Does your dream vacation involve relaxing by the pool, a luxury suite with a breathtaking view, all the fine dining you can handle, and, oh yeah, a

seminar on Perl?

If so, then you might want to call Neil Bauman. A self-described

geek, Bauman is president and founder of Geek Cruises Inc., a Philadelphia-based company that’s offering holiday packages which combine all the fun of a luxury cruise with seminars on popular programming languages.

Next May, if all goes to Bauman’s plan, the Holland America Line – Westours Inc. cruise ship Volendam will leave Vancouver for an eight day return trip to Alaska’s Inland Passage, and a scenic tour through Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park.

And on board will be hundreds of passengers with a passion not only for cruising but also for Perl.

Bauman doesn’t think there’s anything odd about mixing his life passions and he’s banking that others like him won’t either. “I think the whole concept here is when geeks are away, they’re looking to do more than just sit on the beach or sit by the pool,” Bauman said.

“These are the higher-end of the IQ spectrum of people living on the planet, and they have demands and expectations of themselves to continue to grow and learn and do. And that’s the kind of people we’re hoping to attract.”

A veteran programmer turned magazine publisher, the 44-year old Bauman came up with the idea after going on his first cruise last year. Though he and his children had a great time, he said his wife wasn’t keen on cruising again.

“[But] I wanted to go back to Alaska. And I concluded that the only way I was going to be able to do it was to come up with some business way to do it – to come up with some way she couldn’t say no to.”

The idea hit him a few months later while dining with other Perl experts

during a conference in Philadelphia. “It just came to me in a flash one

moment: ‘Ah, a Perl cruise.'”

An informal poll of his friends showed the idea had merit, Bauman said. And he’s never looked back. Though he’s a year away from the maiden voyage, he already has plans for two more cruises, both in the Caribbean, devoted to XML and Java respectively.

Courses range in length from two-day, one-day and half-day formats. Topics include advanced Perl, building Web-based databases with Perl, advanced JavaScript, and Apache shortcuts. Bauman said people shouldn’t take the light-hearted surroundings to mean that the courses are lightweight.

Scheduled speakers include Perl’s creator Larry Wall and Perl author and expert Joseph Hall, he notes. And they’re definitely not aimed at beginners.

“Intermediate (Perl) would be the bottom rung. So if you want to learn Perl, and you’ve taught yourself the fundamentals, you can come to the cruise and pick yourself up to the next level, and could indeed leave the cruise probably being able to get a Perl programming job.”

However, the seminars are scheduled for times when the ship is

simply in transit, or at least to allow voyagers to see each day’s sights, Bauman said.

Dan Flood, an MIS employee with MicroAge Technology Services in Peterborough, Ont. is already planning to attend. Flood calls the cruise “the ultimate vacation” and indicates that while he plans to give the seminars full attention, he doesn’t think they will get in the way of a relaxing vacation. Flood said his peers share a passion for learning, but rarely find the time to do it.

And Howard Moore, an applications consultant with San Francisco-based Net Perceptions Inc., said because he and his colleagues like what they do for a living – and would probably worry about work while on vacation anyway – the cruise and seminars are a good mix.

Bauman said anyone interested in the cruise – where cabins start at US$1,399 – should visit his company’s Web site at www.geekcruises.com.