It may not be the Love Boat, or even the love-bug virus boat, but Geek Cruises, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based conference sponsor, has created a “floating conference,” another in a long line of odd corporate incentive programs to hit the high-tech world. Using Holland America cruise ships, the company books and sponsors events such as its first success, “Java Jam,” that incorporate the educational aspects of a conference with the fun of life aboard a cruise ship.
Jim Goodman, fellow engineer at Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corp., won a company contest to get on the cruise. Grumman’s challenge was for employees who didn’t know Java to write an essay on how learning the program would enable them to do something effective for their department. Goodman had a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) product that required Java programming in order to be used to its fullest capacity.
For seven nights, he was one of approximately 1,500 passengers onboard, along with about 150 other “geek” participants. Goodman admits that he thought the education might be less intensive on a ship, especially when he saw a schedule that looked like he’d be in class only four to six hours every other day instead of the typical eight hours daily. “What surprised me is I learned a great deal more than I thought I would at the time. It was exhausting, but the cruise was good recovery,” he says.
Both Geek Cruises and Goodman emphasize the enhanced social aspect of the cruise course. “I’m not really a social animal,” Goodman admits.