The first thing one should know if considering a post as enrichment lecturer is to be flexible and to be prepared for little surprises. Some examples:
The trip next week is on the MSC Divina, which was just launched last year and which has been working in the Mediterranean. It is currently crossing the Atlantic for the first time. It is to arrive at Port Miami on the 20th and a short jaunt is scheduled (three nights) to a private beach and Port Canaveral, then back to Miami. That trip is intended to expose US travel agents to the ship, as it will be sailing the Caribbean for the Winter season. It then sails from Miami for a typical seven night Eastern Caribbean itinerary. I had originally booked for both trips back to back, making a ten day trip out of it. Then MSC decided they didn’t need a lecturer for the three night jaunt so they cut me back to the seven night leg. OK; no big deal. Friday they changed their mind and called to see if I could join on the 20th. Well, I’m flexible but not THAT flexible; I had already firmed up my travel plans. Again, no big deal. If I had been in a position to accept that assignment I’d have been glad to be offered it.
My last lecture trip was a longer one; from Buenos Ares to Valparaiso via Cape Horn. As we were sailing back up the Western coast of Chile the earthquake struck. It had no effect on the ship; the waves created were, as always, very small in the open ocean. It is when they reach shore that damage happens. It turned out that the port facilities at Valparaiso had been damaged by earthquake-related waves and when we arrived we had to wait at anchor for a few days before disembarking. That would have goofed up my return flight – but the airport at Santiago had been damaged by the earthquake so we were stranded there for a few more days anyway. No big deal; trip insurance reimbursed me for the extra expenses. No use being upset at the delay; the effect on me was trivial compared to the victims of the event.
The only other time I had an extended delay in returning home was caused by the 9-11 attack. We were sailing along the Alaskan coast when that happened. When the trip ended at Vancouver we couldn’t get home because US airports were closed. No hotel expenses that time, Celebrity put us up on a ship while we waited. Again, there was no important impact on me; it was the attack victims who suffered.
I generally travel in Winter so I’ve had to wait in Florida or California due to canceled Ohio flights a few times but again, an extra day is no big deal and travel insurance covers a hotel night. It’s just a matter of not being so self-involved as to consider an unexpected schedule change to be a personal disaster. All of the above impacted the revenue passengers just as much as it did me, so it wasn’t really a result of the lecture gig; it’s just that cruising more frequently creates more exposure to such events.
Flexibility specific to the job is required, though. For one thing, some cruise lines (Princess is one) don’t guarantee what class of cabin you will be assigned. Sometimes it is a junior officer’s cabin, which is cramped if you brought a guest (you always have the option of bringing a guest). You never know your full schedule ahead of time; the daily ship’s newsletter arrives each night and you have to look to see when, where, and if you are scheduled for the next day. It might be in a lounge, or in the movie theater/videoconference room, or in the main showroom. Generally you will be expected to present one 45 minute session on each “sea day” (a day on which the ship doesn’t stop anywhere). That usually works out to two or three sessions on a seven night trip and three or four sessions on a ten night trip. Ocean crossings, of course, have a LOT of sea days so you’ll need more material for those. If your topic is astronomy you’ll probably be asked for additional duty in the form of one or two stargazing sessions on deck. Binoculars and a GLP are usually sufficient, though I generally have a small refractor and an alt/az mount along. Although the ships cruise at 25 knots or so, they are stable in calm weather and so long as the magnification is kept reasonable the views are OK. Expect wind (I did say the ship will be cruising at 25 knots!). On the South America trip I brought along a PST and offered narrowband Solar views that folks seemed to enjoy. The photo on the previous post shows this activity while we were anchored off Valparaiso waiting for port facilities to be available for disembarkation. I’ll have the PST along on this trip, too.
The rest of the time you are just another passenger with full privileges. Some discounts are usually offered; maybe a bar discount or discounted shore excursions. Sometimes they will comp the tips (about $10 per day total is expected on most cruise ships).
The second thing you need to know is that although there are LOTS of cruise ships, there are also lots of folks who provide this service. You aren’t going to be paid unless you have celebrity status. You’ll probably have to pay your own travel costs to and from the port, too (folks who live in port cities have a big advantage here). You’ll pay a modest booking fee to the agency who sets it up. In exchange for these plus a few hours of duty, you and a guest will receive a complimentary cruise with full passenger status and probably some discounts. If you are on Princess, make sure the guest is someone with whom you are willing to share a bed in case you don’t get a passenger cabin! On most other lines you can count on a standard passenger cabin with two beds available (even if you don’t bring a guest).
If you have interesting knowledge to share (and astronomy is fairly popular as an enrichment topic), can present the information clearly but in an entertaining manner, and are willing to invest the necessary effort in preparing your materials (most lines will insist on PowerPoint visual aids – and your own laptop to play them) you might consider signing up with one of the agencies to whom the cruise lines go for such postings. I use ToSeaWithZ http://www.toseawithz.com/ and have been very satisfied with them. I enjoy the presentations – in fact, when I cruise as a “normal” passenger I kind of miss them.
Excellent reading John!
As you know, I’ve been doing this for a number of years and have always intended to get around some day to doing an article about it. I think when I return from this trip I’ll go ahead and get it done. Seems like something amateur astronomers should know about. I’m sure that Cloudy Nights would be glad to publish it.