The (Mac) Love Boat: Fanbois take to the high seas

If you’re booking a holiday cruise to get away from it all you may want to steer clear of Celebrity Cruises which is filling three of its ships with Mac gear public Internet access and trainers ready to deliver intensive classes through one of the world’s only floating Mac-only Internet cafes.

Called the Celebrity iLounge the new cafe provides a centre of gravity for a growing breed of Mac fans who are finding ocean liners an appealing way to combine their technology addiction with their — or their family’s — desire for a holiday. They may be hundreds of kilometres out to sea but today’s ships are more blinged-up and connected than many mainland homes.

Geared towards what the line calls “technophiles and collectors of cool merchandise alike” the Celebrity iLounge opens this month and may be the world’s only waterborne Apple Certified Reseller. It houses 26 MacBooks a classroom and retail area a 56-inch flat-screen TV for use during classes and the same accessories and gadgets you’d expect to find at your local Apple Store or Apple reseller.

Delivered by trainers that the cruise line says have competed “more than 125 hours of training in operating systems applications and products” a range of available classes cover topics such as movie editing and Web design. Macs are also being installed in the onboard ‘Online@Celebrity’ cybercafe two decks below.

Celebrity Cruises’ Mac investment echoes a growing niche industry that’s luring technology enthusiasts — and presumably long-suffering families keen to participate in more traditional activities — onboard floating shrines to shared special interests.

Offerings in the tech arena are relatively sparse but the best-known is MacMania co-sponsored by Insight Cruises (previously known as Geek Cruises) and US Macworld magazine. In February 2011 hundreds of guests will flee the northern winter to embark on the eleventh MacMania trip combining a cruise around South America (including stops at such well-known tourist spots as Iguazu Falls and Machu Picchu) with 24 Mac-focused lectures delivered at sea. Topics will range from home automation paperless offices iPhone apps and travel photography to perspectives on the Internet and technology from none other than Fake Steve Jobs a.k.a. Dan Lyons.

If sitting around a ship pool while hoardes of sunlight-deprived Mac fanbois rub each other with banana Boat seems more nightmare scenario than dream holiday consider some of the other offerings from Insight one of a growing number of cruise line operators targeting niche markets. There’s a quilting trip through the southern Caribbean a chess tour through the western Caribbean and a bit of scientific navel-gazing during a week-long trip to Bermuda. Indeed lists over 500 possibilities from various ocean lines around the world ranging from antiques and astronomy to fitness wine politics Star Trek psychics and Twilight.

Whether or not the Celebrity iLounge will pave the way for Mac-only waterborne love-ins through the South Pacific we have yet to tell; perhaps it’s still better to see cruises as a way to escape your obsessive love of Macs rather than to embrace it. Yet for some it’s the perfect compromise for what might otherwise be a low-WAF pursuit: take the family away for a floating vacation then sneak away to the Internet cafe to get your Mac and Internet fix. Bury yourself in the training seminars on offer and you won’t have to suffer a drunken conga line ever again.

There’s no word yet on whether passengers of the Celebrity Solstice Celebrity Summit and Celebrity Eclipse have been eschewing shuffleboard and pool parties for drawn-out World of Warcraft sessions — or whether seasick members may inadvertently repaint the facilities in rough seas — but we reckon it’s only a matter of time.