Quilting’s common thread stitches instant connections at sea
Imagine being surrounded by friendly people who share your passion for an activity while learning from world-class teachers. Then, picture yourself exploring beautiful port cities around the world. That’s exactly what quilters can expect on a specialty quilting cruise.
While quilting dates back to medieval times, quilting cruises are a relatively new invention. They’ve fast risen in popularity, drawing beginners and experts alike.
Stitch and cruise to Alaska, Norway, Thailand and beyond
Quilt cruise destinations range from Thailand to Norway, and from Alaska to Panama, and each cruise is custom cut for quilters. Quilt Seminars at Sea, for example, typically welcomes 150 quilters aboard at each sailing. Owned by AAA Washington, Quilt Seminars at Sea offers cruises to a variety of destinations, each with a AAA travel expert on board to ensure that everything goes smoothly. The company also provides equipment, including high-quality sewing machines, irons and scissors.
What’s more, the quality of instruction on board quilting cruises is second to none. The cruise environment is a unique setting in which to learn, be inspired and really get to know the teachers.
While ships are at sea, quilters take classes and seminars with instructors Kathy McNeil, Gyleen X. Fitzgerald, Paula Nadelstern, Cindy Walter, and Sue Nickels, among others.
“Most quilters enjoy the fact that our instructors are part of the group,” explains AAA’s Amy Ross, who leads several quilting cruises a year. “At retreats on land, you may not see teachers outside the classroom. By contrast, Quilt Seminars at Sea’s teachers are chosen because they are friendly and love to join in—you’ll see them pop in for Open Sew and chat with students before dinner. These experts are available outside of class to vacation with.”
Quilting cruises offer something for non-quilters, too
Most quilting cruises are “cruises within a cruise”—each cruise is staged on a larger ship, so everyone on board enjoys all the activities and amenities of a traditional cruise as well. It’s for that reason that many quilters are accompanied by non-quilting friends and family members. There’s an abundance of fun for everyone, and all the amazing food, fitness and entertainment options that make cruising popular. While quilters enjoy learning new techniques and deepening their skills, their travel buddies have the time of their lives.
Cruises are what you make them, and you never know what’s going to happen when quilters and their friends come on board.
“Each cruise tends to form its own personality,” said Ross. “On one cruise, you could find the quilters (and teachers) almost every night in the BB King Blues Club aboard Holland America Line dancing the night away. On another, the spouses banded together as a pack and created mischief (the good kind) in the casino and whiskey bars while the quilters were in class. Another cruise had the instructor stopping class early so they could go to High Tea every day.”
Cruises tailored for solo travelers
While some quilters bring their families along, others travel solo. In fact, many solo travelers consider quilting cruises an ideal way to travel solo—but not be alone. Not only do sole travelers have the comfort and safety of traveling in a group, but they also have the fun of being together with like-minded people. Plus, solo travelers can take advantage of the roommate matching program—it’s a virtual guarantee that roommate will never complain about any fabric purchases cluttering the cabin.
According to Ross, many first timers choose the Alaska Quilt Seminar for their first venture to sea. It offers a taste of quilt cruising and an instant sense of community. It also goes without saying that the natural beauty of Alaska is second-to-none.
Spending time with others who love quilting is perhaps the number one reason that quilters love cruises. The common thread that unites all quilters makes for fast friendships, lots of laughs and beautiful quilts. When you’re surrounded by people who “get” you, there’s always something to talk about and share.
Shop local fabric stores and connect with kindred spirits
Each Quilt Seminars at Sea itinerary is unique and puts a fresh twist on quilting. For anyone who can never have “enough” fabric, the Batiks of Bali cruise answers the call. It’s a deep dive into the Indonesian fabric industry that features visits to textile markets galore, plus the chance to observe the process of making batiks—and make your own. Quilters hear directly from a batik expert and learn the process all the way from design and production. They’ll even make their own hand-made batik to bring home.
Regardless of the destination, the Quilt Seminars at Sea team is always standing by with recommendations for the best local fabric stores at each port of call. Suffice it to say that you’ll never be rushed out of a fabric store because a fellow traveler wants to do something else.
On select tours, quilters also can connect personally with other quilters and share their cultures through quilting. During a port day in Istanbul on a recent cruise, quilters gathered together with a local quilting guild. They were in awe as Turkish quilters opened their homes and shared their take on designs, fabrics and each quilt’s unique story.
Connect with your personal guild
The instant connection that quilters experience with each other on board quilting cruises often extends to post-vacation life. Many quilters form lifelong friendships and connect with future travel partners. Some take a different cruise together each year, uniting on board as if not a moment has passed.
Ask anyone who has been on a quilting cruise and they’ll tell you, friendship is sewn with love and measured by kindness, especially at sea.
For a list of quilting cruise 2023 sailings, click here.
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