Monday, March 4, 2013

Writers, Want a Free Cruise? The Secret is Revealed.

Warm sun, Las Vegas style entertainment, enough fru fru food to feed a small nation. Sounds great, right? How would you like to enjoy that cruise… free?

An archeologist/anthropologist friend, Jim, delighted me with his adventures on the high seas. His destinations were exotic like Southeast Asian port cities. I figured he was flush with cash until he told me that he didn’t pay for those cruises.

A bubble of envy surfaced. “How did you not pay for your cruise?”

“I teach on the ship.” He went on to explain that he taught about the culture and history of the destinations. He was uniquely qualified with a specialty. He had dug up mammoths and the oldest Egyptian remains! I smiled and shook my head with great admiration.

Having enjoyed cruises before without taking advantage of most program offerings, it never occurred to me that a writer’s skills would be a draw. It turns out I was missing the boat—oh sorry, ship.

Cruise lines are in constant need of entertainment for their floating customers. There will always be a subset of guests who are eager to learn about the history of a country. (Hear that, Historical writers?) Activity oriented lessons such as deep sea fishing appeal to people who plan to use those skills on excursions. But those offerings only go so far with a more general audience, especially one that’s a bit older and a bit less likely to play tug-of-war with a marlin or dive down 400 feet for treasure.

“You can do it,” Jim said. “You teach writing classes.”

I rubbed at my chin and rolled my eyes thoughtfully. Most people claim to have a book in them. Many aren’t writers but dream of penning their memoirs to pass down to their grandchildren. Hmmm. Why not? I enjoy teaching Writing Your Life and many other workshops in a number of venues: conferences, retreats, MeetUp Groups, schools. It’s fun. BUT they’re all landlocked endeavors. This cruise idea grew on me. I loved every cruise I’d been on with my family. Why not try?

Jim told me his secret. He had a broker that hooked him up with teaching gigs--Posh Talks:

I did the research, emailed them, and learned exactly what had to be done to be on their list.

Complete application
Brief bio – written in third person
Current head shot
Proposed topics – including 1 sentence description
PowerPoint Presentations offered as part of the workshops
Videolink on YouTube

The first five were easy; I’d needed them when applying to be adjunct faculty at conferences. I brainstormed what classes might appeal most to Celebrity or Princess or any other cruise line’s customers and made my list. I started with Writing Your Life. I figured it would have the largest appeal. I followed that up with classes that offer the inside scoop on writing fiction, nonfiction, and screenplays. Rather than port-specific, these are all considered general interest programs, as would be courses taught by artists, photographers, and bridge and dancing instructors.

I didn’t have a video link (or even a channel) on YouTube. So I had a friend videotape me as I taught a workshop (thanks Esri!), edited a couple snippets down to 6 and 9 minutes, threw them up on YouTube and voila! My application was done.

After a short wait the offers came pouring in, 3 and 4 every few weeks. Be prepared. Know when you are available, where you’d like to go, and be quick. It’s first come first serve getting your information passed to the cruise line for consideration. I’ve become a quick draw but I just missed a Mediterranean trip the other day. Someone else grabbed it first.

I have two gigs lined up for this year: A summer visit to Southampton, Bruges, Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, and Copenhagen. Then I have a winter trip taking a Panama/Canal Belize route. Both happen to be with Celebrity, but other lines are offered. I’ll visit Chiseled in Rock in July to report back on St. Petersburg, Copenhagen, etc.—places I doubt I’d have ever visited without this teaching opportunity.

There is a catch. It’s not 100% free--unless there’s a last minute cancelation and, desperate, they pick you up paying all your costs. Under normal circumstances, you pay your own tips and excursion costs. You cover the airfare to and from the embarkation point (the ONLY reason I turned down a recently offered Buenos Aires/Antarctic cruise). And of course you need to be willing to set aside an hour on each of the at-sea days to teach to what may or may not be a small crowd. Jim had times when he had as few as 10 pupils. With writing subjects, a little more cozy means more customized to specific needs.

Later I signed up with another broker, To Sea With Z:

You can learn more about additional brokers such as Sixth Star and what exactly you can expect when teaching on cruises at:

Karen’s YouTube samples:
6 minute:
9 minute:

You too can enjoy smooth sailing without the cruise cost!

I look forward to checking in with you again in July to tell you about floating Black Jack Tables, Jacuzzi dips as the waves roll past, and the joys of Russian food.

Karen Albright Lin

Karen Albright Lin consults and edits for published and yet-to-be published writers of fiction, nonfiction, and book proposals. She writes in a number of genres and conducts writing workshops in various venues. Her website:


Julie Luek said...

I've never heard of this before. What a fantastic idea! I'm so glad you posted this. Even if I don't hit the high seas anytime soon, it's so fun to know this kind of adventure opportunity exists.

Patricia Stoltey said...

It would be so cool to land a gig like this..

Julie Golden said...

Oh, the places you'll go! Congrats on the arranged gigs. Turn each trip into a blog and maybe share the work of your students.

Anonymous said...

Cool, gig, Karen, and great post! Fair winds and following seas, my friend! :-]

Andrea Meyer said...

Fascinating and exciting! Thank you for sharing your tips, Karen, and congratulations on your successes!

Tamara G. Suttle said...

Thanks so much for this guest post!You've told me everything I need to to know to pursue this and it sounds like so much fun! Like you, I love training but don't have the YouTube piece. You've walked me through that little snafu and now I think I can do this!