Are you looking to return to the sea? Want to get away from college for a while but still earn credit? If you’re looking for an authority on semester at sea programs, look no further. In my lifetime I’ve sampled a captain’s share of sea-faring programs, including two separate programs in one year. My sophomore year of college I took off and spent a year at sea. My first semester was on the working vessel, the SSV Robert C Seamans as a part of Sea Education Association, given the clever acronym SEA. Yeah.
My second semester was a SeaMester with the Semester at Sea program. Also, Sally sells sea shells by the sea-shore. Here are a few of my thoughts on those two programs and a few tips on cruise ideas, just in case you hear the lonely call of the sea.
Sea Education Association is a working vessel. My ship was the Robert C. Seamans and we sailed from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to Papeete, Tahiti. We spent over two months at sea as working crew members on board the 134-foot steel sailing brigantine. I developed a thesis for my nautical science project and conducted research across the sea. The rest of the time I studied applied sciences, celestial navigation, and practical seamanship while collecting time for my sailing license. In other words, I was a bad-ass. The first month was spent in Woods Hole, MA prepping for the journey and living in a house on campus with a handful of the finest minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.
For those of you looking for an authentic sailing experience and a lot of credit to splash across your resumé then this is a program for you. True, I had to sleep in a 6’5″ x 3′ bunk with all of my gear for 2+ months, but that’s part of what going to sea is all about. Our day was separated into three parts, science projects, deck watch, and free time. We would conduct research and roll through all functions of the ship. In the course of the voyage we all had our chance to work as every roll on the ship, from steward (cook) to captain.
For those of you hankering for a bit more of a posh way to cruise the world, consider the Seamester program. Right after I got off the Robert C Seamans, I met up with the MV Explorer in the Bahamas and left for another semester, this time with Semester at Sea. The behemoth was the complete flip side of the Semans. The MV Explorer is a 590 ft, 7 deck, floating palace. I left a crew of 34 and jumped onboard a vessel of over 800 souls. I went from tending rigging to ordering fruit smoothies on the pool deck in between classes and shuffleboard. What the Seamester program lacks in authentic sailing experiences it makes up for in ports of call.
We visited Puerto Rico, Brazil, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Myanmar, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Japan, and came to our final port in California. That’s just one of the many itineraries that the program boasts. During the days at sea you attend classes on board the vessel. When you arrive at your destinations you have anywhere from two days to over a week to explore.
If you’re looking to go to sea you should weigh your options. Both options give you full college credit. Sea Education Association offers a true sailing experience with plenty of great skills to be learned and some beautiful destinations. (We spent a week in a jungle hut in Tahiti once we arrived.)
Of course, Semester at Sea gives you a way to go to sea and see a ton of countries. It’s also the better option for that intrepid soul who values social over salt water. Did I mention that the MV Explorer has a full spa on the 7th deck? It does.
For those of you who are no longer in college but just want to cast off with a nice cruise this year consider jumping on board with a company like Celebrity Cruises from Cruise Kings. We ran into them at the New York Times Travel Show and they sold us some pretty sweet sounding chances to return to the sea again.