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Cruise Industry Class Experiences Nautical Nuts and Bolts on High Seas

by Darryl E. Owens

For most people, the notion of cruising to the Bahamas conjures images of sandy beaches, bikinis, and endless buffets.

For Tomas Jordan, however, that perspective shifted in April after the junior was among 18 Beacon cruise management students who boarded Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and left behind landlubbing book learning at the port for a three-day excursion into experiential education on the high seas.

“I had the experience of a lifetime going on the cruise,” Jordan said. “Being on the Allure of the Seas helped me gain a deeper understanding of the topics being taught in class since the experience provided a real-world application of topics such as ship operations, guest services, and more. This experience also helped me form deeper connections with my fellow classmates. It was an experience that I will never forget and an experience that classmates likely will not forget either.”

Students learn and retain better when they are learning about and experiencing the topic. Our students stay engaged in learning when they are kept busy — not only their minds but also their body. The students who partake in experiential learning return to the classroom with a lot of knowledge. You can see the sparkle in their eyes when they share their experiences with their classmates.”

—Dr. Teri Hunter, an assistant professor and coordinator of hospitality and tourism management

The class’s tropical voyage was integrated into the spring semester’s cruise management course to expose students firsthand to hospitality and tourism opportunities in the cruise industry, said Hunter.

While experiential learning enjoys a long history in higher education, Beacon — because of its low student-to-faculty ratio — often is better positioned than other institutions to include experiential learning in the classroom, Hunter said.

Previous experiential outings have included a Carnival cruise, trips to the Florida State Fair, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show, the World Equestrian Center, and behind-the-scenes tours of Amalie Arena and Raymond James Stadium.

In October, she began working with a group travel agent. When the class commenced in January, she engaged students in discussions about the pre-booking process. They brainstormed ways the cruise industry could simplify things for groups. Approaching the process through the lenses of both a cruise manager and passenger, the class reviewed the customer service it received for its Caribbean cruise.

Students also watched behind-the-scene videos, boned up on maritime laws and their application to the cruise industry, employment laws, ship registrations, the impact COVID-19 on the cruise industry. They also reviewed the layout, amenities, security and more available on a cruise ship.

The group — which two guests, two parents and Drs. Hunter and Shena Bowie, an assistant professor in the department of business and technology — shoved off from Port Canaveral with ports of call in Nassau, Bahamas and Royal Caribbean’s private island Cocoa Cay in the Bahamas.

Students were free to plunge their toes deep into the pink sand during the voyage — but it was work before play.

From the first day aboard the ship, students were charged with completing daily assignments. One assignment required them to take three selfies each day of the journey. One selfie included a restaurant. Another either a ship amenity or entertainment option. And the final was a snap with an employee, which had to include the employee’s first name, country, and role on the ship.

That interpersonal connection struck a chord with Manuel Frangis. “I … really enjoyed the cruise because I got to talk to the staff and got to know them and learn things about them,” Frangis said. “Learning the ins and outs of the cruise was amazing because I never knew how it works.”

Over dinner in the main dining room, Hunter conducted class. Students shared their daily experiences — what they learned, likes and dislikes, and suggestions for improving the cruise experience.

In Nassau, the class splintered into a smaller group that explored Bahamian culture and its people. Students ventured into the straw market where they honed their haggling skills and learned “how to politely say, ‘No, thank you’ when approached,” Hunter said.

Jonah Leonhardt came away a fan of the experiential learning approach: “I enjoyed the cruise and it did help me to understand the topics that we learned in class.”

And Dylan Hunter put a finer point on the experience: “I feel when I went on the cruise it was a different experience being on the boat with learning all about the cruise industry and what makes the boat work and how many different positions the cruise (line) had. Overall, the cruise has helped me understand the cruise industry a lot more. With having the opportunity to go behind the scenes on the cruise ship opened my eyes to the world of cruising.”

More Info About Experiential Learning at Beacon

Offering directed excursions for academic majors, the experiential learning trips include itineraries that are geared toward specific degree programs, like the Anthrozoology program’s marine and terrestrial science trip in Belize or the Business Management Hospitality and Tourism program’s Royal Caribbean cruise. The focus is out-of-the-classroom learning related to a specific degree program.

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