Book Club | Wildlife | Reading Lists | Naturalist Lectures | Play | Workshops | Dance


Shore Excursions

Shore Excursions

Holland America offers a wide variety of excursion packages. These can be the most efficient, safest, and easiest way to experience the ports we are visiting. While run by independent operators, Holland America provides a convenient gateway to excursions with proven track-records. You may choose to get off the ship and explore on your own, and operators offer excursions on shore. In Costa Maya and Belize City, we do know that you'll want to get away from the actual port to experience the best of what these areas have to offer.

Holland America provides a complete excursion booking service. Their basic list of excursions has always been available on their websites. We have added a few excursions and asked some of our experts to join others. With your Holland America Booking Number you may look at the specific list for our cruise and begin booking the ones you would like to join. Simply go to the "Booked Guests" section of There you will be able to see all of our cruise excursions and begin booking them.

One important note, especially for our previous cruisers. In the past we have generally not scheduled any performances while in port. This time around, Garrison would like us to provide a few options for those that might want to stay on board. Please feel free to book your excursions, as they won't be huge "can't miss" performances. But if you are in the mood to stay on board, we'll have a few things going on.

Browse and Reserve Shore Excursions»

On-Board Activities

Along with stage performances — as well as performers in smaller venues throughout the ship — you will have all kinds of opportunities to join our guest performers for formal concerts, informal audience participation sessions, daily choir practice, "bar gigs," and much more. And all this will be on top of the truly first class dining and activities provided by Holland America.

In addition to the musical offerings, Prairie Home is pleased to offer Book discussions, Naturalistsworkshops, and activities throughout the duration of the cruise.

Once on board, check Holland America's daily schedule for locations and times for these activities.

Cruise Book Club: Calling all readers on ships at sea!

"Ours was a house where only women lived. … When it got dark, we shut the door tight, but the rest of the time we left it wide open, and anybody who wanted to could come in or go out without a by-your-leave, the way things were usually done in Augustini." — Carmen Boullosa, Leaving Tabasco

Let's look through this open door into Mexican culture.

In the APHC Cruise book club — meeting twice, with no advance registration necessary — we'll read and talk about a recent novel by a Mexican writer, and a classic by an American.

Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa

The first is Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa (N.Y.: Grove Press, 2001), from which the passage above comes. Translated by Geoff Hargreaves, it is available in paper for $13, in cloth for $24, and also for the Kindle at $8.80. Boullosa has written a dozen novels and has been translated into five languages. Here a woman looks back on her childhood and growing up in Tabasco (the state southwest of Yucatán) in the 1960s, letting us in on family life, a little politics, and a little folklore.

The Old Man and th Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Our second book will be Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. If you've read it before, you'll enjoy reading it again, and if you've never read it, now is the time. Published by Scribner, it is available in paper ($12), hardcover ($20), and for the Kindle ($6.91).

(These titles are available from Amazon, and many other book vendors.)

The dates, times, and places for our conversations will be announced later, in the daily schedule you'll receive on board the ship.

Wildlife Brochure

Wildlife Brochure

Seems having something to look forward to makes life pretty dang sweet. So what's on your list of "Things To Which I Look Forward On the Prairie Home Cruise"? Scenery? A nap on the deck? Buffet lines? Mingling? How 'bout the wildlife? According to Rich, the elder of the MacDonald family naturalists, there's a long list of possible wild encounters waiting on any one of the many activities the naturalists have planned for you.

Wildlife Brochure (PDF)

Reading Lists

The Caribbean in Fact and Fiction | Naturalists' Reading Lists

The Caribbean in Fact and Fiction

Some books on our destinations and neighboring places


Shark Trouble
Peter Benchley, Shark Trouble: True Stories About Sharks and the Sea. Random House, 2002. 186 pp.
             With the International Shark Attack File built at the University of Florida, and a history of shark bites off Key West's beaches, let's learn about the apex predator. Would you go into the jungle with nothing but a bathing suit and sunscreen? That's how many people go into the ocean, the "world's largest primal wilderness, the hunting ground for most of the living things on earth." Benchley almost regrets creating a mythic fictional monster in Jaws. Now he wants us to appreciate the complexity and danger of oceans, and to understand and protect sharks. Attacks on people by the great white shark are usually mistakes, confusing people with seals or sea lions. Bite, spit, wait. People are too bony, provide insufficient caloric value. Of course, if the bite crosses a major artery, the poor mistake may bleed to death. This entertaining read also describes other potential dangers, including swimming. "Never fight the ocean. Go with it and it will work with you." Those of us who have felt ourselves being pulled out to sea will in the future follow Benchley's advice.


Visiting the Maya?
Michael D. Coe, The Maya. Seventh edition, Thames & Hudson, 2005. 272 pp.
            Written as a "concise, accurate, yet reasonably complete account … (for) students, travelers, and the general public," this overview by a distinguished archaeologist and scholar has been in print almost continuously since 1966. "The Maya are hardly a vanished people, for they number at least seven-and-a-half million souls, the largest single block of American Indians north of Peru." Coe covers everything about the Maya — buildings, religion, thought, culture, language, astronomy, the calendar, sites to visit, and more — from the earliest Stone Age cultures to our day, and he concludes that the Maya population is growing.
            His more specialized Breaking the Maya Code (revised edition, Thames & Hudson, 1999), tells of epigraphers, those scholars who deciphered ancient Mayan picture language. Thirty Mayan languages are spoken today, some as closely related as Dutch to English and others as distant as French to English. Yucatec is spoken by hundreds of thousands in the Yucatán Peninsula. Mexican law prohibited teaching Yucatec Mayan in school.
            According to Linda Schele and David Freidel in A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya (William Morrow & Co., 1990, 539 pp.) "Maya" is both a noun and an adjective. "Mayan" is used only to refer to languages.


The Black Flag with Skull and Crossed Bones
Marcus Rediker, Villains of all Nations. Beacon, 2004. 240 pp.
Colin Woodard, The Republic of Pirates. Harcourt, 2007. 383 pp.
            Sailing here three hundred years ago, we'd have been in danger. Thirty-two pirate ships prowled the Caribbean in 1720. Eight hundred pirates worked out of the Bahamas and found support in Cuba, Jamaica, Barbados, Martinique, Antigua, and elsewhere. Many sailors chose piracy to escape the meager life and brutal discipline of merchant and naval ships; others had been baymen (loggers) in what would become Belize. Were they all bad? Pirates often elected their ship's officers and shared the loot equally. Edward Thatch (or Teach), a.k.a. Blackbeard, in 1717, avoided violence by intimidating his victims by tying burning fuses under his hat, surrounding his face with smoke. William Fly, about to be hanged in Boston, July 12, 1726, criticized his executioner for his poor knot and showily tied his own noose.


News from Haiti
Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains. Random House, 2004. 372 pp.
            "The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them, or, when you do, to send money." Dr. Paul Farmer, physician and anthropologist and the subject of this book, does neither. A Haitian proverb, "Beyond mountains there are mountains," gives this book its title. You solve one problem but then you find another. Kidder describes how Farmer faces the challenges of medical humanitarianism in Haiti.


To Disenchant Tourists
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place. Penguin, 1988. 81 pp.
            Tourists to Antigua see the beautiful blue sea and sky, but of course don't see the pollution, the poverty, the corrupt government, the reality of the natives' lives. "Most natives in the world cannot go anywhere. They are poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place where they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go …." The disparities Kincaid describes in her birthplace would apply to many places in the world.



What Life Do You Choose?
Angeles Mastretta, Lovesick, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Riverhead Books, 1997. 292 pp.
            A family, one side descended from the natives in Yucatán, and the other side from the Spanish, a young girl bridging the past and the modern, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Indian peasant life and folk medicine, middle class society in the state of Puebla, disillusionment with politics and government, and Emilia's complex loves make this a rich novel.

Turmoil in Private and Public Life
Silvia Molina, The Love You Promised Me, translated by David Unger. Curbstone Press, 1999. 152 pp.
            "No one can decree the happiness of another," one party in the extramarital affair tells the other. Against the political chaos of the Mexican presidential election and the Maya revolt in Chiapas in 1994, Marcela weighs her love for Rafael, her husband, and for Eduardo, her mother's doctor. She probes her ties to her family and hunts for their past. Molina, born in Mexico City in 1946, author of six novels, won the prize at the Guadalajara International Book Fair for this novel.


Growing Up Haitian
Edwidge Danticat, Breath, Eyes, Memory. Random House Vintage, 1994. 234 pp.
            "I tried to listen without looking directly at the women's faces. That would have been disrespectful, as bad as speaking without being spoken to," the child Sophie Caco thinks, as the elders discuss plans to send her to her mother in New York. Her aunt explains, "In this country there are many good reasons for mothers to abandon their children. … But you were never abandoned. You were with me. Your mother and I, when we were children, we had no control over anything. Not even this body." Later, her mother says, "We come from a place … where in one instant, you can lose your father and all your other dreams." Sophie, grown, concludes, "I come from a place where breath, eyes, and memory are one, a place where you carry your past like the hair on your head."


Revolution: Not a Simple Thing
Rachel Kushner, Telex from Cuba. Scribner, 2008. 322 pp.
            Kushner's mother lived in the American enclave in Oriente Province in Cuba before and during the Cuban Revolution of 1958, when this novel takes place. The children of the Americans who ran the sugar and nickel industries see and interpret things in the American and Cuban cultures quite differently from their parents, and respond differently. The Castro brothers, Ernest Hemingway, and other figures appear as the story unfolds.


Trouble in Paradise
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea. W.W. Norton, 1966, rpt. 1999. 104 pp.
            "They say when trouble comes close ranks, and so the white people did. But we were not in their ranks." So opens this psychological novel, which has been highly regarded for forty years. Born in Dominica to a Welsh father and a Creole mother of an old Dominican family, one of the 1 percent of whites on the island, Jean Rhys left for school in England at 16, and returned only once. Set in Dominica in the 1840s, this novel describes the island's heat, light, scents, plants, and people. It portrays the uneasy existence of two worlds — the social and linguistic range of whites and blacks, immigrants and natives, and misunderstanding, envy, resentment, fear. Many readers see also its relationship to Jane Eyre. Rhys gave it the working title "The First Mrs. Rochester," calling to mind the mad wife locked in the attic.


Naturalists' Reading Lists

Coral reefs, mangroves, tropical rainforests, islands, sandy beaches, rocky shores, open seas — oh, the possibilities! Our ship’s route takes us right across the Eastern Gulf of Mexico on our way to the Western Caribbean. Both areas are home to diverse habitats where all sorts of fascinating critters, large and small, swim, splash, surface, float, breach, fan, fly, soar, graze, perch, climb, crawl, hang, and even slither through land and sea!

To get us ready to share all these wonders with you, your cruise naturalists have pulled our favorite resources off the shelves. Below are some of the highlights you might enjoy.

Happy reading,
Natalie, Rich, Kris, Helen, and Susan


Birds of Mexico and Central America (2006), by Ber van Perlo. For its compact size, this is a highly detailed field guide; perhaps the best to actually carry ashore for the birders among us.

Checklist of the Birds of Belize and the Mexican Yucatán + Tikal and Palenque (2004), by Ernest Preston Edwards and Ramiel Papish. This 20-page checklist is a must-have for the serious listers on this cruise.

A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America (2007), by Steve N.G. Howell and Sophie Webb. This weighty tome will give you a backache lugging it around, but it is the birder’s bible to the region. Buy it, study it, but leave it at home … or in your stateroom.

A Field Guide to Birds of the West Indies, by James Bond, Peterson Field Guides.

The Birds of Our Islands, Caribbean Conservation Association.

Caribbean Birds, Waterford Press. Laminated, pocket-sized, folding guide.

Tropical Water Birds Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean, Seahawk Press. Submersible field guide.

Coral Reefs and Fish

The REEF guides by Paul Humann are very high quality, including many more species than other field guides. The photos of the organisms are excellent. You can select individual volumes or buy them as a set:

  • REEF Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, by Paul Humann
  • REEF Creature Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, by Paul Humann
  • REEF Coral Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, by Paul Humann
  • REEF Fish-in-a-Pocket: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, by Paul Humann

Reef Fish Behavior: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, by Paul Humann. Another guide by Humann, this one moves beyond the typical species identification and natural history, and gives a richer view of reef fish behavior.

Waterproof identification cards by Seahawk Press:

  • Marine Invertebrates of the Tropical Atlantic
  • Shells Tropical Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico
  • Reef Fishes of the Tropical Atlantic

Guide to Corals and Fishes of Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean, by Idaz Greenberg, Seahawk Press.

A Field Guide to Coral Reefs: Caribbean and Florida (Peterson Field Guide Series), by Eugene H. Kaplan, Roger Tory Peterson, and Susan L. Kaplan.
A Guide to the Coral Reefs of the Caribbean, by Mark D. Spalding and Corinna Ravilious (2004).
Coral Reefs of the Southern Gulf of Mexico (Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies), by John W. Tunnell Jr., Ernesto A. Chávez, Kim Withers, and Sylvia Earle (2007). This is a recent survey of the state of the reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. There is a strong conservation ethic that underlies the science and inspired the book.

Coral Reef Conservation (Conservation Biology), by Isabelle M. Côté and John D. Reynolds (2006). This book comprises a series of chapters by experts on various aspects of coral reef conservation. While the scope is broad, many of the researchers are based at Caribbean sites. The intended audience is other scientists and students of coral reef ecology and conservation, so the tone will be technical. But there will be plenty to interest an avid nonspecialist.
Marine Mammals and Turtles
Marine Mammals and Turtles of the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, Rhode Island Sea Grant, by Kate Wynne and Malia Schwartz. A great field guide to take on deck with you on our “at sea” days crossing the Gulf of Mexico.

The Marine Mammals of the Gulf of Mexico, by Bernd Würsig, Thomas A. Jefferson, and David J. Schmidly, Texas A&M University Press. The Gulf of Mexico is, in many ways, the last frontier for marine mammal science in North America, with research just starting to show that there are likely many more individuals and populations in the Gulf than believed even just a few short years ago! This book covers all the basics of what is known in a way that is readable to the lay public.

The Florida Manatee: Biology and Conservation, by Roger L. Reep and Robert K. Bonde, University Press of Florida.

The Bottlenose Dolphin: Biology and Conservation, by John E. Reynolds, Samantha D. Eide, and Randall S. Wells, University Press of Florida.

Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation, by James R. Spotila, the Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. Great place to get started learning about sea turtles.

Other Natural History Resources
The Travellers’ Wildlife Guides are excellent comprehensive guides to the natural history of the region. If you want to bring along just one field guide for your entire journey, chose either of these! They provide an overview of all the species you might encounter while either at sea or on land, including monkeys, tapirs, anteaters, crocodiles, fish, birds, and much more!

  • Travellers’ Wildlife Guide: Belize and Northern Guatemala (2005), by Les Beletsky,
  • Travellers’ Wildlife Guide: Southern Mexico: The Cancun Region, Yucatán Peninsula, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Tabasco (2006), by Les Beletsky.

A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America (2007), by Jeffrey Glassberg. For the naturalist who wants to expand the library while broadening the mind, this is an excellent resource.

Reptiles and Amphibians of the Eastern Caribbean (Seahawk Press Caribbean Pocket Natural History Series), by Anita Malhotra.

Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, by William H. Amos and Stephen H. Amos. Illustrated with color photographs throughout. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1986. A Chanticleer Press Edition and one in the series of the Audubon Society Nature Guides. This is a comprehensive, fully illustrated field guide to the birds, plants, seashore creatures, fishes, whales, and other natural wonders of North America's eastern shores, from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico. Although its main emphasis is on the area north of the western Caribbean, it does cover a majority of species we will encounter on this trip.

Tropical Nature, by Adrian Forsyth and Kenneth Miyata. Illustrations by Sarah Landry. 1984. Published by Charles Scribner's Sons. Excellent account of the extraordinary richness of tropical forests. Thoroughly ecological and Darwinian to the core.

A Neotropical Companion, by John C. Kricher. Second edition, Revised and Expanded. Illustrated by William E. Davis Jr. Published by Princeton University Press. 1997. A charming, very readable introduction to the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the New World tropics. A great deal of the research that went into this book was done in Belize.

Island Peak to Coral Reef, by Toni Thomas and Barry Devine Wildlife, published by the University of the Virgin Islands.

Viewing Guide: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, by David Nellis, Falcon Guide.


Other Books You Might Enjoy!
The Lonely Planet guide to Central American on a Shoestring. Natural history is not just plants and animals; people are part of the landscape, too. It is incumbent upon every naturalist to know the lay of the land … and the Lonely Planet guides are an invaluable resource.

Anything by Carl Safina. The most relevant to the Caribbean would be Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth's Last Dinosaur. Others by him are more general: Song for the Blue Ocean and Eye of the Albatross. All are characterized by his gorgeous, expressive writing. He tells information-rich stories in a compelling way.

Water and Light: A Diver's Journey to a Coral Reef, by Stephen Harrigan (Southwestern Writers Collection Series) (paperback). This is the work of a novelist describing his visit to the Caribbean’s Grand Turk Island. He’s a graceful and inspiring writer, and you may be moved to take up scuba diving or plan your next trip after reading this book.
Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, 1966. Author Rhys is from the Republic of Dominica and wrote this as a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel, Jane Eyre. She introduces us to the “mad woman in the attic,” a white Creole heiress in a story that takes place in the Caribbean islands of Jamaica and Dominica, and finally, in England.

The Lonely Londoners. Sam Selvon’s 1956 novel chronicles the lives of West Indian immigrants in post-World War II London.

Anything by Jamaica Kincaid. Kincaid, a raw and wonderful writer whose prose is like poetry, has written a number of novels and short stories that take place in Caribbean islands such as Antigua and Dominica, where she explores issues related to colonialism, growing up, and mother/daughter relationships.

Anything by V.S. Naipaul. Now living in England but born in Trinidad of Hindi descent, V.S. Naipaul left Trinidad at the age of 18. Still, the Caribbean remains a theme in his work. A prolific writer, he has explored themes of immigration, post-colonial trauma, and spiritual heritage, through works that are sometimes considered harsh to the Caribbean. He won the 2001 Nobel Prize in literature.

Beka Lamb, by Zee Edgell, 1982, is the story of a teenager in Belize struggling to mend her lying ways. The novel takes place in Belize during the time of independence.

And of course, Hemingway. But you knew that!



Naturalist Lectures

Lectures that introduce passengers to the incredible diversity of Caribbean wildlife and ecosystems

Introduction to Coral Reefs
Helen Hess
Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet. In this talk, I will discuss coral biology and introduce you to some of the invertebrates that you are most likely to see while snorkeling on Caribbean reefs. Massive barrel sponges, graceful sea fans, and tiny Christmas tree worms, along with dozens of other characters can be found amid the many species of coral that make up the reef itself.

Introduction to Reef Fish Identification
Kristin Bennett
Learn how to identify many of the spectacular reef fish swimming beneath the surface of our clear Caribbean waters. Common names and distinctive colorings, markings, and anatomical differences distinguish fish from similar-appearing species. Learn the questions to ask: Is the body shape a disc like a butterflyfish, or is it an odd-shaped bottom-dweller like a flounder or a flying gurnard? Does it have big lips like a Nassau grouper? Are the stripes diagonal like the French grunt or horizontal like the bluestriped grunt? Where is the crown on the queen angelfish? How can you tell a blue tang from an ocean surgeonfish? And so much more!

Marine Mammals of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico
Natalie Springuel
Keep your eyes peeled on the surface of the water as the ship sails down the eastern Gulf of Mexico, across the Straits of Florida, then westward and south across the Yucatán Channel into the Western Caribbean. Dolphins are the most likely marine mammal to sight from the deck of our ship and on coastal shore excursions, but which dolphin was that? And what else might we see? We’ll go on a visual tour of the species that make this region home, including the various species of dolphin, the West Indian manatee, some lesser known species like beaked whales, and even the magnificent sperm whale, the largest of the marine mammals that inhabit portions of our cruise route. Did you know that sperm whale can dive deeper than any other animal on record? Come learn other interesting marine mammal facts!

Sea Turtles!
Kristin Bennett
From terrestrial ancestors, sea turtles are reptiles that evolved to a marine existence. From the seagrass-eating green sea turtle to the hawksbill with a bird-like beak and “tortoise shell,” from the giant one-ton leatherback to the loggerhead and even Kemp’s ridley, I’ll be sharing identification characteristics, nesting behavior, migrations, and threats.

Rich, what bird is that?
Rich MacDonald
Almost by definition birds are charismatic megafauna. Whether diminutive like the little hermit and the four-inch cinnamon hummingbird, or seeming to defy the laws of physics as do the statuesque American flamingo or king vulture, with its six-foot wingspread, all birds are “mega,” some are just more so than others. Although well over 1,000 birds have been documented for the western Caribbean, this talk will be an introductory tour of some of the many birds it will be possible to see from the cruise ship and ashore. The focus will be those birds on the Wildlife Brochure, which will be included in your welcome packet.

Sunstreaks, Hairstreaks, and Metalmarks: An Introduction to Butterflies of Central America
Rich MacDonald
For most of us, when we think about the order Lepidoptera, the monarch butterfly comes to mind. But can you imagine that same monarch making an annual migration of thousands of miles to Mexico and Central America? Even more, can you imagine trying to walk down a forest trail and seeing so many butterflies that they actually limit visibility during the peak season? With nearly 10 percent of all species of butterflies found in this region, they are hard to miss. This talk will be an introduction to these other winged creatures, their identification, and their ecological roles.

Going a little deeper on some of the wildlife groups we’ll encounter


Behavior of Reef Fishes
Helen Hess
The most conspicuous and active animals on a coral reef are the fishes. Reef fish make a living in a variety of ways. Sea horses daintily pick at morsels of food from the water around them; moray eels grab other fish in a rapid, greedy rush, grasping them with a double-set of jaws; neon gobies act as cleaners, picking off parasites and dead tissue from the skin of other fish; angelfish chomp on sponges; and parrotfish will scrape food from the coral itself. And that’s just how a few of them feed. The diversity of ways in which fish find mates and take care of their babies is even more remarkable. In this talk, I’ll be discussing a wide range of fish lifestyles as a way to think about fish diversity beyond the wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that you can see in coral reef fishes.

Mysterious Ways of Caribbean Reef Creatures
Helen Hess
Coral reefs are dazzling places. Everyone on a cruise to the Caribbean has seen photographs and films of reefs, and perhaps even seen them in person, so in some ways these habitats are very familiar to us. Yet, the warm, watery realm of coral reefs is radically different from the environment in which humans live out their lives. In this talk, I will discuss some of the less familiar aspects of life on a coral reef, including the reef at night, bioluminescence, and aspects of feeding and reproduction that are unique to marine organisms.

Magnificent Flying Machines — Migrants Aloft
Susan Drennan
Millions of anonymous birds are on the move, most navigating with pinpoint accuracy. Long migrations, especially for small birds, are arduous and risky. How they accomplish these migrations is an inspirational unsolved mystery. These are our announcers of spring and our heralds of autumn. Explore the nomadic feats of birds with us as we examine their various unmatched migration strategies.

A Heritage of Birds
Susan Drennan
Terns are cosmopolitan in their breeding grounds in temperate and tropical latitudes. Most cross the equator to winter in Central and South America. Some egrets search out small fish in shallow tidal flats, running along pell-mell in wild zig-zags. The name of the laughing gull is derived from its long cackling call. Owls symbolize irrational fears and nightmares. Feathers are what sets birds apart from all other animals. The fossil record shows that flamingos are 50 million years old. Frigatebirds are model parents, in spite of the fact that their young are excessively ugly and born naked. In this presentation, we will focus on the birds we will encounter on this cruise and discuss the little-known lifestyles that set one apart from another.

Bicknell’s Thrush: Bird of Islands
Rich MacDonald
In 1881, Eugene Bicknell was hiking in the Catskill Mountains of New York state, when he heard a bird song unfamiliar to him. Since that time, this bird of New England mountaintops and Caribbean islands has received increasing attention. It was considered a separate species, then it was not — it has a near-identical twin in the gray-cheeked thrush — and now it is again. It is incredibly difficult to see and hear, making it even more difficult to study. This LBJ (little brown job) is also an excellent indicator of environmental health from Hispaniola to the Adirondacks and beyond. This talk will explore the life history of this elusive bird, then serve as a proxy model for discussion of avian conservation.


The human-nature connection

Caribbean Island Adventure: Science Classes on St. John
Kristin Bennett
Listen to high school science teacher “Ms. Kris” talk about the adventure of teaching science to a diverse bunch of skeptical students on the small Caribbean island of St. John. From driving the safari taxi along cliff-side hairpin turns to accepting “a rat peed in my locker” as an excuse for late homework, Kris takes her kids into the field to do real research. She drags the ocean-wary out snorkeling for REEF fish surveys and mucks around in the mangroves to count conch for NOAA. She drags the kids into the “bush” of the Virgin Islands National Park to hike and paddle to the places usually only the tourists go. For extra credit, her students have adopted a beach and scour the island to record garbage data for the Ocean Conservancy.

The Raven as Culture Hero
Susan Drennan
Throughout history, across many cultures, in literature and art the raven is something of a seer and prophet. Often the presence of a raven is alleged to be an omen, not only of bad luck as its dark figure might imply, but of favorable events as well. Over the centuries, the raven has worked its way into folklore perhaps because of its high intelligence, unusual behavior, and its somewhat mysterious ability to command our attention. Join us to examine the place of this trickster in legend, fable, folklore, and art.


Voice Match By Jeffrey Hatcher

Starring Sue Scott and Tim Russell

Who are the faces behind the voices behind the microphones behind those wonderful commercials everyone is talking about? Greta and Charlie are voice-over talents. They've voiced everything from dog food commercials to cartoons to GPS systems. Now they're paired as a team in a series of radio and TV spots for a new beer campaign. But they've never met. She records in one city, he records in another. They're finally going to see each other for the first time. At a convention. In a hotel. With bedrooms.

Actor's Workshop

The Actors' Workshop featuring The Lives of the Cowboys. Put on your spurs, dust off your western accents and join Sue, Tim and Fred in recreating one of our best loved scripts from the radio show. You play all the roles and perform the SFX. They'll coach you through it. And everyone has a blast!

Fred Newman's Workshops

We Don't Have Earlids: The Anthropology of Sound

Based on research for a new book, Fred will take you on the journey of sound, from the basic physics of sound through its evolution in animals, it's impact of human social behavior and its homesteading of new and emerging media. Recommended for anyone who has a set of ears, especially sound nerds.

Growing up Weird

Growing Up Weird

A very personal look at starting out as an odd kid in small-town Georgia and growing up to be an odd alleged-adult in New York City. Fred draws upon the folk art of sound making, its Southern storytelling roots (and extensive testing behind the backs of teachers) and details the scam of actually being paid to create sounds for television, radio, stage and screen.

Putting your Best Voice Forward (with a few Honks and Horns)

Some fascinating research on sound and voices, with practical hands-on techniques to keep your voice youthful and expressive, and, how to best use your voice for everyday living. That ... and how to honk, bark, whistle and pop. Want to do a loon call or a tire stuck in the mud? Bring your ears and requests (and a little mirror, if possible, as a learning aid) and personally learn from the man who wrote the book on sound making. You, too, can learn to create shame-free, eyebrow-raising, cocktail-rattling sound effects.

Tellin' Stories — Works in Progress

Join Fred as he tells stories and talks about the process of creating them, with his special twist. Includes a reading, with musical accompaniment, of his new story "Once Upon Some Time" (A Tale of The Juggler, The Weaver, and the Star Thrower)

MouthSounds for Kids

Includes a reading of the book "Railroad John and the Red Rock Run" (by Tony Crunk, pictures by Michael Austin).

Cut a Rug with Todd and Joy!

Joy Davina and Todd Paulus — co-owners of the Social Dance Studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota — always know the latest steps. They'd be the first to tell you that dance is great exercise. But better than that, it's great fun. During the cruise, Joy and Todd will be teaching salsa, Latin, ballroom, and country western dance. They encourage everyone to attend their sessions — with or without a partner.

Cruise Bulletin

We had a wonderful time on the cruise, and we hope you did too. We've posted a couple slideshows that captured our time at sea and on stage. You can also visit the archive to hear the best of the cruise performances on the March 20, 2010 show.

Cruise episode»
Cruise photos»

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media. Ship's registry: The Netherlands.
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