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The World's Quirkiest Adult Camps

Gladiator Training

Courtesy of The Rome Cavalieri Hilton's Gladiator Training Program

Gladiator Training
Rome Cavalieri, The Waldorf Astoria Collection

Why it's fun: Over this three-hour course, participants learn ancient gladiator combat techniques and history while wearing the traditional costume and brandishing authentic gladiator-era replica wooden and iron weapons. (They're crafted in keeping with historical records but won't hurt you.) The instructors are representatives from the Gruppo Storico Romano, the organization dedicated to the study and reenactment of gladiator culture. You'll wear tunics, Roman sandals, and leather and iron gloves while learning the Gladiator opening mantra: "Ave Cesare! Morituri te salutant." ("Hail Caesar! Those who are about to die salute you.") Afterwards you'll earn a medal and the title of "tiro" (beginner gladiator).

Who goes: CEOs and people who lust for the taste of power.

Great add-on: After this rigorous training, the hotel offers a special four-handed Gladiator Massage at its Grand Spa. Two therapists work in unison while slathering tired muscles with avocado, vanilla, coconut, or almond body oils.

Price: $760 per person, up to eight people

Contact: Rome Cavalieri, The Waldorf Astoria Collection

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Courtesy of Four Seasons

Elephant Mahout Training
Four Seasons Tented Camp
, Northern Thailand

Why it's fun: For this half-day to three-day all-inclusive adventure, participants work side-by-side with local mahouts, who are expert trainers in the 2,000-year-old Thai tradition of elephant care. A maximum of 30 guests interact directly with the rescued elephants while the mahouts teach you about the animals and their well-being. Mahouts also demonstrate the fundamentals of elephant driving so guests can go pachyderm trekking through the jungle. You'll bathe the elephants, feed them sugarcane snacks, and collect them from their nighttime feeding grounds.

Who goes: Animal and nature lovers of all ages over 16, including one 90-year-old woman.

Great add-on: Visit the Hall of Opium museum built by the Royal Family Trust to educate people about opium and its abuse.

Price: $2,150 per person per night

Contact: Four Seasons Tented Camp

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Courtesy of Diageo Crush Camp

Wine-Making Camp
Sonoma and Napa
, California

Why it's fun: The Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines Crush Camp allows wine lovers to get out in the vineyard with winemakers for three days to harvest, crush, and blend wine and be an integral part of the process from vine to table. The weekend unfolds as campers follow their grapes to the crusher, helping to sort them, roll barrels, and ultimately blend their own wine (while learning about the importance of terroir and barrel selection). Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines Executive Chef Joey Altman leads the group to prepare a harvest dinner.

Who goes: Wine aficionados, foodies, business owners, even a landscape designer (who loved hearing all about terroir).

Great add-on: Visit the new Oxbow Public Market in Napa, experience a hot-air balloon ride, or take in the di Rosa Preserve, considered one of the most significant collections of Bay Area art in the world.

Price: Around $950 per person for two nights and four meals

Contact: 707/967-5288

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Courtesy of Space Camp

Space Camp
Huntsville, Alabama

Why it's fun: The three- to eight-day adult program simulates astronaut training and an actual shuttle mission in as realistic a setting as possible. You'll don real flight suits and work with NASA-developed training equipment, which demonstrates how your body feels during a launch or what it's like to walk on the moon weighing one-sixth of your earth weight. Some virtual experiences you have: spending six to nine hours in an international space station, going though countdown, docking your vessel, doing a space walk, and landing.

Who goes: Billionaires, including the heads of Google, and intrigued viewers who watched the Apollo 11 on TV.

Great add-on: The idea of Space Camp was developed by NASA scientist Dr. Wernher von Braun, who also created the famous Saturn V rocket in Huntsville. See the restored Saturn V at the newly opened Davidson Center for Space Exploration in Huntsville.

Price: $449–$1,299

Contact: www.spacecamp.com

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Courtesy of Ghost Hunter University

Ghost Hunter University
Hotel Maison de Ville, New Orleans

Why it's fun: Brent Soileau and the Ghosts of Louisiana Paranormal Society teach the basics of ghost hunting over three days at this hotel, set in a building that dates to 1742 and is said to be riddled with spirits. You're encouraged to bring your own camera to learn how to catch orbs (or spirits) on film and decipher them in photos. Come equipped with your ghost-hunting scanners and detectors so you can best learn how to operate those devices. Soileau escorts campers throughout the hotel to unveil the lurking spirits and demonstrates how he communicates with residing ghosts.

Who goes: Non-believers and believers, people who are afraid of ghosts and want to understand them, and those who wish to unearth their own ghost experience at home.

Great add-on: New Orleans is known for its restaurants and jazz clubs on every corner. To stay in the moment, visit some of the historic cemeteries and stop in a few voodoo shops.

Price: $575 per person and a reduced room rate at the hotel

Contact: Hotel Maison de Ville

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Courtesy of Newsday

Crossword Puzzle Creation
Seven-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the Holland America ship, Statendam

Why it's fun: Editor of Newsday's syndicated crossword puzzle and author of 125 books, Stan Newman teaches participants how to improve their crossword-solving skills, strengthen their vocabulary, and recognize the tricks of the trade. You'll have at least 10 hours of instruction with courses like Tackling the Toughies, Word Games You Can Play at Home to Boost Your Brain Power, and Creating an Original Crossword.

Who goes: Crossword lovers from all walks of life: business titans to librarians and judges.

Great add-on: Check out the wine tasting bar or the Culinary Arts Center presented by Food & Wine Magazine. Or test your skills during the cruise's trivia contests.

Price: $885–$1,685 per person

Contact: www.stanxwords.com

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Courtesy of Brothers Safaris

African Vet Safaris
South Africa

Why it's fun: The four- to five-day Brothers Safaris program allows guests to work beside Dr. Peter Brothers—a passionate South African veterinarian who specializes in wildlife species. Participants get a hands-on look at veterinary work in the bush while also experiencing behind-the-scenes game drives. You'll be involved with micro-chipping and ear-notching animals for research and conservation purposes and to help combat poaching. Under the guidance of Dr. Brothers, guests can feel the skin of a rhino or the hair on an elephant's tail.

Who goes: CEOs, nurses, people working in the veterinary industry, dentists, even the late Steve Irwin.

Special add on: Upon request, guests can fly in the helicopter with Dr. Brothers while the darting takes place.

Price: Around $2,600 per person

Contact: www.brotherssafaris.com

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Courtesy of Gondolier Training Course

Gondolier Training
Hilton Molino Stucky, Venice

Why it's fun: For three hours, travelers can step into the shoes of a professional gondolier to learn the mechanics of rowing and maneuvering the vessel, the perfect stance to maintain balance, and the aesthetics of gondolier etiquette. The training starts with a gentle ride as you drift thought the canals and learn about the history and magic of Venice and the rich tradition of gondoliering.

Who goes: Honeymooners and others who look for a sense of adventure.

Great add-on: Explore the galleries, with artists in residence, on quiet Guidecca Island, where the hotel is located.

Price: $550 per session, up to five people

Contact: www.hilton.com/venice

Poker Camp

Courtesy of World Poker Tour Boot Camp

Poker Camp
Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Connecticut, and Biloxi, Miss.

Why it's fun: At the World Poker Tournament Boot Camp, poker lovers spend a fantasy weekend immersed in poker strategy with poker celebrities including T.J. Cloutier, Clonie Gowen, and Mike Sexton. Campers have lectures and interactive live learning labs where each person sits at a table with a professional player who critiques their play. Many people increase their poker prowess enough to win back their tuition fees.

Who goes: Lawyers, business owners, nurses, doctors, and massage therapists of all skill levels. The average age is 40, and 22 percent are women.

Great add-on: When camp ends, participants test their newly honed expertise in real poker tournaments.

Price: $1,695–$2,995 (camps range from game strategy to all-inclusive poker trips)

Contact: www.wptbootcamp.com

See the slideshow: The World's Quirkiest Adult Camps

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