This is the second time I am doing this cruise, and I do notice one major difference between this and the last time. There are more children onboard this cruise.
On the Amsterdam in 2006, we had really only one toddler-aged child on the sailing. There was actually a second child on part of the sailing, but he was the child of an officer who was only traveling with his mother as far as Hawaii. We rarely saw him around the ship.
On this sailing, however, I am noticing a bit more children, including a couple of teens or “tweens,” a couple of young kids and even a couple of toddlers.
I can’t help but wonder – don’t some of these kids go to school? This cruise is a minimum of 30 days if you boarded in San Diego. What school system allows you to pull your kids out for 30 days? I had originally assumed the older ones were the products of home schooling, but we asked the one kid, maybe about age 12 or so, if he was being home schooled, and he said no. So much for my home school philosophy.
Of course, the whole basis of my shock at this situation could be pure jealously. My parents could never have afforded to take me on such a cruise when I was growing up, nor any sort of “elaborate” vacation. I am sure there is much to be learned on a sailing such as this, and I would assume that a parent deciding to bring their school-aged child on such a cruise would take advantage of the many and varied opportunities to teach the child about the cultures, people, and unique aspects of the far off places being visited. Just to imagine the opportunities for learning on a voyage such as this are mind-boggling to me, and I guess jealously would be a normal emotion for the “average joe” who never enjoyed these opportunities growing up.
But, then, I too have to wonder, is it good to pull a child out of school for such a long period of time? Can a Hawaii/South Pacific Islands cruise possibly be worth the missed opportunities for the kind of learning that can only take place in a classroom with one’s teachers and peers? Don’t the kids on a trip such as this miss a lot back home – sports teams, after school activities, bonding with friends and schoolmates, etc.?
Also, how much learning can truly go on while on a luxury cruise ship like the Statendam? Is this really the venue for a truly “educational” trip?
I’ve done extensive research into a program called Semester at Sea which is sponsored by the University of Virginia. This organization runs truly educational cruises where college-aged students get a semester’s worth of credit for spending three months or so at sea, visiting a limited number of ports, but spending several days in each. While at sea, these college students sit for actual classes, the same classes they would be taking if they were in their college classrooms back home. When they are in port, they engage in a wide variety of “field experiences,” that include such things as overnight home stays with a host family, cultural exchanges, service projects and even some fun activities like attending a local sporting event or entertainment venue unique to the country being visited. Also, Semester at Sea’s voyages go to truly exotic locales, such as China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, etc. The opportunities for learning in these places is truly unlimited, and I cannot imagine anyone taking such a voyage or did not come home at the end of it a truly changed individual.
Semester at Sea is not just for college kids either. Adults can avail themselves of the program as well by signing on as a “Lifelong Learner.” The cost for adults to attend is quite competitive; far less than a “World Cruise” or a luxury cruise line would be, and the adults are welcome – no, in fact, encouraged – to sit in on any classes that they wish, and to become as involved as possible with the young people attending for college credit. Of course, since the adults are not getting college credit for the courses they sit in on, the price of their cruise is far less than what the young people would pay.
The lifelong learners also get cabins in an area of the ship separate from where the kids are housed, so they even have a refuge to which they can escape when they want some peace and quiet. The adults too can participate in the field program, and they can opt to work side-by-side with the students on various service projects and cultural exchange experiences.
A Semester at Sea type voyage would truly be an experience worth pulling any kid out of school for, and while I’ve not heard of younger kids participating, I cannot imagine the University having a problem with parents bringing their mature child along on such a sailing. This type of a voyage would truly be something that could open a young person’s eyes to the world around him, and it is something that even the most conservative school teacher would probably be enthusiastic about one of her pupils attending, especially if that pupil was a good student, with parents willing to take a proactive role in his educational development over the course of the Semester at Sea voyage.
But a Holland America cruise to Hawaii and the South Pacific? Isn’t it a bit of a stretch to consider that an “educational experience.” Can’t you just imagine a teacher rolling her eyes at the parent who came to school to remove their child for a month to make such a voyage, explaining that the destination for the child’s travels would be Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands? Somehow I think the teacher’s reaction would border on one of disgust.
There is nothing wrong with travel for children. In fact, any kind of travel can only benefit a child’s development into a productive adult. But there is a time and a place for that travel, in my “humble” opinion, and during the school year would not seem to be appropriate for destinations such as Hawaii. Wouldn’t summer vacation be the better time for that?
I’ve heard of several families being onboard World Cruises last year. While I was onboard the famed QE2 for a Transatlantic crossing in April of 2007, a sailing that was actually the last segment of their 2007 World Cruise, I heard a story about three families who had their children onboard the entire 100+ day voyage with them. Two of these families were homeschooling, while the third had a tutor along to see to their child’s educational needs. In a case like a World Voyage, with its variety of exotic and far off ports, no one can validly make the kids are being shortchanged on their educations. The opportunities for learning and enrichment on such a sailing would be incomparable to anything that could be offered in a classroom. And, if the parents are truly conscientious in their homeschooling responsibilities, the kids should be fine regardless of where they learn their lessons – especially if they don’t attend traditional schools while at home anyway.
But pulling kids out of school for a “fun” voyage like a Hawaii/South Pacific or a Caribbean or a Mexico sailing – especially one of long duration? I don’t know. It just doesn’t sit right with me, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be good for the kids – at least not in the long-run anyway.
But, enough about what I think. I’m not even a parent. What is your take on this? Do you think pulling kids out of school for two, three, four or more weeks to go on an extended cruise is a good idea? What about an “exotic” voyage such as a World Cruise or a sailing that it visiting countries far from your home one? Would you do it with your kids? Why or why not?