Ship Life Part II
Updated: Apr 17, 2019
So I thought I would talk a little bit more about life on a ship. This will actually be an extension of an article I wrote for the Pine Log- you can download the pdf here (it's on the entertainment page):
Semester at Sea: End of Ship Life
In this article I talked about the ship and its alter-ego the MS Deutschland, Some of the SAS traditions and events on the ship, and a little bit about what I did on the ship in my free time. It's hard to squeeze a semester's worth of stuff into one article, so i'll share some of the things I didn't write about in that article here!
The World Odyssey, aka Home Sweet Home!
1. Sea Sickness & Etc.
I've gotten many questions about this. Although I only experienced this on the first night (Rough waters!), for many people this was a problem throughout the voyage. Sea sickness patches and meds were the norm, along with discussions about their side effects. According to many people, weird dreams and temporary blurred vision were the usual effects. On the first night (and on nights when the water was rough) barf bags were strategically placed around the ship also.
2. Pre- Ports
For every port we docked in we had a cultural pre-port and a logistical pre-port on the nights before we arrived. The cultural pre-ports featured students from that country, professors, inter-port students (students that joined us between ports from the country we were going to), and anyone else with knowledge about the country we were going to. We learned a couple of phrases to help us (usually I just remembered Hi and thank you), learned what we should eat in port, and a little about that country's culture. The logistical pre-ports explained how immigration would work for that port, would highlight safety concerns, and the doctor would lecture us about malaria meds, sunscreen, and traveler's diarrhea for the millionth time. It became part of the routine, and I actually kind of miss them!
Horrible, horrible coffee. Masses of potatoes and pasta. There were two snack bars with things like smoothies, candy bars, chips, drinks, and stuff. There was also a grill that made things like pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and fries. I ended up eating there more than I would like to admit, but after a while the dining hall food lost its appeal (It was always pretty much the same thing arranged a little differently). The food in port more than made up for this in most of the countries though (except Ghana, Fufu is ew)
4. Working on a Ship
I worked in the campus store as a part of the work-study program. It was the best job I've ever had, mainly because most of the time the store was empty and I was allowed to sit in the hallway and study. It also kept me on track and helped me to not get too lazy with my homework. I worked two hours a day and the crew members I worked with were all very cool and fun to talk to. I kind of got to feel like part of the the crew (sorta) and all I had to do was fold a couple shirts (We didn't touch the registers. I asked when they were going to train us on them and they said 'don't touch that'. I guess the crew can only use them).
5. The Crew
Super nice people (well about 99.9% at least). I didn't think about the crew at all when I was preparing for Semester at Sea, but they were a big part of it. They greeted us in the dining halls, talked to us, and they even had a crew talent show for us (which was hilarious and great). They also cleaned our rooms every other day and did our laundry (you had to pay for laundry or do it in your sink, which was fun...). The captain was also super cool and dressed up as King Neptune on Neptune day (read the Pine Log article for more on Neptune Day).
I also signed up for a bridge tour which was super cool. There were parts of the ship I didn't even get to see so it felt like going behind the scenes at a play.
Depending on the combination of classes you took, you were either the kid who was studying all the time or the person who never appeared to do any work and laid by the pool all the time. I the one who was constantly studying. I wan't even going to go on SAS if the classes I took wouldn't count. The four I took were the only four I was pre-approved for, and they all required ridiculous amounts of reading and writing. I did learn a lot, but the work load was still a bit much. Still, it was completely worth it to travel the world, and I did learn a lot and gain some writing for my portfolio.
7. Military Time & Setting Your Clock Back
I really had no concept of the time or day during SAS. We were constantly setting our clocks back and weekends ceased to exist (we had classes every day on the ship and port time became our weekend). I can now say I understand military time also, since that is what we used on the ship.
8. What to do?
One of the things I enjoyed most about living on a ship is that I was forced to focus on the present, since I didn't have all of the distractions of everyday life on land. People didn't stare into their phones 24/7 on the ship, and if they did look at their phone you knew that the most they were doing was checking their Seamail account, playing a game, or looking at the Dean's memo (the memo put out every day about what was going on around the ship that day and general announcements). People were just generally more there when they were with you. I do miss that.
Even though I constantly had things to do, there was some free time. I spent my time playing ping pong every once in a while, dancing, trying to work out without falling over, swimming in the pool (although I only went a couple times), reading, and just watching movies and TV shows with friends (people were constantly trading movies and shows via flashdrives). I also slept out on the deck one night, which was really nice.
There were also constant presentations and guests that came to talk to us on the ship (like Desmond Tutu). There were movie nights, and lip sync battles, and I was never at a loss of things to do. I performed in two talent shows, in the first I did a solo and in the second I did a duet with my friend Noble which started out as a contemporary dance and ended with a silly dance to the theme song of "The Suite Life on Deck". I also performed in a dance within a play that one of my friends wrote for his presidential scholarship project. We also had random life boat drills ever month, so there was that also.
Communicating on the ship was like going back in time. You could use Seamail, the email we had on the ship, but the most effective way was leaving sticky notes on people's doors. Being able to call and text people immediately was not an option. I had to do a research paper while I was away and had to email my mom to send me articles. We did have access (if it would load) to The Washington Post website and a few academic sources, but we were very limited on outside information. We did start getting daily headlines in the Dean's memo after a popular actor from Harry Potter died and we didn't know it until the next port.
The truth is...
There were some unglamorous aspects to living on a ship, but it was worth it. I shared a room with two other people in a small space that would drive me crazy if I was in Texas, but the fact that we were constantly traveling somewhere new, meeting new people, and learning new things cancelled out all of the things that would normally irritate me. Everything was laced with the promise of adventure, and I hope to keep that feeling as I go about my life on land. I will always love The World Odyssey and the amazing experience that accompanied it.
Picture from SAS of my ship family! (: