First, a primer: If Majestic America Line doesn't sound familiar, that's because the cruise line is somewhat new; Delta Queen Steamboat and American West Steamboat combined under the umbrella last year. Majestic continues to sail well-known vessels such as the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and Empress of the North.
Throughout the year, Majestic America will bring more than 28 regional experts onboard these and other ships at various port stops to share their knowledge with guests. An expert might be a photographer, an award-winning historian or a story teller.
For example, on a call at Clarkston, Washington, on the Columbia River, a presenter will share personal insights, history and culture of the local Nez Perce Indians. A fishing and cannery lecture will be offered on cruises to Alaska's Inside Passage. At a stop in a Hannibal, Missouri, hometown of Mark Twain, local students portraying Tom and Becky from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" may perform a scene onboard from the book.
Majestic America Line will also provide Discovery Guides onboard each voyage -- similar to the naturalists that sail on expedition cruises. Discovery Guides will call out points of interest along the river, comment on wildlife and be available to guests at any time for one-on-one discussions. All lectures, and some commentary, will be broadcast on stateroom TV's; informational maps, DVD's, pamphlets and books will also be available.
Majestic America Line sails its river boats in three regions of America: the Mississippi, Ohio and tributary rivers; Pacific Northwest's Columbia, Snake and Willamette rivers; and Alaska's Inside Passage.
Other major cruise lines that are embracing enrichment include Celebrity, Cunard, Holland America, Princess and Crystal. Luxury line Crystal, which wins awards for its comprehensive programs, is debuting University@Sea courses on the new Windows Vista operating system released this January.
Companies operating smaller fleets -- such as CruiseWest and Lindblad -- have long featured itinerary enrichment on their cruises.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor