MV Explorer, built in 2002 for the now-defunct Royal Olympic Cruises, is used most of the year for the non-profit Institute for Shipboard Education’s “Semester at Sea” program. Acquired by the Institute after Royal Olympic's bankruptcy in 2004, the ship has the distinction of being one of the fastest seagoing passenger vessels in the world, able to maintain a speed of 30 knots. Despite its modern architecture, the ship enjoys classic lines and has a following among ship enthusiasts who will no doubt be pleased to learn that a new partnership with Online Vacation Center has opened the ship to the cruising public during semester breaks. The new venture is called Enrichment Voyages.
The 25,000-ton, 836-passenger MV Explorer will sail during the month of May and then again throughout December and January, during times when the ship's not required by Semester at Sea. Of course, Enrichment Voyages still utilizes the many classrooms, labs, college professors, and the 8,000-volume library, to provide an education-rich experience in the regions around the Panama Canal and the Amazon.
The ship itself is a hybrid of sorts; not quite as upscale as other modern cruise ships, but not as rugged as an exploration vessel. Although there are eight suites with verandas, 12 without, and 30 "junior suites," the remaining inside and outside staterooms average just 140 square ft., small for a ship that is not a classic.
MV Explorer comes complete with a full-service spa, a pool and sun deck, a theater-style lounge, men's and women's saunas, a library, computer lab and several classrooms. There is one main dining venue and a snack bar poolside.
Classes and enrichment programs are as diverse as Oceanography and Marine Life, Spanish Lessons and Caribbean Rhythms and Music. Enrichment Voyages not only offers free Internet to guests onboard, but free Wi-Fi as well throughout the ship. There is no casino -- but there is bingo; and Pilates, yoga, aerobics and weight-training are offered in the fitness center.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style; supper is usually open-seating and casual. At least twice per voyage there will be a semi-formal Captain’s Dinner, and on many nights a specialty-dining option with gourmet fare will be offered for a nominal charge.