Semester At Sea –
June 26, 2004 – I
am very privileged to be participating in the 2004 Summer Session voyage
of SEMESTER AT SEA, a "maritime
university campus" academically sponsored by the University of
Pittsburgh. Our vessel,
The Explorer, will be sailing the Pacific Rim from June 17 through
August 21 with
stops at Sitka, Alaska; Kodiak, Alaska; Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia;
Busan, South Korea; Shanghai, People's Republic of China; Hong Kong,
PRC; Halong Bay, Vietnam; Keelung, Taiwan; and Kobe, Japan. Fellow
travelers include 384 undergraduate students from 10 countries and
187 universities; 27 law students; 20 faculty accompanied by 39
family members, 24 of whom are children; 31 support staff; and
passengers, twelve of whom are enrolled in the TEACHERS AT SEA program
(K-12). The ship is operated by 295 officers and crew representing
many nationalities, including the "colorful" Captain Kritikos, who
hails from Greece. My husband, Billy, signed on as the geology/oceanography
professor for this voyage. We are very excited to be here.
About the ship
are sailing aboard The Explorer, a 25,000 ton ship with a length of
feet, beam of 84 feet and a draft of 24 feet.
It has eight decks. The Explorer is the fastest passenger
ship afloat today with a cruising speed of 28 knots. (Due to scheduling
considerations and the high cost of fuel, we've been traveling at
15-20 knots most of the time.) The ship was built by Blohm & Voss
shipbuilders in Germany for the former
Royal Olympic Cruises, and christened "The Olympic Explorer" in
Greece in 2002. It went on the market this Spring (due bankruptcy,
I was told) and was subsequently purchased by the Institute for Shipboard
Education, University of Pittsburgh, just three weeks ago. On June
13 when we boarded the newly named "Explorer" along with
the rest of the faculty
in Portland, Oregon, we were stunned. Nobody expected to
be traveling aboard a luxury cruise liner!
The staff and crew of Semester
at Sea had been working feverishly for 10 days to transfer everything
S.S. Universe Explorer, which had been serving as SAS's maritime campus
since 1996, to the newly purchased ship. Converting a large luxury
cruise liner to a fully
campus in less than two weeks was, and still is, no small task. There
were boxes – and people in blue work suits – everywhere.
As 11,000 books were stacked and organized in the newly created library
on the port
a team of engineers
to create a fully functional computer lab with
wireless internet access over on the starboard side.
Others toiled day and night to establish the student union,
campus stores, two dining rooms (on two different decks), numerous
classrooms, and a fitness center. 418 cabins had to be prepared for
the incoming occupants, along with six passenger decks.
Shortly after we boarded the ship with our many bags of luggage,
my husband and I were shown to our cabin. We are berthed on the 7th
deck, in one of only 12 "deluxe sky suites." Word has it that ours
is the only SAS voyage where SAS faculty will be able to enjoy these
plush accommodations. During subsequent voyages the "sky suites" will
be available only to VIP's and/or
passengers. (SAS allows a limited number of adult passengers from the
general public to participate in these voyages as paying guests.)
Our cabin is wonderful.
It is equipped with a comfortable queen-size bed, a large walk-in closet,
an upscale bathroom, a small refrigerator, and a generous
area complete with a couch and a broad glass coffee table.
The technology staff loaned me a 15-inch CRT monitor to use with my
laptop, so I now have two computer screens to work with, just like
at home. The
spectacular feature of our room, however, is just beyond the two large
sliding glass doors on our port wall. We have a totally private outdoor
patio measuring ~18 x 13 feet. Wow! With two lounge chairs,
a magnificent platform for relaxing and viewing the ocean. All faculty
cabins have the benefit of a room steward who
appears every day to take care of us and our rooms.
An enormous faculty/staff lounge
sits on the bow of the ship near our room on the 7th deck. It offers
180° view of the sea. The student union is located one deck below.
All passengers have access to an exercise area equipped with lots of
gym equipment. Our meals are served cafeteria-style. The food is plentiful
and quite good.
As you might imagine, we have
made many friends since we came
aboard two weeks ago. The faculty/staff is comprised of a wide assortment
of friendly, interesting
people from all over
the world. The students are a diverse group of young people who
study hard, play even harder, and ask a lot of interesting questions.
All in all, we could not have asked for a nicer ship, nicer people
with, or a more interesting itinerary. I have enjoyed every
single second so far, and we are excited about what lies ahead for
us in the coming weeks.
Where are we now?
We left Kodiak on June 22 and we're in the Bering
way to Kampatcha, Russia. We crossed the International Dateline
a few days ago and expect to arrive
on June 28. Our current position is 53 degrees, 37.87
minutes north, and 176 degrees, 28.58 minutes east. Skies are cloudy,
less than a mile, and the air temperature is 54°. It's 4:45pm. Seas
are moderate, but expected to become rough toward evening and continue
into the night. We've all been warned to secure items in our cabin
rolling. "Pitching" is when the ship rocks from bow to stern. "Rolling"
is when it rocks from port to starboard. Wallowing is when it does
both, and that's supposed to be very uncomfortable. The ship has been
rocking since early this morning, and it is hard to walk in a straight
sailors. Right now I'm feeling just fine, but there are plenty of others
green and retreating to their cabins.
During the next installment,
I will cover our stops in Alaska and tell you a little more about the
Semester At Sea program.
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