Semester @ Sea
Ensenada to Hawaii
27 Aug 2006
Whatever floats my boat (I mean ship)…
Nothing terribly exciting here, aside from the fact that I’m sitting in a lounge chair out by the pool with wireless internet available enjoying a cruise across the Pacific, just a general background and overview of the ship and life on the ship.
The boat is so much nicer than I would have ever guessed; I was expecting something on par with a standard college campus level of luxury, not so. This is not a cut down student ship designed for function over form. It is an incredible boat that the SAS (semester at sea) website failed to accurately detail. It’s nicer than the Royal Caribbean (or whatever ship it was) cruise I took several years ago. There is a 4 star salon (I’ll get to the saloon later) with 3 massage rooms, a Magic tanning room (where they spray paint you with instant tan) a water massage room, steam room, and sauna. Granted all those incur extra prices they’re surprising affordable. Clearly I will be spending lots of time here. They offer 5 different types of massages all for an hour @ about $50. Not to mention the manicure and hair cut areas—its pretty out of hand. There are two dinning rooms each with outdoor seating (which is incredible) on the aft deck (notice my maritime lingo already). Its buffet style and the food is decent, some dishes better than others, but the bulk of it all is pasta. However as soon as you finish a dish one of the many bussers snatches it up from your table…we don’t bus our own dishes, it’s hilarious. And on the same note we have room stewards who clean our rooms, make our beds, and change our towels daily, as well as laundry on certain days. I’m not exactly sure how I got into all this, but I think I might have made a good decision signing up for this trip. I might be able to survive…
The pool is filled directly with sea water, and is quite nice. There is a smoothie bar right next to the pool that sells over priced smoothies, but reasonably priced pizzas and burgers (go figure that logic). The gym is a riot; I ran a few miles this morning on the treadmill, which is extraordinarily hard. Trying to stay balanced on a treadmill in a room with no windows while the boat is rocking back and forth proves for a much harder run. It is remarkably similar to running while very intoxicated…not that I’ve ever done that or anything.
They have a full intercom system setup that announces “important” information, which is proving to be quite annoying, they have speakers everywhere and a monotone voice telling us where we’re supposed to be.
As amazing as the boat and its facilities are, the kids on board are the most interesting part. There are 3 girls for every 2 guys, and virtually everyone is outgoing and friendly and so far proving to be really interesting people with all sorts of backgrounds, though the majority have not traveled at all. Seems the bulk of the students are from upper class families from California and Colorado, but there are people from all around the US and even a few international students. There is a whole range of academic backgrounds, and while many are eager to travel very few actually have, or at least of the people I have met. Many people are choosing to rely on the SAS sponsored trips, or at least they are at this point.
My roommate is chill, he is a junior at Stanford and we get along very well. The rooms have a lot more storage than I originally thought and we both packed fairly light which is quite nice. I definitely got lucky, since roommate matches are simply random, we are pretty similar and agree on most things so far and will certainly get into some trouble together. Most kids on the program seem to be juniors, though there are lots of seniors and even a few sophomores too.
The faculty is incredible, the most of the Profs have won the top degrees in their fields—as you might imagine getting a paid to teach on this program creates some intense competition from Profs who applied to work here. In that respect we truly have some of the best professors in the world on board. Class sizes are small, about 20 people; the Global Studies class that everyone (all 582 of us) attends in the Student Union at the same time (it’s also broadcast to other classrooms to accommodate everyone).
The Global Studies class is geared toward for aiding inexperienced travels in the “adventures not only in country but in your mind and understanding of the world”. They’ve been spending a lot of time talking about self discovery and gaining an understanding of ones individuality in relation to a global situation, so far it looks like a pretty good class, though somewhat repetitive and idealistic.
So that’s a basic overview of life on ship. Everybody on the ship is in more or less the same amount of awe that I am about the situation we’ve all put ourselves in. I’ve never been so satisfied looking out a window at pretty much nothing aside from water and a horizon, but just knowing where I am and what is coming keeps things fairly optimistic to say the least.
The 25hr day is AMAZING
Until today the weather had been overcast, today the sun came out along with the pool people. We all sat around on our lounge chairs trying to figure out what the hell we did to deserve this. Happy hour came around and we got drinks at the pool side bar, aside from being limited to two drinks, I can’t find much else to complain about. I scheduled all my classes in the mornings so from 8am-11:30am I have class then I’m done for the rest of the day, free to roam about the ship and sunbathe with lots of bikinis running around (this is where that ratio really comes into play). I know you’re all probably about ready to break out the world’s tiniest violin for me and play me a sympathy song.
My classes are shaping up to be pretty cool and interesting. They assign a reasonable amount of work and are geared towards interactive class participation. They’re all relatively small less than 30 people. I’m taking Britain’s Empire, Ancient Technology of Food, and Japanese International Relations, along with the Global Studies course I mentioned earlier.
For as nice as the boat and people are, it is still starting to feel a little small. I’m definitely looking forward to getting off the boat in Hawaii even though its only for 15 hours or so. We have two more long stretches of time on the boat, 8 days from Hawaii to Japan and 10 or 11 days from India to Egypt (that will certainly get interesting). Definitely going to find something to do with all that time, might actually have to read a book or something…
So one of the coolest things about traveling on this ship is that we’re sailing west, I really like going west (and I love the west coast for that matter) the greatest thing about going west is that…25hr DAYS are incredible. For the days where we travel due west we get an extra hour of sleep every night it’s awesome. Regardless of how late I stay up wondering around the decks looking at the stars or something I still get an extra hour of sleep.
As I get to know people better, most are turning out to be incredibly interesting and have all sorts of cool backgrounds. Though many have not traveled much at all, and even more are fairly unprepared to travel independently in the countries we’re visiting. There are a couple that seem to know what’s up, but the vast majority are relying on the SAS sponsored trips, or at least they say they are at this point.
Night before Hawaii
My room is cleaned everyday, and they make my bed. I getup and go to class at 8am come back and my bed is made, towels are changed and room has been picked up and organized, not that my roommate or I is messy at all (and we both packed light), it is amazing. I know I said that before, but I mean really, the dinning room has table service and the pool is amazing. I am extraordinarily satisfied with everything, more than satisfied.
My day consisted of class from 8am-11:30am, but I woke up at like 6am wondered around the boat, saw the sunrise which was decent, but not amazing. Ate breakfast outside on the aft deck with some friends, did the academic thing. And then proceeded to the pool area to read (yes I actually read an entire chapter) my British Empire book followed by the next several hours harassing people and floating around in the pool. I love this boat, it is amazing. I mean we haven’t even gotten to see anything besides water yet and I’m utterly enthralled with the boat and the people. (There have been plenty of “small world connections” with people knowing mutual friends and attending the same colleges or high schools.) Followed up with a little gym time, then dinner outside on the aft deck with a clouded over sunset. It’s a really harsh life. Definitely not looking forward to December 8th (the day after we get back).
Prior to the voyage all I had heard was amazing praise about the trip, and I was left wondering what the downsides were, and thus far I really haven’t found any. I’ve spent the past five days walking around with a grin plastered across my face that just doesn’t seem to go away; I really don’t know what to say. Can’t wait to start getting into trouble in the various countries, though that won’t happen for another week when we get to Japan.
Locations Visited: Ensenada , Honolulu