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Cruise Diary: Computing at Sea is Free and Fun

Days 76-77 March 22-23:

Chris Jackson, the “techspert” on board the Amsterdam, is telling the class in his usual rapid-fire style why there is no one “best” computer for everyone. “The type of user you are will determine how much you’ll spend in a computer,” he explains. If you are a basic user – use a computer just for e-mail, Web browsing and maybe some word processing – you won’t need as much computing power, or will have to spend as much money, as a “well-rounded” user who streams music and video files or a “high-performance” user who does a lot of advanced photo and movie editing. “Does that make sense?” he asks over and over, making sure the students are grasping the point. “Does that make sense?”

It all makes sense, which is the highest compliment I can think of for a class on technology and computers. And not just one class but 22 different “Digital Workshop” classes repeated throughout our World Cruise and covering the spectrum from computer and digital camera basics to creative photo editing and movie making and “cloud computing,” or using online-based software and storing – and accessing and sharing – our photos, videos, music and other files and documents online.

Photo of visual aid that Chris uses during class.

Photo of visual aid that Chris uses during class.

Techspert Chris Jackson teaching  the Digital Workshop class.

Techspert Chris Jackson teaching the Digital Workshop class.

Two more great things about these classes, which are sponsored by Microsoft Windows:

They are free, and all the programs taught in them, including photo editing and movie-making software, are also free and available online. So if we like the programs and we don’t have them already, we can go online and download them for free. No wonder the classes have proved immensely popular, with enough demand that two one-hour classes are typically offered on days at sea, and at least one class is offered on port days, as early as 8:30 a.m. and as late as 5:30 p.m., so we can enjoy our time ashore and still be able to keep up with our expanding computer knowledge. (On a recent evening at the Crow’s Nest, a fellow passenger was telling others in detail what he had learned in class that day). Another great thing about the Digital Workshop offerings is the “techspert” time, one-hour free sessions after each class when Chris is available to answer any questions passengers may have about anything computer related – from how to set the flash so it works in the daytime on our digital camera to advanced techniques for adding and editing music to a home-made DVD.

I also found bonus “techspert” time when I had trouble with my digital camera while out on deck when we were arriving in Sydney and I spotted Chris out there and made a quick consultation with him for great photos! Chris also encourages students during class to raise their hands and ask questions if something is not clear – there are no stupid questions, he emphasizes – and he walks around the room to make sure everyone is keeping up – and to help when needed – while students are doing “hands on” work. Over the years I have attended computer classes in more than a dozen ships. These are by far the best and most useful – we learn something new in each class, as basic as tricks to find the cursor quickly on the computer screen to launching a program without having to use the mouse to more advanced steps to rid the computer of unwanted files and programs that may be slowing it down. You do have to keep on your toes in the classes – Chris does speak very quickly and he covers a lot of material. But there are detailed handouts for a dozen “core” classes and you can always – as we have done – attend the same class more than once. It is worth it, it is free – and it’s fun.

Chris answering a student’s question one on one.

Chris answering a student’s question one on one.

Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.

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