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

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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!

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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

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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

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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

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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

St Petersburg

Russia was not as scary as I thought. Maybe it’s the professors who do their best to scare us into behaving or maybe it’s what I remember from global history about Soviet Russia, but when I stepped off the ship in St Petersburg I was expecting a more rough-and-tumble town than I encountered.

Our dock was located along the picturesque Neva River, a tree-lined waterway that flows through the heart of the city. We walked along the wide pedestrian walkway, where Petersburgers spend warm summer afternoons fishing, biking, and rollerblading, heading towards the city center. We crossed one of many drawbridges; a passage that caused anxiety amongst some students. The drawbridges are down most of the day, but are raised late at night to allow assorted ships and barges passage through the city. This didn’t bother me much because I think returning to the ship before 1:30 AM while we’re in Russia is a good idea anyway, but a large contingency of students felt the need to check into hostels in the city center so they would be free to drink and be merry late into the night without any hesitation. I would rather sleep in my cozy bed bug-free cabin on the ship, so Erin and I were mindful to remember which streets we wandered down so we could retrace our steps later.

We were wandering in pursuit of a booking agent, planning on taking a train to Moscow. We stopped into a boutique hotel, hoping the concierge desk might be of some assistance. It is there that we received our saving grace: a free map of the city of St. Petersburg, conveniently written in English. Empowered, it didn’t take much longer before we had tickets for an overnight train to Moscow. We were then free to begin checking out scenic St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is notable for its cathedrals and architecture. The city was built with the intention of being more European in style. Many of the beautiful, Italian-designed buildings seem almost out of place. The city is beautiful, but at some points excessive. These amazing cathedrals, the ones we’ve all seen in photographs with the funny-looking roofs, are gorgeously decadent and were built centuries ago, when the tsars ruled and most of the country suffered. Before we arrived in St. Petersburg the resident geography professor gave a condensed history of Russia, broadly speaking about the monarchy, which clung to power far longer than the monarchies in other countries. The beauty of these buildings astounded me, especially considering the societal conditions at the time these gold-domed towers were erected.

We walked around the city, the Church of the Savior on Blood, St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and the Winter Palace, stopping for lunch at Subway (which serves beer in Russia, FYI), and then returned to the ship once our feet had suffered enough. We formulated plans for the evening over dinner on the ship and then headed out in search of an ice bar. I’ve never been to such a bar, but apparently everything is made out of ice, and there was supposedly one in St. Petersburg. I’m sad to say that after two hours of searching, the St. Petersburg Ice Bar turned out to be pure myth. The Irish pub that we visited instead, though, did not disappoint.

When we walked into O’Hooligans we were glad to simply be sitting down after 2 hours of questing for a mythical place. O’Hooligans, though, turned out to be a Russian cultural experience in itself. On a Thursday night young Russians were packed into the small pub. The ales were flowing and the patrons and the staff were puffing away. It was a shock to see people smoking in a restaurant but in Russia it’s still totally legal. There is a small and separate (less fun) non-smoking section. I met a young woman named Jessica who spoke English excellently because she works for a marketing firm where she must speak the language for her job every day. I was excited to finally meet a local who I’d be able to speak to in English.

Jessica answered my questions on a range of topics. We discussed national politics (how Putin does not have popular support but will probably remain in power until he dies), local politics (how the police in St Petersburg don’t enforce the speed limits unless they can get a bribe out of it), culture (what Russians like to drink, where they like to go on vacation), and a selection of other topics. Besides our conversation, the other interesting part about the bar was when a friend of mine ordered absinthe. There is a misunderstanding amongst most people that absinthe is illegal in the United States. The ban has been lifted since 2007, but that hasn’t led to any sort of American absinthe craze, so it’s fun to order it in a foreign country. There’s many different ways to prepare absinthe, but the Russian version involves lighting it on fire, extinguishing the flame, then huffing the vapor, reigniting the absinthe, adding sugar and water (distinguishing the flame) and drinking the mixture. It was a gimmicky way to have a drink but nothing is more fun about traveling than trying something you’ve never done anything like before. After a fun time at the bar we headed back to the ship before the dreaded raising of the drawbridges and rested for another day in Russia.