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.
Each year, a great wildebeest migration takes place in East Africa's vast plains, as millions of ungulates trek more than 600 miles in search of fresh grass. Thomson's gazelles, zebras, and other prey animals join with the wildebeests en masse, and predatory lions, hyenas, and jackals follow the herd as a promising food supply. Safari Ventures, named one of the World's Best Adventure Travel Companies by National Geographic in 2009, sends tour groups in four-by-four vehicles on a circular trek across the Serengeti plains in search of migrating wildebeests and other big game. The itinerary includes the following and is available on select dates:Days 1–2: Flights on Ethiopian Airlines depart from Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD) and arrive at Tanzania's Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO) the next day (after a stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). Upon arrival, visitors are transferred to the nearby Kia Lodge for an overnight stay. Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa at more than 19,000 feet, is visible in the distance on a clear day. Days 3–4: After breakfast, tour groups head to Lake Manyara National Park for the first of many game drives. There, zebras and buffalo rove the plains, and more than 400 bird species fly above. Blue monkeys, bushbucks, mongooses, and flamingos also comprise the area's native population. Visitors retreat for the night to Migunga Tented Camp. Days 5–7: After breakfast, tour groups enter Serengeti National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site they'll explore for the next three days. On the way to Serengeti, the caravan stops at a Masai village to learn about the local tribe's culture and heritage. Most of the time in the park is spent on game drives, searching for the wildebeest, elephants, giraffes, lions, and jackals. Guests stay overnight in Ikoma Tented Camp.Days 8–9: After a breakfast and one last morning game drive in Serengeti National Park, the safari heads toward the Ngorongoro Crater. Along the way, the tour makes a pit stop in Olduvai Gorge, an archaeological site where paleontologists discovered fossils that date back nearly two million years. Within the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, safari drivers seek out the big four animals: lions, elephants, leopards, and rhinoceros. Nightly accommodations are at Crater Forest Lodge. Days 10–11: On the final leg of the safari, the caravan makes the return trip, passing through the town of Mto wa Mbu. Here, safari-goers can stretch their legs and browse local markets. Later that evening, guests take a homeward-bound flight on Ethiopian Airlines from Kilimanjaro International Airport (JRO). View the FAQ page for more information. Pre-trip excursions to Mount Kilimanjaro and the beaches of Zanzibar are also available for an additional fee.
Eerie Nights Ghost Tours aren't only eerie because they stop at historic, plausibly haunted Richmond locales on its walking and 1920s-themed trolley-ride tours. There's another creepy component?the guides. They look undead, thanks to their special-effects makeup and spooky costumes. They act it, too, showcasing their theater chops as they share their suspenseful supernatural stories about the city, like the time a local coffee shop passed off decaf as regular coffee.
Preservation Petersburg works hard to maintain Petersburg's past. The society hosts events and programs to recount the city's formative events and explore its iconic buildings, whose?eclectic mix of architecture?styles were featured in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award?winning historical drama, Lincoln.
Historic Sites and Sights
Nestled into the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, CrossKeys Vineyards' flourishing grapevines and Tuscan-style winery lie surrounded by panoramic views of the Blue Mountains. The staff painstakingly tends to these fields, harvesting grapes at the peak of ripeness and stowing away their nectars in oak or stainless steel barrels to coax out the varietals' vibrant flavors. CrossKey’s experts use new and used French or American oak barrels to add extra depth and richness to their wines, mellowing the chardonnay's pear-tinged acidity with hints of vanilla, and softening the petit verdot's tannins for a silken, yet robust mouthfeel. In the tasting room, visitors can sample an array of wines while noshing on a menu of sandwiches and local cheeses, or head out onto the outdoor patio to enjoy sips amid cool breezes and birds chirping “Red, Red Wine.”
A jack of all trades, Rob Craighurst has worked many jobs including computer programmer, dance caller, property manager, and hammer-dulcimer maker. Now, he uses the local knowledge he gained living in the area for 40 years to lead ghost tours of the scariest sites in town. Tours cover one mile of horrific haunts such as the home of former Charlottesville mayor Sam McClue, where a gruesome murder took place in 1904. Tours can also celebrate birthdays with a bit of mystery, either trying to solve that turn-of-the-century murder or by building-hopping through the city's past. For a change of pace, private tours give visitors a glimpse of historic Charlottesville through deeper looks at Jefferson's Monticello and the University of Virginia, James Monroe's home, and a restored tavern from 1784 that provided 18th-century travelers with food, lodging, and GPS directions.