We boarded the Semester at Sea ship (not be referred to as a boat) for our voyage (not be confused with a cruise) on Tuesday, January 5 so we’ve now spent a week on the ship. Here are some observations after a week.
Rooms. We have two suites next to each other. We hadn’t seen pictures of our rooms in advance and are very happy with our accommodations. The biggest surprise was the amount of closet and storage space…I wasn’t expecting a walk in closet and twice as many hangers as we needed! 🙂 We’re on deck 8 with other Lifelong Learners, Faculty and Staff (no students).
At Sea. Quite a few people needed seasickness medicine the first couple days at sea. Alexander and Piper felt a little queasy at times but in general our family has handled the rocking of the boat quite well. Too rough for any swimming in the pool which wasn’t full of water most of the time. Honestly, we haven’t hit any really bad seas yet.
Food. There are two restaurants on the ship. One is quite large and the other a bit smaller but with the option to eat outside on the deck. We didn’t have high expectations but in general, I’d say we’ve been pretty pleased with the food. Lunches and dinners generally include the following options: salad bar, pasta option, beef or chicken dish, fish dish, roasted veggies. During our first meal which was a lunch, Alexander had the pasta and said, “This is some of the best pasta I’ve ever had and that’s saying something since I’ve been to Italy.” So we got off to a good start.
I’ve been very happy to see the kids eating salad every day. Joe’s expectations have been exceeded with respect to low carb options. They do tend to use flour frequently with their meat entrees so I need to ask the chef to swap out flour for corn starch. There is a cash grill available when the restaurants aren’t open which serves hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza. I’m happy to say we haven’t eaten at the grill yet.
Bar. There’s one bar on the boat which is only open to the adults on the ship — Lifelong Learners, Faculty and their spouses and Staff. Joe and I visit it most evenings after putting the kids to bed. It’s been a great way to meet the other adults. There is a piano (1 of 6 on the ship) in the bar and Joe has played to the delight of our fellow travelers
College students. We’ve enjoyed meeting and getting to know quite a few college students. We met a homesick girl on the 2 hr bus ride to the ship. Alexander ended up sitting next to her and I smiled when we heard them chatting and laughing. We like to sit with and meet new people at mealtimes. Many love talking with the kids.
The college students are from all over the US and a number are from other countries. They have an “Extended Family” program where adults on the ship agree to meet regularly with a group of 6-10 college students during the voyage. It’s quite popular — 85+% of the students on the ship signed up for the program. Joe and I signed up separately and were assigned 8 college students each. We met our groups briefly for the first time the night before departing for Japan. I expect we’ll enjoy providing mentorship to the students.
Classes. There are dozens of college classes being taught every day we’re at sea. Joe and I are each auditing a couple classes. I’m sitting in on World Religion and Social Psychology (both have GREAT professors) and Joe is auditing International Marketing and World Music. I’ve enjoyed being back in a classroom. It’s even more fun when we’re not required to do any reading, writing or take any tests.
Homeschooling. On the ship, there is a Coordinator for the little kids who organizes times/locations for them to sit as a group while they work on their homeschooling in addition to hosting some organized games and activities. So far the homeschooling is going well with our kids. We always start with math in the morning. Alexander is teaching himself algebra via offline Khan Academy videos/practice exercises and the girls are covering 2nd and 3rd grade math via offline Khan Academy and some workbooks I brought from home.
We focus on reading/writing later in the day. Writing generally consists of journals and blog posts. One highlight in our homeschooling process is that Piper has become the voracious reader we thought she would! It all started with Harry Potter on our flight from Seattle to San Diego. She just couldn’t put her Kindle down…reading at the In-N-Out burger in San Diego, walking up and down the stairs, late at night and early in the morning. She shocked us by finishing the book just 5 days in! Fortunately, I was able to download the next couple books in the series right before we lost Wi-Fi for the voyage.
Play. The kids have made quite a few friends on the ship, especially the girls. There are a number of kids around their age on the voyage and some of them brought lightsabers which have been popular. Alexander has played ping pong. Both Sydney and Alexander have played a fair amount of chess with other kids (both their age and college students). There’s a large chess set out on the back deck.
Last night Joe, Alexander and Sydney took a ukulele lesson from a student and had a lot of fun. Joe has heard rumors of additional instruments on the ship including drums and a bass guitar– but none have been unlocked/discovered yet. He is hopeful there will be a “band” to play with… or a band of kids to coach. In addition, on the second or third night of our voyage, the program featured college students creating clubs… so we’ve signed up for evening yoga, ping pong, acapella and hip hop!