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Computer school while you cruise.

Computer school while you cruise

If your vacation plans include some time at sea, you may enjoy a new addition to the usual selection of cruise-ship activities. In Caribbean ports this winter and Alaskan waters next summer, adults will be able to take beginning classes in using a personal computer. We found six cruise lines offering such instruction (on a total of nine ships).

Qualified instructors lead one or two classes each day while at sea (but not while the ship's in port). Classes are held in salons on public decks; you'll have expansive views of the passing scenery. Although the classes won't interfere with shore excursions, they may coincide with other shipboard activities.

What you'll learn

The courses offer you a chance to achieve a modest degree of computer literacy at a relaxed pace in a low-key, stress-free environment. You won't have to keep up with cutthroat cohorts or competitive peers.

Anyone interested in the classes should attend an introductory lecture. This will give you many of the basics, such as how to get started and how to find your way around the keyboard and the screen.

After that session, you can attend as many of the self-contained subsequent lectures and classes as you choose. Let your needs or interests govern your choices, or try to become familiar with the topics of all the classes.

Topics include specialized workhorse programs for word processing, data-base management, and spread-sheet and financial analysis; entertainment, games, and graphics programs; history of computers and their role in society; and selecting and buying a personal computer that meets your needs.

Hands-on experience

Each class begins with a lecture, followed by about an hour of instructor-assisted practice. Most programs feature on-screen tutorials, so you can return later and practice on your own.

The computers are usually available from 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. or midnight (sometimes 24 hours a day). While attendance at introductory lectures may be large, usually only 20 to 30 passengers per cruise want to spend much time with the machines, and you'll probably find the equipment free when you want to use it. You can write a letter home, design a greeting card or a 10-foot-long "happy birthday' banner, put your finances in order, or begin the great American novel. All this will be stored on your own floppy disk (you can buy disks aboard the ship).

One shipboard instructor we talked to said that her more dedicated students gained real confidence in using personal computers (these students did, however, come to each class, take notes, and practice after hours). By the end of the cruise, they understood the basic concepts and were moderately successful at using the available software. The instructor felt that they'd received from their shipboard classes roughly what they would get from a $250 to $400 course at a professional computer learning center. Shipboard classes also provide an opportunity to sample many different kinds of programs without being pressured to buy.

Ships in our survey provide between 4 and 16 computers--all IBM PCs--and an adequate number of printers. Experienced users are encouraged to use equipment, but in most cases children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Cruise choices

It's not every day that you have the choice of balmy Caribbean climates or cool, green Alaskan waters as the site for a class in personal computers.

This winter, you can study while enjoying the tropical sun of the Caribbean's warm ports. Next spring and summer, you can learn while cruising to Alaska.

For all cruises, ask detailed questions about shipboard activities; some lines stress activities that may be especially appealing to you.

Caribbean. Through early spring, join one- to two-week cruises in the eastern and western Caribbean, or to Bermuda. Some ships visit South America, the Panama Canal, or Mexico's Pacific ports. The cruise lines:

Cunard Line/NAC (M.S. Vistafjord) and Cunard Line Limited (Queen Elizabeth 2), 555 Fifth Ave., New York 10017.

Holland America Line (N.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, M.S. Noordam, S.S. Rotterdam), Westours Inc., 300 Elliott Ave. W., Seattle 98119.

Home Lines Cruises Inc. (M.V. Atlantic), One World Trade Center, Suite 3969, New York 10048.

Regency Cruises (M.V. Regent Sea, M.V. Regent Star), 260 Madison Ave., New York 10016.

Alaska. Beginning in late May, 7- to 11-day cruises depart from Vancouver and sail Alaska's Inside Passage or clear to Anchorage. Ships making these trips include Holland America's Nieuw Amsterdam, Noordam, and Rotterdam (address above); Regency Cruises' Regent Star (address above); and M.V. Sea Venture (Sea Venture Cruises, 5233 N.W. 79th Ave., Miami 33166).

Photo: On-board computer learning center offers cruising students terminals and printers, help from teachers and savvy shipmates, and views out the windows
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Nov 1, 1987
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