The Institute for Shipboard Education was born from an idea to create a floating campus that reflected the ideals of the United Nations and the realities of globalization. As Chinese shipping magnate C.Y. Tung put it, “Ships can transport more than cargo—they can carry ideas.” From humble beginnings, the program went on to attract world-famous guest speakers including Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. Today, the cruising university onboard the MV Explorer offers two-week Enrichment Voyages for learners of all ages, with educational programming that digs deep into each port of call's culture and history. This 15-day cruise incorporates both lectures and hands-on exploration as it passes along Mexico’s Baja peninsula toward the Isthmus of Panama and Ecuador. At each port on the itinerary, available excursions range from dive trips to volunteer service projects, such as plastering houses or feeding kindergarteners (additional fees apply for shore trips). Or you can set off on your own, armed with knowledge acquired from the recommended reading list.Days 1–3: After cruising from Ensenada, Mexico, to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, the ship anchors at Cabo San Lucas. El Arco, the city’s iconic seaside arch, forms a scenic backdrop for a day of kayaking and snorkeling.Day 6: Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala lies within easy range of Antigua, named an UNESCO World Heritage Site for its well-preserved baroque architecture. It's ringed by mountains playing a very slow-moving game of duck-duck-goose. Day 7: Nicaragua’s largest Pacific port, Corinto, borders León, an old-world town dotted with 17th-century Spanish colonial churches such as the Cathedral of the Assumption.Days 9–10: Balboa, Panama, stands at the entrance to the Panama Canal—still an engineering marvel. The nearby overflow reservoir, Gatún Lake, is home to crocodiles, iguanas, and sloths.Days 12–13: Dipping toward South America, the ship docks at Manta, Ecuador, a trade city dating to pre-Columbian times. Pounding waves on Playa Murciélago create attractive surfing conditions.Day 15: The journey concludes at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, leaving you free to explore inland rainforests or head home. During each day at sea, college professors and other experts lead a string of seminars. Subjects are as varied as marine ecology, cultural anthropology, and photojournalism, and they often relate to the next port of call. The ship retains vestiges of its former life as a commercial liner. There are barstools in the 9,000-volume library, for instance, testifying to the space's former role as the ship's tavern. Despite the emphasis on education, there’s still plenty of relaxation aboard. The Wellness Center spa offers massages, manicures, and other pampering services. Nightly live entertainment offerings include an all-male a cappella group, a magician, and staged readings of old Love Boat scripts. During the day, you can even skip class to lounge by the pool, located on deck 7.See the full trip overview for more information.Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.
James River Cellars' picturesque vineyard welcomes guests to seasonal events throughout the year and yields 15 varieties of wines, including the Winner of the Governor’s Cup for the best Virginia wine of 2005. The 6th annual Harvest Wine Festival turns wine keys on Saturday, September 3, from noon to 5 p.m., come rain, shine, or eclipses that make the sun look like a dilated trout eye. Imbibers can sip flights from four wineries, tour the grounds, or expand their knowledge of fermented grape potables during wine 101 seminars. Live music dances in the air, as oenophiles examine wares from local craftspeople and check out treats from food vendors. Alternatively, festival-goers can pack picnics for groups and discerning family pets ($2 admission fee) for an afternoon on the vineyard grounds. To maintain an open festival ambiance, there is no seating, but visitors can tote picnic blankets or sectional sofas.
The burner roars to life and inflates a nine-story-tall balloon, hoisting a basket aloft into air currents just above the treetops. Cradled in the basket alongside a Federal Aviation Administration–licensed commercial pilot, passengers look out upon panoramic views of forests and rolling open countryside. They drift along, breathing in the perfume of flowers below and catching glimpses of deer foraging for leaves, eagles rising on thermals, and foxes prowling the woods. The pilot eventually lands the balloon on firm ground and passengers are transported to the balloon port, where they pause for photo opportunities, disembark, and celebrate with a postflight complimentary champagne toast.
Whether leading visitors on regular tours of the countryside like these or undertaking large-scope marketing projects to espouse Virginia’s charms, Balloons Over Virginia, Inc. maintains a strong sense of pride for their state. For example, for several years its staff piloted the crimson-and-white "Virginia is for Lovers" balloon on low flights throughout North America. Staffers extend their aerial-navigation skills to outdoor events as well, where they slowly fly attendees up to 100 feet in the air on rope-tethered aerostats. They also head to classrooms to teach balloon-related math, science, and aviation history before taking students on a brief balloon voyage.
Riverside Outfitters works to get Richmond-ers out on the water, up into the trees, and out on the trails with a variety of natural outdoor excursions. The staff helps locals and visitors engage with the area's rich landscape, guiding fleets of rafts, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and inner-tubes down the James River, which the Daily Press described as having "the only urban whitewater rafting experience available in the country." High ropes courses and climbing seminars teach first-timers how to nimbly break from gravity's embrace, while outdoor summer camps teach kids to engage wildlife without the scratchy fingers that come from texting with tree bark.
Valentine Richmond History Center has inspired visitors to explore Virginia's yesteryears for more than a century, employing exhibitions, tours, research, special events, and educational programs. More than 1.7 million household items, industrial artifacts, and pieces of artwork adorn permanent and changing exhibitions to expound on past lifestyles. Guests enjoy entry to the Wickham House, a National Historic Landmark peppered with artifacts from its prominent former inhabitants. The renovated Edward V. Valentine Sculpture Studio details Valentine's artistic maturation and evolution beyond macaroni portraits by displaying his original works and tools. The museum also invites budding scholars to survey the historic Court End neighborhood as they exhaustively research Richmond's 400-year-old history and determine whether the city was settled by aliens.
The streets and buildings of Richmond breathe with history. Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death,” echo in St. John’s Church, where the statesman gave his infamous speech; the ghost of Poe wanders the streets of the Church Hill district, where he lived and wrote; and the bones of presidents James Monroe and John Tyler lie peacefully under the lush grass of the Hollywood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark. These are just a few of the locations that segway riders glide through during educational tours organized by Segway of Richmond.
The company’s most popular jaunt, the two-hour Landmark Tour, takes groups to nearly 20 historic buildings, churches, and museums, whereas other ventures focus on specific aspects of the city’s past, such as the Black History Tour or the Edgar Allan Poe Tour. In addition to learning about the men and women who shaped the culture of Richmond and practicing their preferred mode of transportation, tour-goers can explore the architecture of Victorian and Edwardian homes during a Fan District Tour or think about murals, mosaics, and sculptures during a Public Art Tour.