Though varied and fun, HAL's onboard activities tend to be low-key. You can take ballroom dance lessons; take an informal class in photography; play bingo or bridge; sit in on a trivia game or Pictionary tournament; participate in Ping-Pong, golf-putting, basketball free-throw, or volleyball tournaments; take a gaming lesson in the casino or an aerobics class at the gym; take a self-guided iPod tour of the ship's art collection or a backstage theater tour; go high-toned at a wine tasting; or go low-toned at the goofy games poolside or in a lounge. During the Seaquest game on a 14-night cruise, we watched as a group of mostly senior passengers enthusiastically slipped off their bras and dropped their drawers in the name of friendly competition -- the team that deposited more undergarments on the show lounge stage won. The place was a sea of geriatric goofballs tottering around in their boxers and briefs, crumbled trousers in hand. Some cruises also feature model shipbuilding contests in which you can use only junk you find around the ship, with seaworthiness tested in one of the ship's hot tubs.
Each ship has a great Explorations Café, which is a combo Internet center, coffee bar, and library. Comfy lounge chairs come equipped with music stations and headphones. Generous shelves of books (Holland American has the most extensive libraries after Cunard), DVDs, and games line the walls, and a magazine stand holds current issues of popular magazines, plus the latest editions of various newspapers, when the ship can get them. If you're a crossword buff, you can tackle the New York Times crossword puzzles embedded under glass in the room's cafe tables (wax pencils are provided). Explorations also functions as the Internet cafe, but passengers toting their Wi-Fi-enabled laptops can take advantage of wireless hot spots here and throughout the ship. The ships' Culinary Arts Centers give free cooking demos and more intimate, hands-on cooking classes (available for a charge). The center is also used for other demos, such as flower arranging. Cooking demos usually happen twice per 7-day cruise; go early to get a front-row seat, or sit in the back and watch the food preparation on the flat-panel TVs around the room.
On 7-night Alaska cruises, Native artists demonstrate traditional arts such as ivory and soapstone carving, basket weaving, and mask making as part of the line's Artists in Residence Program, created under the auspices of Anchorage's Alaska Native Heritage Center. For another program during visits to Glacier Bay, a member of the Huna tribe comes aboard to talk about the land the Huna have called home for centuries. In Hawaii and Mexico, cultural dancers perform for passengers.
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.