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.
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!
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
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!
As I write, we are already aboard another ship, the Blue Star Delos, heading from Athens to Naxos. But I am very far behind in blogging, so I will quickly write a few today.
The last week aboard the MV Explorer was fairly emotional for most people. The undergraduate students had seminars about “re-entry,” preparing to return to real-life. Even the Ship Kids had a discussion about this. A lot of the discussion centered on how to talk about this journey to those who haven’t experienced it. Also, how not to bore everyone to death droning on about how incredible it is. So, I will be brief.
This was, indeed, a pivotal experience in my life, and the life of our family. The close quarters with so many people, the quick-in and quick-out nature of the port visits, the endless ocean… it can’t help but have a profound effect. For me, the effect was to simultaneously make me feel like the world is so vast it is hard to grasp, yet small enough to see commonalities across cultures and countries that made me feel the earth is smaller than I thought. It’s an odd feeling, and hard to explain.
For Jack and Joe, it has been a sad farewell to the ship. They made great friends here, and although they liked London (more on that in the next post), saying good-bye to everyone was hard. And, perhaps not surprisingly when 800 people disembark in the same city, we continued to see “SASers” (slang for Semester at Sea people) at major tourist sites in London. So it was a constant reminder of what they were leaving behind. So this post, I include some pictures of their new good friends, and one that shows that their cabin was “kid center” for much of the voyage.
I also had to include a picture of one of the most spectacular rainbows I have ever see, which we viewed from Portsmouth, England.
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!
Happy Thanksgiving to our American family and friends! The weather is cooling off here too, but still glorious. This week I thought I’d share some of the pictures I’ve taken recently on the deck here. Jack says Dan and I are “getting old” because we enjoy watching the birds.
After Thanksgiving in Sedona, we will be heading to Tucson to visit with the wonderful Linda Price and our Tucson friends. It will be a trip down memory lane for Jack, who attended kindergarten in Tucson. (Joe still swears he’s never been there – he was two – but for some reason he does remember Linda’s house. It’s that memorable!)
Next week, it’s the long trip back to a winter visit in Ontario.
As our time in Sedona winds down, we are getting very excited about planning the major travel adventure to come! January 1 we leave Canada for 6 months, the first four of which will be spent on the Semester at Sea program. While we are in the various countries, we have quite a lot of travel time as a family. In most countries we are participating in Semester at Sea field programs, and they sound fantastic. Although all trips sound great (tobogganing down the Great Wall of China!), I am especially looking forward to some unusual trips we are doing in Burma, Namibia, and Morocco.
Rather than the crazy hectic pace of a trip from south India (where the ship docks) up to northern India to see the Taj Mahal and Agra, we have decided to stay in the Kerala area of India. With the kind guidance of my Indian friends (thanks Niraj, Kersi, Srini and Ratti!), we arranged some fantastic independent travel in the south of India.
After the voyage is over, we are spending two months in Europe. After a few days in England, we will fly down to Athens, and ferry over to the islands of Naxos and Santorini before flying to Rome. After a few days in Rome we will start a gradual train trip through Europe. If any of you have favorite spots, especially less-well known ones, send them my way!