It's a given that computer skills are an advantage today, though computer courses can be expensive, but if money is no object then Crystal Cruise Lines has the answer. Depending on your budget, for as little as $42,000 or as much as $140,000 you can enroll in the "Computer University@Sea" introductory course to "personal computers" aboard a Crystal world cruise, and just happen to circum-navigate the globe at the same time.
Crystal actually offers computer classes on all of its cruises. Beginning with cruises with fewer than five days at sea, cruisers can enroll in the Basic Program offering lectures about the history of the computer, the World Wide Web and how to buy a personal computer. The Extended Program, generally offered on cruises with six or more days at sea, offers guests the same lectures and four complementary hands-on computer lessons concerning additional topics such as Windows 95/98, email, Microsoft Word and Excel.
The world cruise is where the serious student goes to study. In addition to all of the classes above, guests are offered Palm Computing, digital cameras and working with images, intermediate Windows and Microsoft Access.
The "Computer University@Sea" program was founded over two years ago with the help of former Crystal passenger, David McFarland, and it was well ahead of its time. Back then, cruisers were dependent upon horribly expensive telephone calls averaging $15 per minute or fax transmissions that had to pass through several hands before they arrived. From the beginning, Crystal offered its "Computer University@Sea" Internet email capabilities to all passengers for a $5 setup fee and $3 per email. The program became an immediate hit, according to McFarland who is still in charge, with over 10,000 email's transmitted in 104 days during the 1997 world cruise, over 20,000 messages sent in 101 days in 1998, and nearly 50,000 messages during the 1999 world cruise.
Twelve days into the year 2000 world cruise David reports that Crystal is on track to setting a new "world record." According to McFarland, "right now on the first leg of the world cruise we have more than 25% of the passengers taking classes and over 50% doing email. I estimate that approximately half of the participants are using computers for the first time or have very little previous experience. However, the classes are also being taken by those who use computers regularly and are here to learn new fundamentals." There is no charge for attending the lectures, additional individual instruction is available for $75 per session.
INTERNET KIOSKS COMING SOON
E-mail aboard cruise ships is not nearly as unique as it was two years ago. In fact, Internet kiosks have cropped up aboard several ships including selected ones from Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess. Not to be outdone, and indeed to arguably maintain its lead, Crystal has plans to install state-of-the-art Internet facilities for its passengers on both ships by mid-2000. The new Internet kiosks will feature additional computers so the "Computer University@Sea" can continue as it has before. The new Internet-enabled computers will have consistent connections to the Web and will be outfitted with onboard video cameras so cruisers can send instant pictures by email to their family and friends. Unlike other cruise line Internet computers, Crystal will continue to allow passengers to use floppy disks on its computers making it possible to upload pictures taken with a personal digital camera to an Internet enabled computer in order to send it by email.
Passengers will still have the option of sending email on the same price schedule ($3 per email) as before, or by using the Internet connection a passenger can access a Web-based email service such as Hotmail and pay a per-minute charge for connecting to the Internet (yet to be determined). AOL users should be aware, however, that the AOL software will not be installed on these computers so access to AOL email must be accomplished through the AOL.com web site. If you are an AOL user be sure to bring your list of email addresses of family and friends with you. Also be sure to write down your list of favorite URLs (hint: ours is /) because you won't have your "favorite places" list with you.