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The Last Blog of SAS Spring 2022

Well, it has come to an end. The Spring 2022 Semester at Sea voyage had to end sometime, and it ended this week. I am writing this from Frankfurt, where Dan, Joe, and I are spending a couple of days before flying home very early Saturday morning.

Some students had shirts printed up on their own: SAS SPRING 2022 – THE COVID CRUISE. It was so much more than that, but that was a defining feature, certainly. Not sure of the final numbers, but about 30% of our voyagers were either quarantined or isolated just before, or during the trip due to COVID. Fortunately, with everybody vaccinated and most people (except for the younger ship kids) boosted too, there were no serious cases. People were put either in isolation cabins, or left behind in various countries (with Semester at Sea staff to take care of them) until they recovered and flew to meet the ship at the next port. 

Beyond COVID, we have made so many great memories. Seeing the students deal with the emotions of having to end the voyage and return to “real life” brought home to us how much they truly have gained from this experience. Even with all the challenges (and maybe because of some of them) these students have had the adventure of a lifetime, all while learning and living together in the middle of the ocean.

To end my recounting, I thought I’d share a little bit more about ship life, before outlining some of the highlights of our brief time in Germany. I am not sure if I mentioned this before, but there is a faculty and staff lounge on board. During the day, it is a quiet space to work (like a communal office). Not a bad view while writing or just thinking!

My office at sea

But at night it comes alive as a bar (no students allowed). Here are some of us gathered there on our last night on the ship, having some beverages and watching our last sunset together. 

The “ship kids,” the children of faculty and staff, only numbered 5 on this voyage, but they bonded really nicely together. They were a great group, and supported each other in their boredom and annoyance at spending so much time with their parents!

Speaking of ship “kids,” Semester at Sea has a really unique program designed to connect the generations on the voyage. Those people interested in participating are assigned a ship family, who get together for game nights, sometimes meals, sometimes just to chat. We had a great group of “ship children” this time around, and it was so wonderful to get to know them. Here is a photo from our last “cookie night;” all but one of the family was able to attend. Joe isn’t in the main picture because he was the photographer. 

Our Ship Family (minus Ben and Joe)

One of the final events is convocation. The ship’s students selected two faculty to be convocation speakers for the official graduation ceremony, held for the 64 seniors who completed their university experience on board. I was thrilled to be one of them! 

Photo Credit: Brooke Buchan 2022

And as we pulled into Bremerhaven Germany, we watched (for the last time) a pilot jump on and off the ship while travelling, to guide us safely into port. 

After quite a stressful disembarkation day (two cancelled trains, then an 80 minute delay on our final train) we made it (with SO MUCH LUGGAGE) to Frankfurt. I’ve flown through here before, but never spent any time in the city. It’s a very unique mix of very old style and brand new architecture. Because of the war, most old buildings are actually reconstructions. The contrast between old and new was really striking, and quite interesting.


We had a lovely walk around town, enjoying the spring sunshine, and activating all our allergies!

This is Joe having fun 🙂

And, for the final time on this voyage, we saw one more awe-inspiring cathedral. This one had a really unusual organ, with all sorts of angles to it.

To finish up the trip, I thought I would share a very short “one second every day” video that shows the view from my cabin each day we were on the ship. Sometimes in port, mostly at sea. It really shows how incredibly different the ocean can look (and how yucky some ports are). I hope you have enjoyed these posts – I really enjoyed sharing the trip with you all!

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.


I was so excited to visit Scotland, because it’s been on my “I want to go there list” for a long time and I just hadn’t ever made it here. My paternal grandmother’s second husband was a Scottish man, so I grew up with “Grampa Duncan” and stories of Scotland. They also visited Scotland many times, and I even spent the summer housesitting for my Grandma in Florida when she went back to Edinburgh once. I was 16, and that is a whole other story…

Unfortunately, we only had 3 nights here, which is not nearly enough time to really explore. After spending time more in countryside settings for the last two ports, we decided we were ready for a city again. So although we docked on the west of the country (at Greenock), we hopped on a train to Edinburgh. We had to switch train stations in Glasgow as well, so we saw it for about 5 minutes…

Edinburgh is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. We stayed in an apartment sort of nestled between Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile (more on that below), the theatre district, and the University of Edinburgh. On our first full day we toured the Castle. It is massive, and is still home to a garrison. Several small museums are inside the castle itself, it has an awe-inspiring war memorial (more like a church; but no photos allowed inside), and gorgeous views of the city.

Edinburgh Castle from below
Edinburgh Castle
One of the many city views from the Castle

Then, we walked down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the official residence of the British Royal Family when they are in Scotland. It is called the Royal Mile because it is about a mile from palace to castle, and the kings and queens of old would be transported from one to another along that route in their carriages.

Along the way it is pretty touristy, but there are still gorgeous buildings, small mews (alleys), and impressive statues. And about halfway, there is St. Giles Cathedral, which was gorgeous. And among all the kilt and souvenir shops, there are also really nice sweater stores. Joe got a stylish wool sweater that he really loves. 

Exterior, St. Giles Cathedral

At the other end was the Palace. I don’t much care about the current royals, but this is also the place where Mary Queen of Scots lived, and where Bonnie Prince Charles and the other Stuarts lived. So much history here, and the palace is pretty impressive.

Holeyrood Palace
Interior courtyard, Holeyrood Palace

On the way home we stopped at Greyfriers Graveyard, which Dan and I had spotted on our first evening looking around. It’s very old, and frankly super creepy. Lots of plague deaths, and 17th century graves with memento mori skull and crossbones. And apparently there is the grave of an actual Tom Riddle, for you Harry Potter fans, as well as a Mcgonagall, and other names that inspired J.K. Rowling. Some of the graves and headstones are built right into the ancient city wall. 

The second day we wondered the other direction, away from the more touristy areas and to the university, and its lovely greenspace called The Meadows. Really a beautiful spot with the sun shining and lots of students out and about. Also dogs, so Joe was very happy. Beautiful skyline views of the city as well. 

The Meadows, University of Edinburgh

So I can’t wait to come back to Scotland. I want to visit the north, go hiking, see Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, you name it. And I could definitely spend more time here in Edinburgh. But this was a wonderful sampling, which is something I love about Semester at Sea.

Next up: six long days at sea, as my courses start to wrap up, students start presenting their final projects, and get ready for final exams. Instead of Poland next, which was cancelled for a variety of reasons, we are heading to Copenhagen, Denmark. We have 5 days in Denmark and as I write this in our last night in Edinburgh we have no idea about where we will stay and what we will do. I’ve been to Odense and Copenhagen before, and I have fond memories, but that was about 25 years ago, so this will feel really new again I think!


After many beautiful, but bustling, cities, we were due for some relax and rejuvenate time. Our port in France was Brest, and we did spend most of our first day exploring there. As a navy base of operations, Brest was largely destroyed during World War 2, so it is pretty modern. And the passage into port was very narrow and interesting to watch as we threaded the needle in. But I can’t really show you any of that though, as it was raining most of the day, so I didn’t take the camera out with me. But there is a beautiful, very modern church with some unusual stained glass that I captured using my phone camera.

In the late afternoon, we rented a car and headed to the Crozon peninsula, which is just south of the peninsula Brest is on. This area of France is called Brittany. We have been to southern Brittany before, which was also gorgeous, but quite flat. This part of Brittany is full of rolling hills and beautiful cliffs. The house we rented looked out over lots of trees and the ocean. This was an excellent place for me to catch up on some work, and Joe to catch up on some schoolwork, and yet also be in gorgeous scenery. The views from the backyard (and the living room) were gorgeous. There is a long hiking trail behind the house that largely follows the coast for many miles.

Sea view from the backyard!

On our first full day here, Dan and I hiked in one direction along the coast at low tide. This is yet another port where it is so difficult to choose which photos to share. Every twist and turn in the trail showed us another amazing view. 

And there were also some old gun battlements along the way.

Along the GR34 trail

We decided to turn around at one of the nearby beaches. But first we had to go down and explore. We found some sea stars, including this guy.

How cute is this guy?

But we also found lots of empty shells and half-eaten sea stars. And we watched this gull lug his sea star leg away from us to eat in peace, all the while shooting dangerous looks at us for interrupting his lunch!

Later that day Dan hiked a lot more in the other direction while Joe and I worked. Then we all headed into the town of Morgat for a crepe snack, a short hike on the southern tip of the peninsula, then back to Crozon for dinner.


The southern part of the peninsula has serious windswept, desolate vibes (Joe loved it), and lots of gorse, which is a yellow flower that smells of coconut and that we have only seen before in Ireland. 

Southern Crozon peninsula

And of course, we ate crepes, Dan drank cider (both are Breton specialties), and we had excellent wine and cheeses. It is France, after all!

Oh, and I thought I would close with sharing a bit of “ship life.” The TV in our rooms has a channel that shows us where we are at any given time, and also shows the rest of our ports. And there is always a view from the front of the ship, which is neat to see as well.

Next Stop? Scotland!


Well, after aimlessly floating off the coast of Spain until our COVID numbers came down, we were finally allowed to dock in Barcelona. We had six nights there, but because I had to lead a field class on day 3, we used the ship as our hotel for the first few nights. Day 1, we explored the main city park and the gothic quarter. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday, so the park was crowded and the gothic quarter was deserted.

Arc de Triomphe

We also saw the ancient and beautiful Barcelona Cathedral.

The next day we actually did some shopping along the waterfront and had a long Spanish style lunch in the harbor (long and full of sangria).

Day three was my class, and we learned quite a lot about consumer behavior in Barcelona by visiting several types of markets. 

For the latter half of our visit, we moved into an apartment a block from Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi designed cathedral that will take more than 100 years to build. The view from the apartment was great.

Sagrada Familia at night

It’s still under construction, but it is simply spectacular. I took so, so many pictures. It’s hard to choose, but here are just a few. It’s really hard to explain the scale of the place. It’s absolutely massive. The inside was designed to look like a forest, and as the sun comes in different windows the light just changes completely.

Outside, the cathedral is also incredible. The biblical stories are told in stone in massive sculptures. And yet there are also some Gaudi flourishes that make it so clear it is one of his buildings.

On our final full day we headed to Park Guell, also Gaudi designed. It’s a long hike up, but has amazing views and awesome architecture. 

Park Guell various shots

Adjusting to Ship Life

On Semester at Sea, the faculty and staff always board the ship a few days ahead of the students to get used to the ship, go through orientation, etc. This voyage, we just stayed docked in Naples as we did this. Once we embarked, we could not leave the ship again due to COVID protocols (I suspect this is going to be my most common phrase in the next four months), so it was a bit odd sitting still, so to speak.

Our cabin on the MV Odyssey

My classroom on board

The technology on this newer ship is much better, but the satellite internet speeds on the ship still preclude any streaming services. But I have to say that I am looking forward to a few “Zoom-less” months. And the coffee is about the same as last voyage, so I am glad we brought our own! And thanks to Rebecca Cribbs, we can keep it warm as we move about the ship!

Christmas present mugs!

But once the students joined us, along with multi-generational life-long learners, we set sail. Not everyone who planned to could join us, as some tested COVID positive in their home countries, some independently in Italy, and some who tested positive right in the boarding terminal and were whisked away to government quarantine. Those voyagers will join us in Greece. On the way to Greece, we had wonderful views of Mt. Etna

Mt. Etna

We’ve had our first ship-wide COVID tests, and a few more cases were discovered each time. They are now in isolation cabins on the ship. In Greece, we have to do rapid antigen tests every single day that we leave the ship. Here in Greece, there are indoor and outdoor requirements are for full N95 masks. I am really anxious about testing positive in any given port, and being left behind. So, we are doing what we can to stay safe. And I know the SAS people are doing their very best too!

I am currently sitting in a lovely apartment in Athens, sipping wine after climbing all over the Acropolis today. Yesterday, I took my students on a Field Class, where we visited a winery and an olive oil company. More on that visit in the next post!