"Semester at Sea"

Breezy McNamara

Wow, so much to dive into, the voyage was overwhelming.  I departed on June 16th, 2009, from Halifax, Canada on the 99th voyage of Semester at Sea (SAS).  We left on the state-of-the-art ship, the MV Explorer.  We traveled 67 days and visited 8 countries.  The theme of our particular voyage was, “Human Rights and Social Justice in the Mediterranean World.”

You may be asking, “What is Semester at Sea?”  My answer is that it is one of the most fantastic university programs in the world.  The ship, itself, is a floating university.  We study on the ship while we explore some of the most interesting places on the planet.  I believe travel in its own right is a legitimate and important part of education.  As Margaret Mead wrote, “As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.”

On our voyage we visited, Cadiz, Spain; Civitavecchia/Naples, Italy; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Varna, Bulgaria; Alexandria, Egypt; and Casablanca, Morocco.  At each port we had travel options and a variety of excursions to choose from.  If you didn’t want to go on an organized excursion you could travel on your own or with friends from the ship.  When I arrived on the ship I didn’t know anyone, but when I left I had a new family of life-long friends.  It is because of this strong bond you make onboard the ship that SAS has such a strong alumni following.

For example, when we were in port in Italy, I took an organized excursion to the Vatican.  The Vatican Museum was great!  They had these amazing tapestries that were probably 20ft. long and phenomenal statues everywhere.  After the museum we headed to the Sistine Chapel which, of course, was beautiful.  They took five years to restore and clean it, and they had patches that they purposefully didn’t restore so you could see the difference in coloration. After the Vatican we headed to Florence.  In Florence we woke up early to see the Academy Museum; the home of David.  I had no idea how tall David would be.  It was great to see! 

In Egypt I saw the Great Pyramids of Giza, and in Morocco, I went on a four day camel trek (known as a mehari) in the Sahara Desert with nomads.  Yes, it was fascinating, and an once-in-a-lifetime experience. I could write an entire book about my summer mishaps, highlights, friendships and travels.  We finished our voyage by porting into Norfolk, Virginia.  When we arrived we were greeted by waving and cheering friends and family. 

My SAS voyage was a wonderful and highly educational experience.  On SAS you learn a lot in the classroom, but you also learn a lot about the world and most importantly, a lot about yourself.  My summer excursion has only made me want to travel more.  I am a 15th generation descendent off of the Mayflower Ship; perhaps, the yearning to travel and explore the world is still in my blood. 

Regardless, I would recommend this experience to anyone. www.semesteratsea.org