7 Reasons why you can’t miss the Homecoming Voyage

The Semester at Sea Homecoming Voyage is happening again this year and I’ve been badgering my SAS friends to come. I don’t know everyone and we’re all #millennials so here’s a lil’ Buzzfeed-style listicle you can share with your friends to cajole them into attending. #contentmarketing

#1 Alcohol


Remember how you spent all your time on SAS talking about alcohol? When’s the next pub night? Who snuck booze onto the ship? How did they get it on? There were HOW many people in the drunk tank last port?! blah blah blah.

Well, this time you’re invited to come party on the ship, Party with DJ Leopard and drink as much as you damn well please!

new years eve
Let me see your drink card. Psych! #popbottles

#2 Old Shipmates



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Reconnect with a friend or two. There will be people from your voyage on the ship. They might not have been your best friends or your future bridesmaids but you’ll still have plenty to reminisce about, like meeting Desmond Tutu, or what happened in Mauritius, or Cuba, or when we crossed the ocean…

#3 The crew


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The crew talent show was a performance of a lifetime! #sas #sasfa15 #studyabroad #studyatsea #StaySASsy #SASForever #crew

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Speaking of familiar faces, there’s the crew! Besides the fact that they’re all awesome human beings, a lot of them are lifers. I’ve been back to the ship at least four times since my voyage and it’s amazing how many of the same crewmembers are still with the program. Come and find an old favorite, make friends with your new cabin steward, and of course, there’s going to be a crew talent show!

#4 Old friends you haven’t met yet


You won’t know most of the people on the Homecoming Voyage and that’s a good thing. We’re not trying to recreate the magic of our voyage. We’re here to join with others who had the same life altering experience, celebrate the new year, and support the program. By the end of it, though, these people can almost become as special to you as your shipmates. The connection you share with another SASer isn’t the same as “Oh my gosh you also like drinking beer after doing yoga?” The connection is so deep that you form a bond with new friends very fast.

#5 New Years is already expensive


At the time of writing, the cheapest cabin available is $675 per person. Some of you might think, “Wow that’s a lot of money for one day in Mexico.” Let’s address this first. If the goal was to get to Mexico from San Diego, the SAS Reunion Voyage would rank the least cost effective method besides maybe flying private (Can I get a USD kid to fact check that, please? #jokes). The fact that the ship goes to Ensenada is just because we need some place foreign to park this bad boy. We can’t just go float in the ocean and come back to SD because laws.

The SAS reunion voyage is all about the experience of reconnecting with the most transformative  experience of your life (pre-Trump). You get to do that for five action-packed days, and support the program. That’s good value for money on a regular day, but considering that half of us lose our minds on New Years ($50 cover to get into a bar that normally has $2 beers. wtf is wrong with you people!?) that makes this experience a great New Years Eve value.

#6 Support the cause


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In case you forgot, it’s really ‘spensive to have a cruise ship full of college students that sails around the world almost year-round. There once were some alumni who supported the program so that you could have a Semester at Sea. Now it’s your turn to be one of those alumni.

#7 This is our moment, people


I’m not going to say that this is the last homecoming voyage (although as far as anyone knows, it is. Last chance, people!) but I will say that if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve reached peak SAS reunion. The first couple years after SAS most people are too young and broke to fly to San Diego and do something like this (Although, S18, if you can afford it, I’ll see you on board!). Now most of us have decent jobs and it’s actually feasible for us to make this happen if we want it to. Meanwhile, more and more of you are popping out babies, which means where money used to be the constraint, the practicality of dragging your S.O. and your offspring along with you will start to limit potential turnout. So what do you say? As everyone’s favorite SAS alumnus likes to say, “Let’s hit it!”

DJ Leopard

Click here for the official Reunion Voyage website

Semester at Sea Q&A

Hey there! I just read your post about semester at sea and it was really helpful! I’m super interested in the program but I’m really worried that it is just way too expensive. How much do you think you spent overall after the cost of tuition/room and board itself? Are all the excursions separate and expensive? Were you able to get financial aid? While in port do you travel by plane to other parts of that country with groups? is that a separate cost?are hotels included? I’m sorry this is so long!

  • First off, glad to hear youre interested.
  • Everyone spends a different amount so this question is too personal to be meaningful to other people. There are some people who spend all their money just to afford the program and then they spend less than $50 in each port. That’s fine. There’s so much to do in port that’s free that you don’t have to spend a dime. That being said, the more room you have in your budget, the more opportunities you can take advantage of. There are a few kids on every voyage that sail around the world with their parents American Express card and just go buckwild. Most SASers fall in between the two extremes Do the two different types of SASers do different things? Yes, of course. Does one have a “better” SAS than the other? Absolutely not.
  • SAS-sponsored field programs are more expensive but that’s because they are very reliable and take care of you every step of the way. Some people rather save money, travel independently, and occasionally deal with the accompanying headaches. Every person is different.
  • Yes. I did get financial aid. Most SASers do, in some form.
  • There were a few ports in which I traveled by plane because I wanted to see a different part of the country, and yes, everything you do in port (besides field labs for class) are at your own discretion and dime.
  • No, hotels are not included. The ship is a hotel. In every port that you travel to, the ship is open 24 hours a day and you can get on and off as many times as you want. They also continue to serve three meals a day on the ship. That’s why it’s possible to spend 5 days in a port and spend less than $50 if you need/want to.

If you have any questions feel free to get in touch with me at arrrbee@gmail.com. I’d even be happy to give you a code to waive your application fee if you go forward and apply.

Dealing with the Police in Germany

September 5, 2013

I’m not used to waitresses chasing me down a street because I’m pretty good at remembering to pay the check. When she finally caught up to me, though, it wasn’t to tell me to pay the bill, it was to tell me that the police had arrived.

At some point during our long, leisurely lunch at a restaurant in Hamburg, someone noticed that there was free wifi inside. We were seated at an outdoor table and had not noticed, but when an opportunity to connect to the World Wide Web presents itself, SASers are always eager. I went inside to connect and others followed. Eventually everyone at our table came inside. After checking my email and various social media outlets I went back outside and found that our table had been cleared and that my backpack was gone.

I checked around inside to see if one of my friends had brought the backpack inside but no one had. I asked the waitress if she had picked up a backpack and she had not. The backpack was gone. I was frustrated, but only at myself given that it was my fault for leaving the back at a street-side table unaccompanied. Resignedly I decided to move on with the afternoon and leave the restaurant. Erin and I made it about one block away from the restaurant before the waitress came running after us, letting us know that the police had arrived. I was shocked that the police had actually responded to the waitress’ phone call over the missing backpack, but there was a cop car with an officer interested in hearing my story. I told him that the back disappeared, but added that there was a chance that another Semester at Sea person brought it back to the ship, given that there had been another group of people from the ship at an adjacent table. The police officer actually made notes on the details of my story, again to my surprise, and told me that I could file a formal report if the bag didn’t turn up back at the ship.

In case you’re really that concerned about my bag, it did turn up back at the ship, but that is not at all my point in telling this story. My point is the level of concern that the waitress and police officer had for a tourist’s missing backpack. Can you imagine what the response would be of a waitress in New York City or a member of the NYPD? What does this contrast say about Germany, or more specifically Hamburg?

Well, first off it shows that they have a much lower crime rate, given that the waitress was shocked and seemed genuinely distressed when the bag went missing. I returned to the restaurant later in the week to let her know the back was found and her sense of relief was grand. I think it also might suggest a difference in the level of concern for others. Germany is a socialist country where they look out for people. America is a country with plenty of signs that clearly state, “If you do something stupid with your backpack, that’s not our problem.” This is probably something that Germans take for granted if they haven’t traveled widely, and I’m glad that as an American, the German way is a pleasant surprise.

A day in Hamburg: witbier and the Third Reich

Germany began with another free walking tour of Europe. It began over at the Hamburg Rathaus, the German word for town hall, so we walked towards the city center. We arrived early and decided to sit down at a café and kill the time until our tour started. I decided to order apple strudel (German strudel made me think of Inglorious Basterds) and my first beer in Germany.

In the United States I might get disapproving looks for ordering a beer with my breakfast but there were numerous locals enjoying a cold one despite the early hour. Beer in Germany is cheaper than water, and thus I think their societal attitudes towards the brew is very different. In the United States, a beer normally means five o’clock. It means sitting in the hot sun barbecuing or lying on the beach, or out at a bar getting the party started. In Germany, it seems like just something to drink. I don’t mean to suggest that the Germans don’t take their beer seriously (there are so many varieties available that it’s importance is quite clear). It just seems that Germans are responsible enough when drinking beer that it’s not anything close to being taboo.

Our tour guide Ralph was a colorful character. In his lifetime he’s has many professions including tour guide, courier, cocktail waiter, and taxi driver. He led us around to the various sights in the Hamburg city center. Hamburg is a beautiful city but I find myself going numb to old cathedrals and cobblestone lanes. What I really appreciated about Ralph’s tour was his commentary on what life in Hamburg was like through the various centuries. He began his story at the beginning when Hamburg was a small village and continued the tale through its rise as a trading port, the destruction of World War II, and it’s modern revival. I’ve always wondered how native Germans feel when talking about World War II and Ralph definitely answered my question. There’s no shame amongst Germans in 2013. Most of them weren’t alive during the Third Reich, or if they were, they were the ones suffering under the oppressive regime, not the ones oppressing. However, they are fully cognizant and weary of their country’s past and feel that it’s an important to remember what happened to ensure that it does not happen again.

After our tour we settled at a small German restaurant on a quiet pedestrian street for lunch. The restaurant offered a special deal on schnitzel or haddock for members of the tour group. As much as I enjoy schnitzel, I wanted to order something different; a German food that is rarely found in the US. I ordered labskaus, a Northern Germany specialty consisting of corned beef, potatoes and onions that are boiled, minced, and fried in lard. It looks like corned beef, especially in context with the fried egg that’s plopped on top, but it certainly doesn’t taste like breakfast. It was yummy and a finished every bite, but I don’t see myself ordering it again.

Once we were settled into the restaurant, our tour guide Ralph bid us adieu and was on his way. Some of the other SASers essentially stiffed our guide, tipping him at the rate of 83 cents an hour, and so I felt obliged to make up the difference. One of my biggest frustrations in traveling on “a college budget,” is that people use this as an excuse to short change people when they’re given the opportunity. The “college budget excuse” is readily given when it’s time to pay the tour guide, who works only for tips, but at the bar there’s usually enough money in that same college budget to make do. Regardless, I paid the man what he deserved and we enjoyed some hours in the warm sun sipping witbier and watching life in Germany go by.

Gourmet Russia

The next day Erin and I spent exploring the city again on foot. We saw Peter and Paul’s Fortress, ate little Russian donuts from a hole-in-the-wall, and made it to a Russian supermarket and marketplace. I’d say that the supermarket and marketplace were the biggest cultural experiences of the day.

In the supermarket there were very few aisles with packaged goods, and rather many more counters for seafood, meats, bakery, and all the other freshly prepared items Russians want to buy. It definitely seems to be an American thing to devote most of the supermarket space to the frozen foods and the things that are packaged and preserved well enough to survive a nuclear winter.

I wanted to try Russian caviar during my visit but I noticed that the caviar was in a locked refrigerator. This did not bode well. I did the math and the smallest jar of caviar cost the equivalent of $70 USD. I’d spend $70 on a steak or something that I’m positive I will like, but I know nothing about caviar and was not willing to spend that much money on fish eggs.

After the Russian supermarket we headed to a Russian marketplace. This marketplace was in the open air and hawkers were pushing their fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, chocolates, and everything else. The bounty was beautiful, but the biggest surprise to me was the butchers. It seems every organ in a cow is sold in Russia. Whether it’s brains, tongues, or intestines you crave, you can buy them in a Russian marketplace. I’m not sure how much they cost or what dishes they’re used for, but my educated guess is that there’s a marketplace for these organs because for a long time Russians didn’t have access to bountiful markets, and so they were probably far more willing to try cow intestine during the Soviet era if that was the only meat available to them. The people buying it in 2013 are probably the people that grew up with it. That’s only a theory though. Maybe all Russians like brains.

It was interesting to see the supermarket and the marketplace and it made me regret not eating more native dishes while I was in Russia. My problem was generally that at most restaurants everything is in Cyrillic, there are no pictures, and no one speaks English. I enjoy trying new foods, but I’m not going to gamble completely and just point to a random line on a menu and hope for the best. Thus, the only authentic Russian meal I’d say I ate in Russia was when Erin and I went to a Russian cafeteria and ate chicken Kiev and Russian salad. Should I ever come back to Russia I will try to do a better job of seeking out the local foods so I can experience the country with all five of my senses.