Celebrity Cruises’ Anturus Explorer Academy stirs kids’ curiosity while extending their scientific know-how. Cathy Winston and her five-year-old daughter try it out
The good ship “Colossal Leopard” launches ceremoniously into the Jacuzzi on the pool deck of Celebrity Silhouette, joining “Ship Happy” and “The World” – all created by an enthusiastic group of kids over the past hour.
Top-heavy, thanks to two pencil masts flying specially designed flags, she immediately topples over, much to the disgust of my five-year-old –one of her young creators – but it floats valiantly until the Jacuzzi jets are turned on.
With “The World” crowned challenge winner, we troop back to the Camp At Sea kids’ club, where the children have been testing out Anturus Explorer Academy. Today’s topic of “how things float” is inspired by the ship we’re on.
Judging from the cheers during the first part of the activity – watching a melon bob on the surface of a tank of water, and chants of “sink, sink” as a bowling ball plummets to the bottom – it’s a big hit.
Tested over the past few years, the Explorer Academy was officially launched last October. Now available on Celebrity’s 12-strong fleet, except those cruising the Galapagos, it’ll also be on new ship Celebrity Edge from November.
A partnership between the cruise line and Wales-based adventure business Anturus, which creates content on Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), the Academy is a complimentary part of the Camp at Sea programme, available daily for ages 3-12.
Huw James, founder of Anturus, is onboard to give us a taste of the various workshops and activities. In my case, it’s a literal taste, as I find myself volunteering to nibble on a locust while James tells the fascinated, grimacing children why eating insects is good from an environmental and nutritional point of view.
My daughter remains entirely unconvinced; she’d much rather join in the volcano-themed experiments as James puffs smoke rings before Alka-Seltzers shaken up in small containers explode impressively.
“The educational aspect is big, but I see it more as provoking curiosity,” he explains to me later.
“I say to the junior cruisers that they are explorers, travelling the world on a ship – which the old explorers used to do.”
With a maximum of around 600 children in the kids’ club, enjoying more than 100 activities per 14-day cruise, Celebrity’s size is perfect for Explorer Academy’s hands-on style. In comparison, sister brand Royal Caribbean might have a high count of 2,500 kids onboard at once.
“Enrichment is such a big part of what Celebrity does – you always feel it wants its cruisers to go off more enriched than when they got on,” says James. “What we want to provide is the opportunity to explore and learn if they so wish.”
On Celebrity Edge, a new Explorer Corner with computers and books is also planned so that children can discover which whale they spotted from the ship or which fish they snorkelled past in the Caribbean. Prizes for activities, which include competitions for fastest paper aeroplane and creating weather monitoring stations and wind-powered cars, encourage children to experiment and consider their environmental impact back home.
Onboard, activities are adapted to the children’s age and interests as well as what the staff enjoy.
“There’s a big buy-in from the youth staff – they enjoy exploring as much as the kids do,” says James, who helps to train programme managers.
The team-building aspect is ideal for helping kids make friends faster too. Hours after we embark, our young ship designers have abandoned any shyness in their determination to create the winning boat from paper plates and cups, plus plenty of tape.
“The fact that 75,000 junior cruisers a year have access to Stem in a way that they wouldn’t without our project really inspires me,” says James. “The kind of people who bring their kids on these ships and the kind of kids that come on also want to learn. I feel we’re providing that opportunity to go to extraordinary places and learn extraordinary things.”
Book it: Celebrity Cruises offers a 15-day Western Mediterranean cruise onboard Celebrity Silhouette with complimentary access to the Anturus Explorer Academy from £1,799pp, departing Southampton July 28, 2019.