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Japanese swords, Hawaiian garlands & Scottish music – weird & wonderful skills to learn on a cruise

Author: Harriet Mallinson

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Cruise holidays see travellers enjoy a plethora of memorable and unique adventures – why not take one that sees you perfect an unusual skill, too?

What do you normally bring back from your holidays? Sun burn? Souvenirs? Twenty-three photos of that funky cocktail? Well, what if you came home with a thrilling new talent?

Travel makes folks richer in many ways, from spotting fascinating animals you'd never normally encounter to learning all about the very different ways of life in far-flung corners of the globe.

Jet-setting can also be an opportunity to take yourself out of your comfort zone and add to your skillset. With cruise lines such as Princess Cruises, guests can learn all sorts of weird and wonderful things on holidays around the world, whether onboard their cruise ship or off on a shore excursion.

Fancy wielding some Japanese weaponry or frying your own freshly caught fish in the USA? Look no further than a Princess cruise. Here are just some of the fabulous skills you could pick up on your next voyage. Much more impressive than a fridge magnet.

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Fly fishing in Alaska

Princess offers a wealth of amazing shore excursions to anyone sailing Alaska, many of which include numerous wildlife-spotting opportunities. Your animal encounters don't just have to be passive though. Why not sign up to learn how to fly fish under the tutelage of an expert guide?

Fly fishing, which uses an artificial fly to catch fish, offers an all-round more lightweight experience and can be the most effective way to snap up the watery critters. Indeed, Alaska is world-famous for its fly fishing opportunities so if there was anywhere to try the sport, this would be it!

- READ MORE: What to do, see and & eat on Alaska holidays with Princess -

You might catch King Salmon, Trophy Rainbow Trout and Char, dime-bright Steelhead or Sockeye, Silver and Pink salmon if you prove any good; what's more, thanks to Princess' unique culinary experience, Cook My Catch, you can bring your fresh-caught fish onboard and have chefs prepare it for your dinner.

Don't forget to smile for the camera with your find first though! And yes, we're afraid that in the angling world, bigger really is considered better.

Alaska is world-famous for its fly fishing opportunities. Credit: Shutterstock

Bagpipe playing in Scotland

Let's be honest, bagpipes are the marmite of the musical kingdom but what are they like to actually play? The great highland bagpipes are considered Scotland's national instrument so you simply must try your hand if you head north.

Join the Local Connections: Whisky & Bagpipes with Local Expert cruise excursion to learn how to play the unusual-sounding instrument.

- READ MORE: Princess cruise singer reveals what life is really like for crew -

At a restored Georgian townhouse in Edinburgh, home to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a local expert will share the history of the instrument and demonstrate the basics involved in playing, from breathing techniques to correct positioning. Afterwards, you'll be able to play them yourself (we'll pack our earplugs).

The good news for anyone with stage fright is that this tour also sees guests sipping on three different whiskies during a tasting session. Och aye.

The great highland bagpipes are considered Scotland's national instrument. Credit: Shutterstock

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Lei making in Hawaii

If you've ever been to a fancy-dress party or summer BBQ, you'll have likely seen someone wearing a Hawaiian shirt and lei combo; the flowery garland screams "I'm-on-holiday-hand-me-a-pina-colada". Well, that can actually be you, in actual Hawaii, rather than at a nippy garden do in north London.

When sailing Hawaii, Princess' exclusive "Aloha Spirit" programme brings the sights and sounds of the French Polynesian hotspot to life onboard with a range of island-infused entertainment and enrichment offerings, including lei-making workshops.

- READ MORE: Top 3 things to see and do in Australia with Princess -

Leis, which tend to be given as a token of welcome or farewell, generally consist of carnations, kika blossoms, ginger blossoms, jasmine blossoms or orchids. They are usually made using a steel needle and string, but can also be fashioned via strategic braiding, knotting and threading techniques. And hey, if you don't prove a dab-hand you can always blame the short lifespan of flowers on why you didn't bring one home as a gift...

Your Hawaiian skills don't stop there. The "Aloha Spirit" programme also includes ukulele playing, Hula dance lessons and Polynesian language classes. Well, there's something to boast about next time the neighbours have you round.

Leis consist of carnations, kika blossoms, ginger blossoms, jasmine blossoms or orchids. Credit: Shutterstock

Sword making in Japan

Ever watched a Game of Thrones duel and wondered how you'd fare with a sword? Not well, is our answer, but that's by the by. The closest many of us get to sharp blades is chopping onions but on a Princess cruise to Japan, you can see how some of the very best are made on the Local Connections: Tatara & Sword Maker excursion.

First up, you should know Japanese swords are made of Tamahagane, which translates to precious steel and is a type of very pure and very high-quality steel created using the more than one-thousand-year-old tatara method.

Okuizumo, in the western part of Japan's Honshu Island, is the only place in the world where this technique is still in action. Fun fact, it's also where many of Japan's most ancient myths are set and chopsticks were reportedly developed here (although remember you don't need to show off about your trip every time you spot a chopstick in the future).

- READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Asia cruises -

At the Okuizumo Tatara & Katana Museum, you'll meet the local swordsmith whose family is renowned in Shimane Prefecture for sword making with a history that dates to the Edo Period (1603-1868).

You'll be shown the techniques of forging in a process called Orikaeshi Tanren which sees the steel folded and forged many times. The sword is often heated and then allowed to cool without hammering to imbue the desired properties of strength and flexibility. If only a hot and cold shower would do the same to spare us that gym membership...

This is all rounded up with a sword demonstration (and a lovely Japanese bento box lunch). En garde!

Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City is the ideal introduction to Vietnam. Credit: Shutterstock

Food art in Vietnam

Cuisine is often at the heart of a good cruise holiday for many people, and those who fancy getting involved while ashore can often find a cruise excursion with cooking opportunities. However, why not take your culinary prowess to another level?

On the Market Visit & Cooking Class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, you'll learn the art of food decorating from the chef of a luxury hotel.

- READ MORE: Best Princess Cruises excursions for food and drink -

The pro will take you step-by-step through the process of carving food such as seafood, pork, chicken and vegetables into delightful and intricate shapes and designs. The skin of a tomato? Peeled off and rolled it can be transformed into a rosebud. Who'd have thought? Not to mention your dinner party guests are going to be mighty impressed with what you can do with a cucumber (no, not like that).

Of course, we can't promise you will master any of these intriguing talents on your next cruise holiday but we're sure you'll have great fun trying. There are some things in life money can't buy, and a cracking shot of you blowing with full puff into the bagpipes? Priceless.

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