foyle's War and has written more than 40 best-selling novels.

3. Hebridean Island Cruises

Programme: Hebridean Guest Speakers

Theme: Insights to Hebridean Princess' cruises round the Highlands & Islands of Scotland.

Details: On the nine-night "Treasures of Normandy and the Channel Isles" sailing departing London on 8 August 2018, Rear Admiral John Lippiett -- Chief Executive of the Mary Rose Trust -- will discuss Britain's colourful maritime history. During the 10-night "British Isles Explorer" cruise from Portland on 17 August, scientific photographers Paul and Lucy Kay will share their expertise in exploring and photographing the underwater world. Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman will be on the seven-night "Cycling over The Minch" cruise departing Oban on 9 October 2018; he will also accompany cyclists on rides on Tiree, Barra, The Uists, Raasay and on the Sleat Peninsula on Skye.

Sample cruise:The seven-night "Architectural Gems of Argyll and The Isles" cruise on Hebridean Princess departs Greenock on 30 October 2018. Prices from: £2,650.

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4. Holland America Line

Programme: BBC Earth partnership

Theme: Passengers can experience more of the world’s natural wonders, test their knowledge of our planet and participate in family-friendly competitions through HAL’s exclusive partnership with BBC Earth.

Details: On every Holland America Line cruise "Frozen Planet Live" offers a ground-breaking concert based on the BBC Earth "Frozen Planet" series, staged to live classical music as guests are taken on a journey into the wilderness of the Polar Regions. "What on Earth?" is an entertaining and enlightening family game show, which uncovers all that's weird, wonderful and obscure in the natural world. "Inside Earth" films offer an insight into how the BBC's extraordinary content is captured, featuring personal tales of the challenges and wonders faced by the crew. "BBC Earth for Club HAL & Tweens" is full of amazing facts about animals, dinosaurs and sea creatures for kids to enjoy.

5. Oceania Cruises

Programme: Culinary Discovery Tours

Theme: Food and culinary experts.

Details:  Oceania Cruises has enhanced its array of immersive, culinary experiences with new "Culinary Discovery Tours" across the globe. These tours provide passengers with an interest in gastronomy to interact with local culinary experts by exploring local food markets, take part in tuition in prestigious cookery schools, and savour specialities in renowned restaurants. The array of choices includes lunch at Michelin-starred chef Reine Sammut’s Auberge La Feniere after a visit to the flower and vegetable markets in Aix-en-Provence. On cruises that include Athens, passengers can visit an open-air market, get lessons on how to prepare traditional Greek dishes, enjoy wine and ouzo tastings, and savour lunch at Varoulko, home to Greece's top awarded Michelin-starred chef.

Sample cruise: Celebrity chef and Executive Culinary Director for Oceania Cruises, Jacques Pépin will host a 10-night Jacques Pépin Cruise aboard Riviera, departing Lisbon on 14 September 2018, which will feature signature menus, engaging lectures and culinary demonstrations from the renowned chef. Prices from: £2,949.

6. Princess Cruises

Programme: Encounters with Discover

Theme: Well-known names from across the world of royalty; entertainment; politics and sport.

Details: Princess Cruises offers the chance to mingle and learn from knowledgeable experts who share their experiences during cruises which are part of the "Discovery at Sea" partnership with Discovery Communications. The enriching events feature regional destination specialists, as well as naturalists and experts in their fields. There's also quite a smattering of celebrities – next year look forward to Linda Gray (Sue Ellen in Dallas), Pete Best (ex-Beatles drummer), Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards and Harry Redknapp, to name but a few. "Encounters Naturalists" draw on a rich collection of personal adventures to bring scientific knowledge to life whether it be trekking the Alaska backcountry to diving into the wonder of Hawaii's deep sea reefs.

Sample Cruise: The seven-night "Voyage of the Glaciers" aboard Island Princess sailing from Vancouver to Whittier (Anchorage) departs 5 September 2018. Prices from: £899 cruise-only.

7. Saga Cruises

Programme: Guest Speakers

Theme: Occasional interactions with television personalities, as well as enrichment from destination specialists.

Details: Saga Cruises always try to fit in the enrichment talks about the destinations to be visited during selected cruises. Experts add another layer of interest, so once ashore guests have a greater appreciation of the local culture and history. Speakers also often regale intriguing stories behind the artwork in galleries, famous figures in history and celebrity hang-outs, to the best places to buy local delicacies or souvenirs. Enrichment talks are often linked to themed cruises such as wildlife and bird watching, art history, archaeology, gardens, explorers, politics and famous battles. The lecturers can range from the former boss of MI5 to newsreaders, ex-military chiefs to TV gardeners and pantomime dames.

8. Seabourn Cruise Line

Programme: Seabourn Conversations

Theme: Renowned politicians and learned scholars from the arts, sciences, politics and the humanities.

Details: Author and lyricist Sir Tim Rice has earned awards at the Oscars, Golden Globes, Tonys and Grammys. He will be aboard Seabourn Quest on 13 January 2018 to talk about his career including his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber on Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and more. His production show, “An Evening With Tim Rice”, is currently playing fleet wide on all Seabourn ships.

Sample cruise: Jeffrey Archer wrote his first novel, "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" in 1976 at the age of 34. He has gone on to sell more than 100 million books and is now published in 97 countries. He will be discussing his colourful career on board Seabourn Encore on a seven-night "Romance of the Rivieras" cruise departing Barcelona on 18 August 2018 and sailing to Civitavecchia (Rome). He will also be sailing on Encore for the next seven-night "Alluring Italy & Riviera" cruise from Civitavecchia to Barcelona on 25 August 2018. Prices for both cruises from: £3,499.

9. Silversea Cruises

Silver Spirit

Programme: Silver Perspectives

Theme: A wide range of diverse topics.

Details: Silversea Cruises' diverse programme of lectures is presented by numerous distinguished guests. Experts include: British monarchy expert, author and broadcaster Brian Hoey; British military historian Major General Sir Robert Corbett; Steven Rivellino, one of the leading executive producers in the theatrical and entertainment industries; Bill Boggs, four-time Emmy Award-winning TV talk show host; and best-selling author and travel writer Bill Bryson. Silversea also offers culinary-themed voyages which host prestigious Relais & Chateaux chefs. Silversea Expeditions also have an enrichment programme called "Expedition Enrichment", and experts include Stefan Kredel, whose travels have taken him to the Annapurna Circle Track in Nepal and the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru; Olga Stravrakis, who worked for many years in the Maya region in Central America, excavating the ancient city of Tikal in the Guatemalan jungle; and Christian Walter anthropologist, archaeologist, historian and art expert who led a comparative study of Easter Island's petroglyphs.

10. Voyages To Antiquity

Programme: Guest Speakers

Theme: Popular with travellers who want to understand more about the history, culture and natural wonders of the ancient world.

Details: Although Voyages to Antiquity only has one ship, Aegean Odyssey, its impressive roll-call of guest speakers on cruises to the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico are all specialist historians, geologists, wine connoisseurs or wildlife experts. New for 2018 is a series of six, one-week cruises in Cuba between January and March that feature the major cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba as well as more offbeat destinations like Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Guest speakers include Charles V. Barclay -- a member of the U.S. diplomatic corps for 28 years. Also on board will be Tony Kapcia -- Professor of Latin American History at the University of Nottingham since 2003, where he directs the Centre for Research on Cuba and its international network of specialists -- the Cuba Research Forum. Retired Diplomat John Dew will also impart his expertise which began in Venezuela in 1975. After postings to Paris, Dublin and Madrid, with intervals in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, he headed the Latin American and Caribbean Department of the FCO from 2000 - 2003. 

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