Carnival Cruise Lines is known for providing fun in the sun on cruises lasting for a few days to a week. However, Carnival has instituted a program called Carnival Journeys that provides a deeper, more enriched cruise experience on certain longer cruises that is reminiscent of the programming on ships belonging to premium and luxury cruise lines.
“We had requests from our regular cruisers for longer voyages and we were able to plan out some longer voyages. At first, it was just going to be a long cruise without anything special to it but on top of the requests for longer cruises, there were requests for new activities and things to do.” explained Jordon Brawer, project manager for Carnival Journeys. Therefore, Carnival decided to develop an enrichment program which would be in addition to the regular cruise ship activities on these longer cruises.
The Carnival Journeys programming involves five categories of additional activities. “One is the Academy of Fun, which is an enrichment lecture program. Right now we have five topics within the Academy of Fun - - photo, social media, art, food and celestial navigation or astronomy.”
Rather than hire experts in these areas, Carnival hires presenters who have a demonstrated ability to engage and interact with an audience. “Because the Academy of Fun focuses on five topics, we try to have well-rounded lecturers. They actually spend time before the cruise and they do plenty of research.”
“The sense that I got was because Carnival are the Fun Ships, they were looking for presenters who had a particular presentation style that would connect well with the guests.” adds Tom Parks, an outside presenter who has lectured on several Carnival Journeys cruises. There are enough resources available to put together a lecture and make it interesting, fun and engaging for the guests. We are not marketed to the guests as experts but rather here is a fun opportunity to come along and learn something about these five topics. I think most of us who do this have some background in public speaking or public presentation but we also have a background in research and being able to write.”
The lectures are not scripted by Carnival. Rather, “each lecturer brings their own little twists to the topic and tells their own stories about it.” Mr. Brawer noted. Therefore, even though the topics are the same, each Carnival Journeys lecturer gives different lectures.
In addition, Mr. Parks pointed out: “My lectures have evolved and in some cases been re-written. My photography lecture has certainly evolved as the technology has evolved and new things become available. And I am getting feedback from the guests about what they want to know and I am rewriting to address their questions and anticipate things. I'm constantly rewriting tweaking and changing” Thus, guests who have been on one Carnival Journeys cruise are not going to hear the same lecture again on a subsequent Carnival Journeys cruise even if the presenter is the same person..
The presentations are not dry recitations of facts. “These are very experiential kinds of learning classes. We are not just talking about things in the abstract. So I try to say things like if you are going to go out and take pictures here is how to do it a different way and maybe get some better results. If you are going to an art museum, here is another way to think about art and how you participate in that process.. In dining, slow down and try to enjoy the conversation at the table - - try to get that experiential element. Even in astronomy/navigation, look up at the stars and think about the vastness of the universe, where we fit into it and how cool it is that the stars are organized in such a way that we can find our way back to where we came from.”
While the enrichment program is an important part of Carnival Journeys, it is not the only part. Another part of Carnival Journeys is “Throwback Sea Day.”
“A lot of guests always comment why don't we bring back all these activities that we used to do. So we have brought back the top three activities.” Mr. Brawer explained. One of them being horse racing with wooden horses, dice and two dollar bets, cash only. We have the old style captain's cocktail party with the officers in white jackets and bow ties. Free horderves, free drinks, nice jazzy swing type music. The midnight gala buffet is also very popular. We took that away years ago but its popularity on Journeys cruises has skyrocketed.”
“The next category is 'Crew Connections.' It is a series of different activities where the guests can interact with the crew on a more personal level. We start out with the officers in Q and A sessions. That is to give the guests more facts about living and working on a ship as well as on how the ship operates.. Then we pick out certain team members from around the ship and have a meet and greet. They answer a few questions but we just let them go and mingle among the crowd.”
“We have our 50s show. We wanted to make a show that showcases a little bit of the crew, a little bit of the dancers and singers and have a way for the guests to become involved as well. So the guests come on stage, they perform with the singers and dancers and as well we have a couple of crew members on stage.”
For the “Authentic Eats” part of the program, a chef from one of the islands on the ship's itinerary comes aboard and gives a cooking demonstration. “They have a series of different recipes that they provided us that they actually cook in their home restaurants, They do the cooking demos onboard to present these dishes and the night that we dock in that port, we serve those dishes on the menu in the main dining room. A lot of people like to taste the food and experience the culture of the different islands”
Along this line, guests can also sign up for shore excursions in Grand Turk and St. Maarten where they go to the chef's home restaurant, see how the chef prepares a meal and then have that meal. These tours also involve various other cultural activities not normally open to cruise ship travelers. (See separate article).
“Local entertainment is where we bring a couple of different entertainment acts from the islands onboard for the day when we dock at that island. They perform either on the ship or we have them perform out on the pier either welcoming guests to the island or welcoming guests back to the ship. And again that brings that local culture into the cruise where the guest gets to experience a little bit of what actually happens on the island and how people are entertained.”
With the exception of the shore excursions and the horse racing betting, none of the Carnival Journeys activities involve an additional charge beyond the cruise fare.
Carnival Journeys cruises are typically cruises nine days or longer out of North American ports. On the current schedule are Journeys cruises to the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and Hawaii.
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