Looking for a different experience this holiday season? Enrichment Voyages’ Central America & The Panama Canal is a learning adventure perfect for travelers of all ages.

[Editor’s note: This post is sponsored by the Institute for Shipboard Education.]

UPDATE: The December voyage has sold out! You don’t have to wait long for another shot, though — the next ship sets sail in April, 2011.

Distinguished Lecturer Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Photo: World Economic Forum

THIS DECEMBER, Enrichment Voyages is offering a dynamic travel and learning experience on-board the MV Explorer. The voyage traverses the Panama Canal and stops in 12 ports over 20 days through Latin America and the Caribbean.

There is a comprehensive field program of excursions with numerous outdoor recreation options as well as activities and programs for participants of all ages.

At the center of the voyage are learning opportunities. Diverse and award winning lecturers lead interactive workshops and pre-port briefings on history, culture, indigenous peoples, literature, music, geology, biology, and current issues of the regions visited. As a special part of the series, Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu will join the voyage from December 15-21 as Distinguished Lecturer in Residence.

Enrichment Voyages are known for their close-knit, participative community, and at the same time, super flexible options for passengers: workshops and lectures are open to those who are interested, but attendance isn’t required. The Central America & Panama Canal voyage allows anyone, from individuals to families to groups, to access more countries, choose more recreation options, and benefit from a wider range of educational opportunities than almost any mode of travel over the same length of time.

Ports of Call

The itinerary for Central America & Panama Canal includes the following ports of call:

*San Diego, CA, USA
*Ensenada, Mexico
*Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
*Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
*Corinto, Nicaragua
*Puntarenas, Costa Rica
*Cristobal, Panama
*Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
*Roatan, Honduras
*St. Thomas De Castilla, Guatemala
*Belize City, Belize
*Cozumel, Mexico
*Fort Lauderdale, FL, USA

Excursions and Activity Options

Each port of call has numerous options for exploration and recreation including snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, and horseback riding. Activities are set up to accommodate all ability levels, and all major sites, such as Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, have bus tour options. Here are just a few highlights from some of the ports:

Belize. Image: Bill From Boston

  • Cabo San Lucas: Swimming with dolphins.
  • Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Cloudforest trek through Poás National Park, outrigger canoe paddling along coves and coastline, rafting on the Corobici River.
  • Puerto Quetzal: Trek up Pacaya Volcano, one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes.
  • Puerto Limon: Canoeing through sloth sanctuary, zip-lining through jungle canopy.
  • Belize City, Belize: Rainforest walk and cave-tubing, Maya ruins visit.
  • Cozumel: Underwater ocean viewing (via underwater viewing vessel).
Service Work and Learning Opportunities

In addition to the outdoor recreation and adventure, various service-oriented projects such as volunteering in orphanages and community building are available in several of the ports of call. As with the recreation options, these service-oriented field trips are set up for different age groups and families.

Guatemala. Photo: Drew Coffman

There are special projects reserved for pre-college-aged groups as well as field trips combined with local tours. Here are a few selected opportunities:

  • Puerto Quetzal: Assisting in building homes for impoverished people in Antigua, playing with local kids, assisting in homework at dayschool in San Miguel Dueas.
  • Puerto Limon: Playing with kids at local orphanage, painting houses, and donating small gifts (a pre-made box of interactive materials — balls, games, coloring books
    and crayons, drawing materials, bubble-blowing kits, plus anything else you’d like to add) to kids.
  • Santo Tomas de Castilla: Interacting with local schoolchildren, observing / participating in traditional dance.
  • Corinto: Learning about the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s work with indigenous people in Nicaragua, with site visits to the Indigenous Sutiaba Museum and workshops of indigenous women in Subtiava.
A typical day at Sea

While at sea, passengers can participate in as much or as little activity as they want. Various learning opportunities are available both through workshops led by expert lecturers, as well as an 8,000-volume library and a computer lab with free internet access for further investigation. Here’s a sample itinerary for a typical day at sea:

6 a.m. – 7 a.m. Early Bird Continental Breakfast
7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Breakfast
7 a.m. – 8:15 a.m. Fitness Session
8:30 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Enrichment Lecture: Whales and Other Marine Mammals
9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. Children’s Activities
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Enrichment Workshop with Artist-in-Residence
11 a.m. – 12 p.m. Enrichment Lecture: The Maya
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. Lunch
2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Enrichment Session: Pre-Port Briefing
3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Children’s Activities
4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. Enrichment Session: Book Club Discussion
4:15 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. Fitness Session
5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Explorer Seminars (select from six options)
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Dinner
6 p.m. – 8 p.m. Piano Bar Entertainment
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Buffet Dinner
8 p.m. – 9 p.m. Enrichment Lecture
9 p.m. – 10 p.m. Entertainment
10:15 p.m. 11 p.m. Star Gazing

Pricing and more Info

Enrichment Voyages has a great single supplement rate as well as discounted rates for groups. To learn more, hear what others have said about their experience, and to request a brochure or more information, please visit Enrichment Voyages.

Special Photo Credit: Diving in Belize by Bill from Boston

[Editor’s note: Matador is proud to partner with Enrichment Voyages, who sponsored this post. Enrichment Voyages is a company Matador respects for their values and the high quality of their programs. Learn more. ]

UPDATE: The December voyage has sold out! You don’t have to wait long for another shot, though — the next ship sets sail in April, 2011.