When I learned that we would have the chance to be on Semester at Sea, the part that I was most excited about wasn’t necessarily the dozen or so countries we would be visiting. What I was most looking forward to was the shipboard life and community. To have an enclosed community going around the world, including 559 students, 10 Lifelong Learners (paying passengers who aren’t students), 27 staff, 27 faculty, 70 family members, and 170 crew, that is a truly unique. People come from over 30 countries and most states. A large majority are college students ages 18-22. However, there are around 15 kids onboard as young as 2 years old. The Lifelong Learners include a family of 5 from Minnesota and also a few older couples. The 170 crew onboard are mostly from the Philippines, but over 20 other countries are also represented including Germany, Ukraine, Greece, Jamaica, and more.
After we learned that we would be on Semester at Sea, I applied for one of the jobs that are only available to spouses. I was offered the job was the Administrative Assistant for Communications, working with the Assistant Executive Dean. The main responsibility is to create, edit, and publish the daily newsletter that is available on the intranet. Essentially, I am compiling events and announcements from around the shipboard community. The evening educational seminars, student organization events, announcements about special meals available at an extra cost, etc. All of these are published on the daily newsletter and is supposed to be read by the entire community. The job is fairly simple and requires me to be organized and detail oriented.
The experience living on the MV World Odyssey has been fantastic. Our cabin is comfortable, the food is good, there are plenty of events going on, people have been fun, and the ocean views have been nothing short of incredible.
The first thing we checked out when we embarked the ship was our cabin. The main thing I was hoping for was a window, and we succeeded with a ~2ft x 1ft rectangular window on the starboard (right) side of the ship on Deck 5. Our room has two twin beds, two small bedside tables, a small semicircular table/storage, a thin desk/tv stand with a 25 inch tv, 2 small closets (perfect for us), and a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. The cabin, while not large, is actually bigger than I thought it would be. The beds are comfortable, we have daily cleaning service, and there is plenty of storage space for our belongings.
There are two dining halls on the MV World Odyssey, the Lido Restaurant on Deck 9 (top deck) and Berlin Restaurant on Deck 6. While both restaurants serve the same food, I am usually at the Lido Restaurant for a few reasons. The main reason is that it has outdoor seating on the top deck. There is something special about eating dinner with incredible 360 degree ocean views, surrounded by the deep blue water and feeling lucky if you see even one ship in the distance. The second reason is that the way the dining area is organized, the Lido Restaurant forces you to go by the salad first. When it’s there, I usually put it on my plate. At Berlin, the salad is in an entirely different section on the other side of the dining area, so I oftentimes forget about the salad. Thirdly, I eat there out of habit. During staff and faculty orientation, this was the dining area we used, so it became a habit.
The layout of the ship is probably important to talk about, as well.
Deck 3 – medical clinic, student cabins
Deck 4 – student cabins
Deck 5 – main reception, student cabins (plus our cabin)
Deck 6 –Kaisersaal Union (large lecture hall), Academic Success Center (library), Berlin Restauraunt, non-student cabins, fitness center
Deck 7 – Upper floor of Kasersaal Union, deans’ offices, 4 Seasons Classroom/Restaurant (pay extra for 6-course meal), Fritz Lounge (non-students only), non-student cabins
Deck 8 – Adlon classroom, Kino Cinema (classroom and movie theater), Registrar’s office
Deck 9 – Lido Restaurant, swimming pool, Lido Terrace (classroom)
I have really enjoyed the ocean views. I typically wake up around 6AM and set up in the outdoor area on Deck 7, just outside the Fritz Lounge. I do this because there are nice tables to work on and it is under a roof, so I can get ocean views but also sit under cover if it happens to be raining. And this is where I catch the sunrises. Because we’re always moving east or west, and/or north or south, the sunrise and sunset times are always shifting. Two nights ago, we actually went back one time zone, so we gained an hour overnight, so the sunrise time shifted from 8:20 to 7:20.
*As I was writing this, the ship began to slow down. I look over the starboard side of the ship and see an island lit of by city lights. We’re making a stop to refuel at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which are part of Spain. While we won’t be getting off the ship, it’s a cool experience to be here. It’s still dark so I will look forward to seeing the surrounds in an hour with the sunrise!
My position does not have an official desk, so, luckily for me, I am able to essentially work from anywhere on the ship. This is perfect for someone who likes a change of scenery. I am usually working outside the Fritz Lounge, but I also work in our cabin, in the Kaisersaal Union, or even in a deck chair. I love trying out new spots.
The ship has a free intranet available to everyone. An intranet is a self-supported network, which means that one can only access certain sites that are already downloaded onto the network. The main site is called Homeport, and this is where the daily newsletter is posted, and it’s where plenty of other information is located, including health information (like malaria prevention), info on student clubs, field program (field trip) information, and more. This can all be accessed for free on a relatively quick network.
There are also a few free sites that have been downloaded onto the intranet and can be easily accessed. Some of these sites include Wikipedia, Yahoo Finance, Washington Post, UNESCO, and more. While slow, these are free and available with up to date information.
We can also pay for internet if we want to access the worldwide web (i.e. Facebook, other news sites, anything else). However, it is very expensive and slow. We all start out with 250MB for free, which is probably about as a normal internet user uses in a day or two. After this is used, one can buy more data, starting out at around $1 per MB. This means that if I were to log into a website like Facebook, I would be paying more than $1 just to get in. In other words, it’s not worth it! I haven’t used the internet on the ship at all and am not sure if I’ll have a need for it.
I try to spend as much of my time on the deck. It never ceases to amaze me when I can almost 360 degrees around us, and all I see is ocean and more ocean. And when I look 3 hours later, same thing. And tomorrow. And the next day. It’s a big deal when we see land, because many days go by without being anywhere near it.
There have been several spottings of dolphins so far on the voyage. I had the chance to see a few of them one evening after dinner. We have a few professors who have their doctorates in fish and wildlife, and they are usually outside with their cameras with their enormous telephoto lenses and their binoculars. When they spot something, no matter what it may be, they always have a wealth of knowledge about the animal. It pays to stay close to them on the deck!
Many of the students tend to spend quite a bit of time at the pool deck and lounging in the sun. On a hot sunny day, there could be 200 students enjoying the sun while studying. Since our first few days leaving Germany, the weather has been very pleasant. Usually 70s-80s during the day. At night, it sometimes drops to a cooler temperature, especially with the wind. The last few nights have been very nice, even at night, where a light jacket is enough to keep warm.
As you can probably see, ship life is quite unique. I have especially enjoyed spending a majority of my time outdoors, whether it’s in the sun or under a roof with a table while working. The sunsets and sunrises never get boring, and neither does seeing the expanse of the ocean.
I hear we will be running into some weather soon, so I wonder if I’ll feel the same way in a few hours!