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.
First Colony Winery celebrates the history and heritage of local viniculture by crafting a cellar’s worth of European-style wines. After sampling from their selection of eight ambrosias—including a tropical seyval blanc and full-bodied tannat—amid the exposed wood beams and checkerboard floors of the elegant tasting room, corral a full glass of your favorite varietal and venture onto the covered patio to savor views of sun-soaked hills while gargling the intricate melodies from Dvorak's New World symphony. Guests then go home with a pair of branded souvenir wine glasses with which they can use as drink vessels at home or as miniature hot tubs for over-indulged troll dolls.
High Meadows Vineyard Inn is a charming bed and breakfast retreat in the Southern Albemarle Rural Historic District of Central Virginia. A renovated farmhouse and pinot noir vineyard, the inn combines country charm with historic elegance. Spend a day exploring the 13 acres of gardens, nearby Monticello or Charlottesville, or relax with a good pop-up book by the fireplace (available in most rooms). In the evening, couples, siblings on retreat, and reunited pen pals can enjoy a dinner for two from a specialty menu that features such entrees as pan-seared lamb chops, broiled salmon, a seasonal vegetarian option, and pork tenderloin medallions. After dining, sink into the quiet of a country night in one of the inn's seven comfortably furnished rooms. Guests wake up in the morning to a complimentary breakfast made from local and organic ingredients.
DuCard Vineyard expertly converts its grapes into a delicious selection of wines, hosting regular tastings and tours in the shadows of the mountains of Shenandoah National Park. In the tasting room visitors can sample recent releases such as the Signature viognier 2010 and Gibson Hollow white 2010 while viewing the mountains through the window wall, then venture out onto the side patio to gawk at the vineyards and inhale the aged aroma of the C'est Trop 2008, a port-style red dessert wine crafted with norton grapes and fortified with brandy. The guided tour educates aspiring viticulturists about the complexities of cultivation and provides an opportunity to observe grapes frolicking in the fields and a cheese plate joins the sips of wine to bring balance to palates. Each guest also receives a souvenir wine glass to commemorate the trip and the $10 credit can be applied toward the purchase of a bottle of a favorite spirited sample, such as the Sweet Virginia vidal blanc 2008 ($18) or petit verdot 2009 ($30).
For Jose Morais, his winery is more than just a lifelong dream. With Morais Vineyard & Winery, he's also able to pay homage to his Portuguese roots, creating traditional libations such as jeropiga, a sweet liquor made from partially fermented red wine, and the touriga national, a full-bodied red with smoky notes that's won medals from two different wine competitions. Jose his team of the winemakers also experiment with styles and flavors, whipping up the Battlefield White from blanc and albarino grapes and conjuring aromas of smoke and ripe red fruits from the cabernet franc, which pairs well with meat dishes and Parisian accents. The winery's decor blends rustic and modern touches, from the grand ballroom decorated with marble floors and a rod-iron staircase to the tasting room, which sports a massive stone fireplace and sleek corkscrew chandeliers.