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.
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.
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.
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…