It used to be that to learn to meditate, you had to go to an ashram; to study a language, you had to go back to school. With the latest curricula aboard "smart ships," those days are history. Beyond the obvious libraries and fitness classes, passengers can now learn to appreciate wines with noted vintners, expand their cooking repertoire with respected chefs, practice their poses with yogis, and even master a language with a native speaker—all while sailing around the world.
Cunard's long-anticipated Queen Mary 2 will be the ultimate smart ship when it makes its maiden voyage in January 2004, with the only sailing planetarium, five university-at-sea classrooms, a 20,000-square-foot spa operated by Canyon Ranch, and not one but two celebrity chefs—Daniel Boulud as consultant and Todd English with his own restaurant. In the meantime, here are the most inventive and intensive self-improvement programs afloat. Find an itinerary and set sail on an enriching excursion.
Shipshape: Health and Fitness
ResidenSea The World With indulgent treatments, impressive gyms, and all the amenities of top-notch facilities, floating spas now rival their landlocked sisters. Leading the pack is The World's 7,000-square-foot Clinique La Prairie spa—the most luxurious one at sea so far. Under the guidance of a full-time trainer and dietitian, residents and guests can take advantage of the clinic's comprehensive regimens. Choose a seven-day total beauty program, including 28 consultations and treatments ($2,575) or a seven-day golf health program ($2,350, including greens fees at member courses). Three-day sailings from $1,200 per person, double On all sailings; 800/970-6601; www.residensea.com
The Program: Yoga, Health, and Fitness The Ships: Crystal Harmony and Symphony Fine-tune your asanas twice a day with individual instruction by Los Angeles—based yogi Marnie Neve. Between sun salutations, listen to lectures on everything from herbal medicine to midlife sex. From $2,795 per person, double; November 29—December 10 (Costa Rica), February 12—27 (Fort Lauderdale—Los Angeles); 800/820-6663; www.crystalcruises.com
The Program: Yoga Cruise The Ship: Costa Atlantica This course's 13 lecturers and more than 40 classes are presented by Yoga Journal magazine. Even the entertainment is form-fitted—evening shows feature Tripsichore, a London-based troupe that fuses yoga with modern dance. From $1,299 per person, double; February 2—9 (Western caribbean); 888/367-2842; www.yogacruise.com
The Program: Silver Links The Ships: Silversea Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper Sign up with the ship's golf pro, who'll help you improve your swing in full-motion driving cages and personalize a workout regimen. Then perfect your game onshore at top courses such as Valderrama and St. Andrews. seven-day sailings From $5,795 per person, double; On all sailings; 800/774-9996; www.silversea.com
The Program: Stop Smoking Caribbean Cruise The Ship: Carnival Paradise Quit your nasty habit aboard the only smoke-free ship, on a cruise sponsored by the American Lung Association of Connecticut. Break the rules at your peril: cruisers caught sneaking a drag will be escorted off the ship. Seven-day sailings from $579 per person, double; Monthly, January—June; 888/227-6482 www.carnival.com