Among the various dictionary definitions of cruise is ‘to travel without destination or purpose’ but there is little chance of that on these seven sailings – designed to indulge passengers’ passions.
From writing a novel or memoir to dancing like a professional or mastering the ukelele, these cruise companies have produced schedules for enthusiasts eager to get more out of days at sea than a suntan, a hangover and a dent in their bank balance.
Spades or clubs? There are also options for the keen gardener or golfer – as our rundown shows.
Cunard runs a cruise from New York on board the Queen Mary 2 (pictured) that offers guests the chance to sip champagne with bestselling authors such as Louis de Bernières, Sebastian Faulks and Victoria Hislop
What: Transatlantic Literature Festival.
The Crossing: Seven days from New York to Southampton aboard Cunard’s Queen Mary 2.
USP: Meet bestselling authors such as Louis de Bernières, Sebastian Faulks and Victoria Hislop over champagne in the largest library at sea. Hear them read excerpts from their books, then be interviewed in the Royal Court Theatre.
Join in: Take a workshop on researching your novel or writing your memoir.
Homework: Read the book club choice ready for the discussion led by James Naughtie.
Book it: QM2 sails on November 10, 2019. Fares start at £1,599pp, including the flight to New York, with Cunard.
P&O runs a cruise that takes in Madeira (pictured) that has a Strictly Come Dancing theme
What: Strictly Come Dancing At Sea.
The Voyage: Sailing out of Southampton, you’ll have three days at sea to learn new steps en route to Madeira and the Canary Islands, with a stop in Lisbon before two more sea days.
USP: Professional dancers and a judge from the TV show will be on board, giving demonstrations, appearing on stage to answer questions, giving one-to-one tuition and hosting dinners.
Join in: Take group lessons, attend a dinner hosted by a Strictly pro and dance your way to the finals.
Homework: Break in your dancing shoes.
Book it: The 13-night Canary Islands And Portugal cruise on Britannia departs from Southampton on April 7, 2019. Prices from £1,059pp with P&O.
Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines runs a voyage via Tallinn, pictured, that allows guests to experience Estonia’s thrilling Song And Dance Festival
What: Experience Estonia’s Baltic Song And Dance Festival, held once every five years.
The Voyage: From Dover, along the Kiel Canal to Copenhagen, Tallinn, Stockholm, St Petersburg, the Swedish island of Visby and Rotterdam.
USP: Seeing the parade in national dress through Estonian capital Tallinn, watching folk-dance competitions and hearing 30,000 singers at an evening concert.
Join in: On board there will be ‘singing for fun’ sessions and ukulele lessons.
Homework: Learn the Estonian national anthem and mug up on the Singing Revolution, the peaceful protests that led to the Soviet withdrawal.
Book it: A 14-night, no-fly Baltic cruise aboard Boudicca departs from Dover on July 1, 2019. Fares from £1,899pp with Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.
Classical music buffs
Take note: You can sail to Bordeaux (pictured) on a cruise with a classical music theme and enjoy exclusive recitals by a top-notch quartet
What: Classical Music Festival On Water.
The Voyage: From Liverpool to France, calling at Lorient, Bordeaux, Rouen and St Malo.
USP: Aboard Black Watch you will enjoy exclusive recitals by the Chilingirian String Quartet. The British quartet will be joined by viola player Simon Rowland-Jones, pianist Carole Presland, baritone Henry Neill and soprano Christina Gansch. There will be afternoon and early evening concerts, opportunities to attend rehearsals and interviews with the musicians.
Join in: Mingle with the musicians at drinks parties.
Homework: Brush up on all the works by late-Romantic French composers Ravel, Poulenc, Duparc, Fauré and Debussy.
Book it: The Kirker West Coast Of France: Bordeaux, Rouen And Brittany Music Cruise sails round-trip from Liverpool on September 10, 2019. Fares from £2,635pp with Kirker.
Blossoming: The Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto, Japan (above), typifies the country’s floral aesthetic, which passengers can study on the Spring Blossoms, Gardens and Culture cruise
What: A cruise round Japan to visit classical gardens in blossom season.
The Voyage: After arriving in Kanazawa on a bullet train, you’ll sail around South Korea calling at Matsue, Hagi and Pusan, before heading to Nagasaki, Uwajima, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Kobe in Japan.
USP: This is an immersive adventure focusing on the symbolism of Japanese garden design and plants aboard small luxury ship Caledonian Sky. You’ll see the tints of peach and cherry blossom, azaleas and tree peonies. Take a tour of a range of Zen and strolling gardens such as Ronji and Kinakuji, left, in Kyoto and Yuushien garden with its ginseng plants, accompanied by expert Simon Rickard.
Join in: Take part in a tea ceremony at a historic Samurai home.
Homework: Join the Japanese Garden Society (jgs.org.uk), which offers lectures, workshops and garden visits in Britain.
Book it: A Spring Blossoms, Gardens And Culture cruise with 11-night all-inclusive cruise and one-night hotel stays in Tokyo and Kyoto departs on April 3, 2019. The cost is from £10,295pp, excluding flights, with Botanica Tours.
With the aptly named Paul Gauguin Cruises you can discover the islands that inspired the renowned painter, Paul Gauguin. Above is his 1892 work called Arearea, which he painted while living in the South Pacific
What: Islands that inspired Paul Gauguin to create works such as Arearea, below.
The Voyage: Two weeks in the South Pacific – round trip from Tahiti (where Gauguin lived) to Fatu Hiva, Hiva Oa (where he is buried), Tahuata, Nuku Hiva, Huahine, Bora Bora, Moorea, Taha’a and the private island of Motu Mahana, pictured left.
USP: Gauguin’s biographer June Hargrove will be on board to talk about the post-Impressionist painter. Ashore, you’ll see islands and atolls, lagoons, white-sand beaches and rainforests little changed since Gauguin painted them in the 1890s.
Happy Talk: Taha’a in the South Pacific is close to Tahiti, where Paul Gauguin lived and painted
Join in: Create your own fragrant hei (South Seas flower crown) and lei (garland).
Homework: Watch Danish biopic Oviri starring Donald Sutherland as Gauguin.
Book it: The 14-night Marquesas, Tuamotus And Society Islands cruise aboard Paul Gauguin sails from Papeete, Tahiti, on November 23, 2019. Cruise-only fares start at £5,102pp with the aptly named Paul Gauguin Cruises.
Swingers: A couple practise their putting skills on the Crystal Serenity under the watchful supervision of US professional instructors. For the less enthusiastic, there are cocktail-shaking lessons and competitions for golf widows who join their playing partners
What: A golf tour of Spain and France by ship. The Voyage: From Lisbon to Monte Carlo calling at Cadiz, Gibraltar, Ibiza, Barcelona and St Tropez.
USP: Perfect your swing with Professional Golfers’ Association of America instructors on board (pictured above). Play rounds on top courses ashore with the reassurance that a non-playing companion can enjoy the luxury ship, with spa treatments and free-flowing champagne. They will have a choice of interesting excursions at every port.
Join in: Take part in competitions with your shipmates and make friends at cocktail parties for golfers and non-playing partners.
Homework: Stock up on golfing outfits in the summer sales.
Book it: The 11-night Iberian Images cruise aboard Crystal Serenity departs Lisbon on August 12, 2019. The cost is £4,716pp with Crystal Cruises.