Semester at Sea Extracurriculars: On-Ship Activities

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Many of you have asked me aside from work (the staff) and classes (the students), what exactly does everyone do on board the Semester at Sea ship 24/7, particularly on sail periods that span three weeks without time on land? Well, the truth is that many days there are just so many things going on that you can’t squeeze them all in; however, here are some of the shipboard activities that made my voyage:

During the first week of the voyage, sign-ups circulate for shipboard families. Staff, faculty and Lifelong Learners are asked to serve as “parents” on a purely voluntary basis; the students can sign up to be the “kids.” You’re then assigned families, and from there, what you do with the program is all up to you. Many families meet once or twice, then fizzle out before the voyage even reaches its midpoint. Our experience couldn’t have been more opposite, as we saw each other every chance possible. Several staff and students remarked to me that I must have had auditions for my family, as they were just that awesome.

But let’s be honest: With a family this good looking, how can you not want to see them at every opportunity? We met up for dinner once a week, or sometimes for a game night or Mexican fiesta on the pool deck, and not only did everyone attend every time, but we even grew ever so slightly, adopting a daughter-in-law and son-in-law along the way. We were a diverse crew, too, hailing from Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, California, Tennessee, Louisiana, Oregon and Panama.

Ours was a pretty big family—SVV and I as the parents and seven kids—mainly because I requested “as many kids as you’ll give me,” and boy, did we strike gold. (It’s almost enough to make me rethink that whole “having kids” business. I said almost.) Now—a month after we got off the ship—I’m suffering from extreme empty nest syndrome. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a family reunion somewhere in the next year or two at some random domestic locale. We all just loved each other that much!

Plus, I miss little notes left for me or hearing “MA!” screamed out by one of my little ducklings while dashing through the ship on an errand.

Fine Dining

There are two places to eat on the ship: the Main Dining Room and the Garden Lounge (which has an attached outdoor deck). But there’s also special occasion dining where you can pay $40—or $35 if you book during the special as us cheapskates did—where you get a five-course meal and table service and can play like you’re at a fancy restaurant rather than on a floating island in the middle of the Pacific.

We reserved this option for a triple birthday celebration for Josh, Brian and Paula. It was fun getting all dressed up, putting makeup on and letting the wine flow freely among new friends.

Prom Night

One of the last big events on the ship is the alumni ball, which is a ship-wide celebration of making it through the voyage and becoming alumni. It starts with a fancy dinner—voyagers can choose from one of two seatings—during which you sit with your favorite people and make toasts and drink bubbly and rejoice in one last evening of togetherness.

This also doubles as an excuse for everyone to show off the pretty things we had made while in Vietnam.

After dinner, there’s dancing out in the pool deck, dessert spreads in the Garden Lounge, a tear-inducing slideshow in the Union and countless other fun all around the ship. It was, by far, one of my favorite times of all.

Happy Hours

While off-limits to the students (sadly), Glazer Lounge occupies prime real estate at the bow of the ship and is where all the after-hours fun among staff, faculty, family members and Lifelong Learners took place, from pre-port canapes highlighting the cuisine of whatever country we’re visiting next to organized wine tastings.

The bar at Glazer is open from 5 to 6:30pm every day for happy hour, then 9pm until the last person left every night. More than anything else, this was a space the staff and faculty could have for socializing, tucked away from the chaos of the ship.

Sometimes, things got rowdier than others. But for the most part, we had 80s dance parties, played hours-long games of Taboo and just enjoyed each other’s company, as we knew our time together was depressingly short.

But of all the things I did over the past four months, I’d have to say playing intramurals were the most fun of all…

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COMMENTS
  • January 16, 2012

    These ships are so huge, I bet there’s plenty to do. ‘Prom night’ sounds fun!

    • January 16, 2012
      Kristin

      Yes, but unlike a cruise ship, there’s no casino (thank God), piano bar, movie theater, etc. so we have to make our own fun!

  • January 16, 2012

    There’s more local entertainment on board than within 30 miles of where I live. Having a Big family of (almost) adults has to be easier then even one baby. Just sayin’.

    • January 16, 2012
      Kristin

      Haha, more entertainment than in my hometown where Scott and I are currently based. These days, a wild night for us is TWO episodes of Dexter in a row.

  • January 16, 2012
    ris

    The more you write about Semester at Sea, the more I’m kicking myself that I never considered it while in college. I was saying something to that effect the other day at work when one of my favorite coworkers said she and her husband met on Semester at Sea! Such a cool story.

    • January 16, 2012
      Kristin

      And my sister met her sig other (future husband?) on SAS, too! Scott and I met studying abroad in Holland, so it must run in our family, this meeting your true love overseas (or at sea, as was the case for Kari) =)

  • January 16, 2012
    Sarah

    No charades on the Ledo Deck, Julie? That looked super fun, especially the happy hour part!

    • January 16, 2012
      Kristin

      We actually played charades a couple times in the staff/faculty lounge–using, of all things, the cards from Apples to Apples as cues–and it was SO fun.

  • January 16, 2012

    Right after I graduated I went on a 3-week road-trip and we were put in families, I still keep in touch with several of my “brothers” and “sisters.” What a happy accident. 🙂

    xox

    • January 17, 2012
      Kristin

      I hope my kids continue to email and visit their old mom for years to come!

  • January 17, 2012
    Manda

    I sooooo wish I was eligable for this type of opportunity… sadly NZers are not 🙁

    • January 17, 2012
      Kristin

      How come?? The staff/faculty and students are very diverse geographically–we came from something like 50 different countries. I would think Kiwis would be welcome!

  • January 17, 2012

    That sounds…just awful. Seriously, hanging out with fun people? Eating delicious food? Drinking? Dancing and playing games?
    Hell. No.

    (Did I mention that I wanted to be you?)

  • January 17, 2012

    Aw, I I’m a little envious! Or, a lot. You guys all look so HAPPY. 🙂

  • January 17, 2012

    It all looks like so much fun! I know just with the vacation cruises we’ve taken when we get paired with random dinner mates for the trip, we’ve always made very good friends, many of whom we still keep in touch with and that’s only on 7 or 8 night voyages – I can’t imagine the bonds that form over MONTHS at sea together!

  • January 17, 2012
    Brandy

    This all looks like so much fun! I could seriously kick myself for not doing this when I was in college. Fortunately, I did end up convincing myself to study abroad in Madrid, but I think I would’ve enjoyed SAS even more! I love that you guys had onboard families. That’s a great idea, particularly for some of the students who may never have been that far from home before.

  • January 18, 2012
    Sid

    Love the black and white photos.

  • January 18, 2012
    Sid

    Oh. I suppose you’ve heard about the Italian cruise liner that ran aground? I thought of you when it happened and was just curious to know about your reaction to the news.

    • January 18, 2012
      SVV

      My reaction is simple. The Costa Concordia sailed that same route 50 times per year without accident. Whatever error caused it was a fluke. It happened, it’s tragic and just shows that eventually humans will make errors. Driving too close to the rocks and waiting until the second day to run a lifeboat drill has clearly cost lives.

      I’d expect the M/V Explorer (Semester At Sea’s ship) to have even more drills as a result of this to ensure the already heavy focus on safety. I always thought the drills were kind of fun. A whole bunch of monkeys wearing day-glow orange blocks of foam and doing what they’re told. We sure are an interesting animal.

  • January 18, 2012

    Prom how fun!

  • January 19, 2012

    I echo the sentiments of some of the other posters — I wish I had done semester at sea when I was in college! Seems like such an amazing experience!

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