Country-Hopping Cruise with Expert Speakers
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.” The institute has attracted world-famous guest speakers including Mikhail Gorbachev, Mother Teresa, and Nelson Mandela. The Institute for Shipboard Education also administers the study abroad program Semester at Sea. Today, the cruising university offers two-week Enrichment Voyages for adventurers of all ages, with educational programming that digs deep into each port of call's culture and history. This 25-day cruise incorporates both lectures and hands-on exploration. Departing from Nassau, the MV Explorer passes through 10 countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America before ending in San Diego.
At each port on the itinerary, available day trips range from whitewater rafting to volunteer-service projects (additional fees apply for shore trips). You’re also free to explore each site on your own.
Days 1–3: After departing from Nassau, the ship cruises to Montego Bay, Jamaica, known for its duty-free shopping and picturesque scenery along the Caribbean.
Day 4¬–7: Sail to Cartagena, Colombia, a historical South American city fortified by 400-year-old stone walls. You can wander down cobblestone paths that lead to Old-World–style plazas. Next, the city of Colón, Panama, stands over the Caribbean side of the Panama Canal—still an engineering marvel. The nearby overflow reservoir, Gatún Lake, is home to crocodiles, iguanas, and sloths.
Days 8–14: Dipping toward South America, the cruise makes its way to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city and the site of a massive urban-renewal project. Explore Malecón 2000, a waterfront walkway lined with urban gardens and a contemporary-art museum, or stroll through the Las Penas district and marvel at the colonial architecture. The journey continues to the trip’s most southern port, Callao, Peru. One of the country’s most important ports, Callao dates back to 1537, when it was founded by conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
Days 15–19: Next, the ship heads at Manta, Ecuador, a trade city dating to pre-Columbian times. Pounding waves on the city’s Playa Murciélago create attractive surfing conditions. On Christmas Day, you’ll arrive at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, to explore its inland rainforests.
Days 20–21: 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. The next day, you’ll arrive at Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala, which lies within easy range of the town of Antigua, named a 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.
Days 22¬–24: Head to Cabo San Lucas, where the iconic El Arco seaside arch forms a scenic backdrop for a day of kayaking and snorkeling. Known for its festive nightlife, Cabo San Lucas is where you’ll ring in 2013.
Day 25: The journey concludes in San Diego.
During each day at sea, college professors and other experts lead a string of seminars. Subjects vary from history to the Spanish language to biodiversity, often relating 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, a nod to the space's former role as the ship's tavern. Despite the emphasis on education, the ship provides several opportunities to relax. The Wellness Center spa offers massages, manicures, and other pampering services.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.