February 6, 2009

Students in the University of Kentucky Hospitality Management and Tourism Program got hands-on industry experience while on a 10-day Caribbean cruise during the university's winter session.

This was the first time this study abroad opportunity has been offered during the winter session by the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences. The school is part of the UK College of Agriculture.

Students, led by UK Associate Professor Desmond Brown, were able to learn about the cruise tourism industry from the perspectives of cruise employees, tourists and island natives as they visited several islands including St. Thomas, St. Kitts, Barbados, St. Lucia and St. Maarten.

"Hands-on learning is one of the most valuable parts of the educational experience," Brown said. "It is particularly important in the tourism industry because students actually get to apply the theoretical principles they learn in class to real-life situations."

Prior to departure, the students completed several assignments related to the trip on UK's campus. Topics included the area's geography, tourism resources, tourism development, the cruise line industry's effect on Caribbean development and the opportunities and threats to the cruise industry in the Caribbean.

On board, the ship's staff gave presentations to the students on many aspects of the cruise ranging from housekeeping to food service to human resources. They also received a behind-the-scenes tour of the cruise liner's command center and learned the logistics of feeding more than 2,000 passengers.

The students also surveyed the ship's passengers about their expectations, demographics, total expenditures and reasons for taking the cruise. They presented their findings during class meetings on the ship.

Not only did the trip afford great insight into future careers in the tourism industry but also into different cultures. During visits to the islands, the group learned more about each island's history, people, current status of their tourism industry and potential tourism possibilities.

The students were also immersed in many different cultures on the ship. The cruise's staff included 920 individuals from 65 different countries.

"The entire trip was a total cultural experience," Brown said.

While the past winter session was the first year for the course, Brown said he will likely offer the course next year and may open the class to students outside of the hospitality and tourism major. For more information about the 2009-2010 winter session course, contact Brown at 859-257-3829 or at omotayo@uky.edu.

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