Tag Archives: SAS; Semester at Sea

Dolphins (and Copenhagen)

Life at sea heading to Copenhagen was pretty sweet. I got to do a bridge tour, where you get to see where the captain and his crew control the ship. Some of the technology looks like the dials and devices in the 1970s, and some looks cutting edge. It’s an odd mix. 

Also, dolphins! There have been sightings through the voyage but I was never able to get the camera in time. This time, they frolicked for quite some time right outside our cabin, before heading under the ship to the other side. 


We also held the sea Olympics, which is always fun. The faculty, staff, ship kids, companions, and life-long learners (basically, the older people and the kids) make up the “White Sea” team. There are a variety of other seas on board and students are assigned to seas. The White Sea won the basketball tournament, and I got to play, so that was fun, but really, really cold. The court is on the top of the ship, and it was only about 2 degrees C and very windy. Our team also did a very funny rendition of “the Time Warp” from Rocky Horror Picture Show for the lip synch contest. With everyone having to wear masks, the lip synch contest really became more of a dance contest. I got to do Magenta, and again, super fun. No pictures though, as I was competing.

But not goin’ to lie, Copenhagen has been sort of a tough port for us. Maybe it is just because we are nearing the end of the voyage, and both students and faculty are very busy with end of term academic work. Maybe it’s also due to the cold weather; the ship wasn’t really built for the cold, and we had a couple of days where our cabin (and others) was quite freezing. And ice on the decks means staying largely indoors. We even had a bit of snow at sea.

The famous “Little Mermaid,” which was very close to our ship

But also, Denmark was added to the itinerary recently, to replace Poland. It’s difficult to find lodgings off the ship while at sea, because the internet is not good enough to search well. We had three Airbnb bookings cancel on us, our bank decided to “protect us from fraud” by cancelling our main credit card while we are still travelling, and most hotels and restaurants in Copenhagen are very, very expensive. And literally no one here wears masks, anywhere, and we were told several times we don’t need to wear ours. So, weird.

We had two days of sun (although cold, still very lovely). But then it switched to cold, dark rain. After using the ship as a hotel the first night, we found a hotel for a couple of nights of good wifi and “off-ship” time. The room overlooks the water, so today (as I write this) we just worked and looked out at the harbor and the pouring rain. We’ll see what happens tomorrow… For now, here are some pictures from our sunny first days in the city.


First, I will include some shots of the glorious trip from Cypress to Dubrovnik. We had a lot of time, as the distances are quite small, and we do have an academic program to run on the ship. Everyday at sea is a “school day,” which can translate into 7 or 8 days straight of teaching. But the views as we sailed along were outstanding. We passed through the Ionian islands of Greece, including an entire day drifting around Corfu. Really, really gorgeous. 

Beautiful sailing

When it wasn’t cloudy, we had some incredible sunsets and sunrises. Joe and I tried to eat dinner outside at sunset one night, but it was just far too cold.

Whose idea was it to eat out here at sunset? I am freezing…oh yeah, it was me.

One morning, Dan was patient enough to take lots of sunrise pictures right from our balcony.

Sunrise from our cabin

Finally, we arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Okay, I have said this about other places before, but I honestly think that Dubrovnik may be the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I have heard that it is positively overrun with tourists in the summer, but in the winter, in COVID-time, there are very few visitors. Indeed, on our first day in the city, the only visitors seemed to be other Semester at Sea voyagers. We heard a lot of “Hi Professor June” wherever we seemed to go. My favorite occurrence was when Dan and I were walking along the street just inside the city walls and we were hailed by SASers up on the wall! The students may feel a little “watched” when Joe, Dan, and I show up in the same restaurants, but we have honestly seen great behavior from my students, which makes me really happy.

If you watched Games of Thrones, as Joe and Jack did, you will recognize quite a lot of these places as pivotal location shots. The first season was filmed in Malta (our next destination) but the other seasons moved to Dubrovnik for many location shots. It is King’s Landing, after all.

This was “our” street – our apartment is the top door on the left

The first day we settled into our (freezing) apartment and turned on all the heaters. It took about a day to warm up, but it’s very cute and is in the heart of the old city, about a block inside the walls. We explored around, and then Dan and I did some more walking, mainly along the water outside the walls.

Our second day we walked the entire city walls. You can circle the entire old city up high on the walls; it was so difficult to choose just some pictures; the views are astoundingly beautiful! 

From the city walls
Goofing off
So many gorgeous views it is so hard to choose just a few…

The city is full of cats, and Joe is very, very happy about that. Tucked away in little niches are many human-made cat boxes/beds, and we often saw strays tucked in for the night together. 

Just a couple of the very well-cared for city cats

On our third day we left the walled city and headed to Fort Lawrence, which was used as the Red Keep in the Games of Thrones series. Again, gorgeous views on the way up, and from the top. It’s hard not to constantly take photos!

The famous Pile Gate, entrance to the old city
When you give Joe the camera…


Well, sort of Athens and Athens-adjacent. Our first day in Greece we tooled around Pireaus.

The second day, while I took my students to the Corinth area, Joe and Dan went to Poseiden’s Temple, which is on the coast south and east of Athens. It looks gorgeous from the pictures they took, but it was very cold and blustery. 

Poseiden’s Temple

Every morning before we left the ship, everyone had to take rapid antigen tests. We continue to see very small numbers of positive cases (2 or 3 a day out of maybe 500 people), and those people and their close contacts are isolated or quarantined quickly. It feels quite safe here, which is odd for a close living situation. But the testing is well-done and efficient, N95 masks are required, and there are capacity limits everywhere there should be on the ship.

For the final couple of days we took the metro into Athens. After strolling through the sights, like the Agora and Hadrian’s Arch, we made our way past the Acropolis. Our apartment had a partial Parthenon view, which was pretty day or night. We had an amazing lunch and generally great food the whole visit.

Wine at lunch for us, excellent smoothie for Joe!

The first day Dan and I climbed up the Acropolis. Winter is definitely the time to come to Athens! It was sunny and cool, but hardly any people. Of course, COVID is an issue, but I generally think the cold weather (for Greece) kept people away too. So awesome for us. 

Our final day we all went to the Acropolis Museum. Joe was last there when he was 9, but doesn’t really recall a lot of the details. We all thoroughly enjoyed it. After a touristy but delicious final meal in the Plaka area, we made our way circuitously back to the metro and back to the port of Pireaus. I had heard from the guide on the student trip that a church near the port was really worth an inside visit, so we did that on the way back to the ship. And it was indeed a spectacular Eastern Christian (aka Greek Orthodox) church.

Greek Orthodox Church in Pireaus, devoted to St. Nicholas (yes, that one), who is also the patron saint of sailors

I am posting this from Cyprus, which will be the subject of a later post. But on the way, we sailed very close to the Greek islands of Naxos, Mykonos, Delios, Santorini, and finally Rhodes.

We also saw a beautiful “moon-set” as we waited for the sunrise. And a gorgeous rainbow, as the weather (and the colors) change constantly at sea. As I write this, we are heading to Cyprus and the nearest mainland is Turkey. More soon…

Sea Olympics

How to describe this? Sea Olympics is a ship-wide event. The students are in colour houses based on where their cabins are. And the “Sea-Celebrities” team was made up of Ship Kids, Faculty and their spouses, Staff, and Lifelong Learners. As a result, our team age ranged from 3 to about 80 or so. Events included sports such as volleyball (my event) and dodgeball (Dan’s event), but also mental events like Concentration (Jack seen here with his partner) and Jeopardy, artististic events such as the team Banner competition and a short film contest (we won this, but of course we have the ship videographer, and a documentary filmmaker on our team), and also just plain odd events, such as the Frozen t-shirt contest, where teams had to use body heat to melt a frozen shirt. (Jack hugging his teammate in the picture, with the t-shirt between them). For some teams, this took up to an hour, a really painful hour. Although we don’t have pictures, Joe and his partner Summer did well in Battleship, which is not the board game, but two people on each side, one a captain and one a blindfolded “ship” (that was Joe). The captain yells out commands, and the idea is to hit the other team’s blindfolded ship with a ball that you throw. It was hilarious to watch! Joe was also on the winning “Minute to Win It” team.

And the final event, which we actually won, was the team lip synch. We did a mash-up of the evolution of music, and some of us did solos in front of back-up dancers. Jack was a huge hit with his solo, “I like to move it, move it”, as you can see in these pictures.

The Sea-lebrities came in 4th of 8, which is not bad for a bunch of old farts. It helps that we had a very flexible 4 year old competing in the limbo!

Joe’s Japan, Part 1

Our first day in Japan; it WAS AWESOME!

First we went to Chinatown. Yep, we went to Chinatown in Japan. After that we went on a tour to the world’s fastest and 2nd tallest elevator, then we went to Cup Noodle Museum. We made our own cup noodle. I made mine with chicken and pork.

joe in cup noodle
Some of the many forms of Cup Noodles/Ramen

After that we went to a play park in the museum. It had a climbing area to a ball pit, a cool slide that gets you into an oil pot, then a cooling off part, next you go into a cup and finally a fast slide. And if you think about it, that’s how a cup noodle is made.


We sailed under this bridge at the entrance to Port of Yokohama

Two days ago we docked in Yokohama, Japan. The first thing we did was go to Chinatown. To be fair, it was very good and I got the best dumplings. Then we walked all over the place. There are so many vending machines. We got back to the ship and got on a bus. We went to this massive tower and rode the fastest elevator. Then we went to the Cup Noodles museum. We got to make our own Cup of Noodles. It was really fun. Then we got back on the bus and drove to a cool Japanese hotel. We went to dinner in our robes and had some awesome food.

Then the next day we went to Mt. Fuji. It was amazing. Dad had boiled eggs that were boiled in the springs (they were black). We got to see Mt. Fuji in full view. Then we went to an art museum. It was so cool. There were hot springs. We got to put our feet in the hot springs. Then we went to the Picasso part (he is a bit over rated). Then we went to two kids play structures. The second one was really cool. They also had this really fun maze. Then we drove back to the ship. Now we are traveling to Kobe, Japan. Also no, it is not owned by Kobe (I made that mistake).

Almost to Hawaii

Well, except for a few small storms, it has been smooth sailing so far. We arrive in Hawaii tomorrow, for a fuel stop, and a chance to explore the Hilo area. Jack and Dan are going ziplining, which terrifies Joe. So Joe and I are going to see some waterfalls, and other nature spots, in a more mild day.

The boys have already made some great friends with the other kids on the ship, and they have a great time playing ping pong, soccer (in a netted area on the open deck) and yesterday, doing a kick-boxing class just for them. We have found a couple of undergraduate students on board willing to be their French tutors, which is great. All the ship kids/ sea squirts are in a one-room schoolhouse area each morning for home-schooling, then have fun activities in the afternoon. Joe loved the improv session run by a theatre student a few days ago.

The Semester at Sea folks have created an “Extended Family” program, where the older people (faculty, staff, lifelong learners) on the ship “adopt” undergraduate students for the voyage. Over 600 of the students on the ship wanted to participate, and we met our “adopted” kids last night – what a fun idea!

The ship has sailed!

Greetings from the MV Explorer!

We left this evening for Mexico to pick up the students in Ensenada tomorrow. Dan and I didn’t realize this, but we actually get to leave the ship for a few hours in Mexico tomorrow.

The first few days on the ship we have stayed docked in San Diego while we go through a busy Orientation program. For the faculty, it has been an information overload!

Tonight, lifeboat drill and then we are off. Almost 10 days after Mexico until Hawaii, so we hope for calm seas and no seasickness!

The internet is very slow on board, but I do hope to post regularly – either through the ship or while in port.

Jack and Joe chillin’ in their cabin

The Parent cabin, and our home until May 1