At Sea with Road Scholar

panama-canal-bridge-amsterdam-061218-c037.jpg.image_.750.563.low_I’m excited to be going back on Holland America’s damn ship VOLENDAM for a cruise from San Diego to Ft. Lauderdale.  I’ve done this same trip years back lecturing and doing the bridge commentary through the Canal working with Holland America.  This time I’ll be doing it as lecturer for a small group of Road Scholars.

Road Scholar is an exciting, non-profit organization providing ongoing educational travel opportunities for adults 55 years of age and older.  My mother-in-law used to enjoy these trips back when it was called Elderhostel.  The official name of the organization is still Elderhostel, but the programs are branded as Road Scholar, a name with much more appeal to the over 55 group than Elderhostel.  Baby boomers would prefer any name but “elder”!  And most of us gave up staying in hostels years and years ago.  It didn’t take me very long to forgo hostels for Holiday Inns, which were pretty much the same “luxury” as hostels, but with swimming pools.  When we were in the travel agency business and my kids were little, they wondered why their friends went camping and we didn’t, and my response was, “Well, honey, occasionally, when I can’t get comped elsewhere, we do sometimes stay at Holiday Inns.”  Lest you forget what Holiday Inns were like, if you go with us on the PEARL MIST Great Lakes cruise and visit The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan, they have one of the very first Holiday Inn rooms on display, along with all the Model Ts and the like. The room is appropriately dreary complete with shag carpeting and a tiny bar of motel soap.

road scholar JPEGSo rebranding from Elderhostel to Road Scholar made a lot of sense, although if you’ve wandered through academia and haven’t yet had sufficient memory lapses, it’s hard to hear Road Scholar without thinking Rhodes Scholar … big difference.

Road Scholar has a well-designed and well-executed program of literally thousands of educational travel opportunities and forget about hostels.   Hostels are for kids and we have a ton of them in Boquete, since in addition to all the expat tourists dreaming about moving to Panama, the wealthy Panamanians from Panama City who are escaping the traffic, heat, and pollution of the big city, we have loads of back packers from all over the world.  Road Scholar offers comfortable, secure, upscale accommodations carefully selected to fulfill their mission “provide enriching educational adventures at extraordinary value.”

Road Scholar likes to think of “the world as a learning opportunity” and offers over 5,500 programs.  They make it easy for single travelers and even have exiting and thoughtful programs celebrating holidays like Christmas and New Years with a small group of 25 or so like-minded folks in places like New York, Strasburg, Savannah, Quebec City, Santa Fe and others.  What a concept: the most exciting holiday destinations, with a group of friends, with no fuss, no muss, no drama!  Some of their programs are operated as small groups on both large and small ships, like this trip I’m part of on the VOLENDAM.  And Road Scholar is even chartering it’s own ship starting next year offering exclusive voyages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo the program I’m heading on, Panama Canal Adventure: Exploring Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala & Costa Rica, leaves from San Diego visiting Cabo and Chiapas, Mexico; Antigua, Guatemala; Corinto, Nicaragua; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; transiting through the Panama Canal; Cartagena, Colombia, and Holland America’s private out-island in the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay.  I’m excited to be working with Road Scholar, and excited to be working with a small group.  I’ve spent much of my time lecturing to big groups in giant theaters on board ships, but never actually getting to meet and know the guests.   Since I’ve been working on small ships, I’ve had the opportunity to actually meet and get to know the guests.  The over 55 demographic of folks who travel on ships like PEARL MIST, and go on Road Scholar programs are typically well-educated, well-read, well-traveled people who have had fascinating life experiences.  So for me it’s exciting to be able to share with that kind of group.  With Road Scholar I have time to dig into some of the topics without having to worry about dumbing-down,  The reason why I’ve enjoyed longer cruises, two world cruises, and the exotic itineraries is having the opportunity to tie together the histories of countries and regions.  This is an ideal itinerary to be able to pull together a fascinating and intertwined history!

cropped-april-ll-volendam-183.jpgAnd to be able to take folks through the Panama Canal is, for me, one of the most fun experiences in the world.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbHSince we’re traveling through one of the best coffee growing regions of the world, I’m going to do my talk about coffee and, since it’s a small group, we are actually going to do a coffee tasting of the coffees from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia.