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.
Wind rustles through the trees of the George Washington National Forest as knobby bike tires crunch over fallen leaves on a single-lane rocky trail. While mounted on rented Kona mountain bikes and outfitted with Kali protective gear, cyclists navigate trails that wind through the forest and the Massanutten mountain range, led by Shenandoah Trail Cruisers's seasoned guides. Their tours are customized to suit riders' abilities, preferred duration, and desired level of Sasquatch interaction. Each begins with a basic introduction to mountain biking before groups embark on trails that range from easy gravel roads and packed dirt and single-track trails to more advanced and rugged trails with steep slopes, bumpy roads, and scattered mud patches, resulting in rides that teach shifting, breaking, body position, and adjusting riding to new obstacles.
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.”
Rolling hills and meadows cascade toward the organic-farming grounds that surround Paris Barns, where red-roofed buildings and metallic grain silos stand as pleasant punctuations against the lush landscape. The Virginian soil hosts more than 10,500 tomato plants, as well as other seasonal vegetables and herbs. The grounds also act as a certified wildlife habitat for goats, lambs, and alpacas, as well as more exotic animals such as flightless emus, which entertain visitors with their aggressive posturing and spot-on Groucho Marx impersonations.
In addition to harvesting their crops, the zen-minded farmers share their passion for sustainable living with the community at events and workshop that dish the ins and outs of organic farming. When the weather turns warm, the staffers shear wool from the resident sheep and alpacas, demonstrate crafts, and sell fiber-based arts. Meanwhile, beekeepers raid rows upon rows of hives for pure, organic honey.
The White House of the Confederacy constituted the social, political, and military headquarters of Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. Later named a National Historic Landmark, the building still stands today. Daily guided tours lead guests through the grand 19th-century structure, which houses more than half its original wartime furnishings.
The White House is only steps away from The Museum of the Confederacy's Richmond location, where a core exhibit chronicles the Confederacy from its beginnings to General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Opened 25 years after that fateful event, the nonprofit museum displays artifacts from a collection of more than 15,000 items. They include Stonewall Jackson's sword, a letter from Pope Pius IX, and all the pennies Jefferson Davis etched his face onto in his spare time.
Meanwhile, another 400 artifacts adorn the permanent exhibit at the museum's Appomattox location. Here, a dozen audiovisual stations, parole lists, and the uniform coat worn by Lee illustrate the event that brought the Civil War to a close.
Lexington Heritage Walking Tours’ owner and sole tour guide is a licensed professional tour guide, Civil War re-enactor, and a docent at the Stonewall Jackson House. With a commitment to historical accuracy—and donning period garb—he leads groups by foot through the historic streets of Lexington. Sites on the tour range from the campuses of Washington & Lee University and the Virginia Military Institute to historic downtown, historic residential districts, the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, and Lee Chapel.
In an annual event hosted by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation and the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, community members gather to listen to lectures on gardening, view cooking demonstrations, swap seeds, and taste local heirloom produce.
Monticello's columns and two-story windows form the backdrop as vendors and gardening experts discuss sustainable farming and healthy-food preparation throughout the estate’s West Lawn, vegetable garden, and LEED-certified visitor center. The master gardeners and chefs share sustainable gardening tips with a full day of workshops, while patrons sample fresh produce at the tasting tent and munch on barbecue, crêpes, and donuts at vendor tents. Throughout the day, local musicians strum guitars, and kids' programs keep miniature gardeners occupied with old-fashioned hoop-rolling games and a garden scavenger hunt.