Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Sailing on an Enrichment Voyage!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Sailing on an Enrichment Voyage!

70% of the crew was Filipino!
Bill in front of our home for 2 weeks
 June 1-15 2014, the MVExplorer
In 1926 the first ship sailed from New Jersey for 7.5 months to 90 ports. Its mission was echoed by the Dean: ‘This is not a mere sightseeing tour but a college year of educational travel…to train students to think in world terms…’ It was called the University of Seven Seas; later it came to be called  the World Campus Afloat. For the last 51 years the Institute of Shipboard Education has been conducting their successor, Semester at Sea. Its fourth sponsor's, the University of Virginia, tour of duty ends in 2016. The search is on for its 5th!  

MV Explorer docked at Akureyri, Iceland
For non-students, the Institute has Enrichment Voyages in 2 or 4-week segments. The progran is actually being dropped, leaving the Lifelong Learning Program in conjunction with Semester at Sea, as the only option available for us. Instead of 15 days, it will be a minimum of 30 days with the added advantage of 3-5 days at a port, not just 1!

at the completion of our voyage in Southampton, England
We have just completed Segment 2 of the last Enrichment Voyage covering Denmark, Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, and England from June 1 to 15, in 7 ports. We found this on Groupon for an unbelievable price of $1,399 per person!  We embarked in Stockholm, Sweden and disembarked at Southampton, England. I will write about each of the ports we visited later but, for now, let me describe the entire cruise that is so different from any other cruise I have known.
Bill, attending a seminar
While at sea, visits to ports are complemented by classes, seminars, and workshops. Students have classes (a few universities and colleges had special programs on our voyage) while lifelong learners such as Bill and I choose from either seminars or workshops. Seminars are political, economic, historical, geographical, art and architectural discussions of the ports or the region they belong to and seminar leaders hold PhDs in their fields of expertise. Those who we
re most engaging were our favorites!

at the Ship's Medical Clinic
 The workshops, on the other hand, are arts and crafts, writing, book club, dance, yoga, tai chi, etc, sessions. Those who did not want any of these organized their own bridge, mahjong, or other sessions. There were about 700 voyagers in our group and the seminar venues were always almost full to capacity. The workshops had pretty good crowds, too, and the other games were going on!.

at one of three viewing decks of MV Explorer
Tour of the Bridge
The ship’s facilities, although not as luxurious as regular passenger cruise ships, are enough to fill one’s needs for the time of the cruise, whether 2 weeks or a semester. They include 10 classrooms, 1 large seminar/show room, another large seminar/ballroom, a piano bar, 2 dining rooms (1 buffet and 1 with waiter service), a pool and poolside bar, 3 viewing decks, a wellness center that includes a gym, spa, sauna, and massage rooms, a library, a computer lab, a cruise ship store and a medical clinic. Wifi facilities were very limited and slow though. All we could do were email and download public folders of the sessions. We had an allowance of one hour of internet use!

an oil rig in the North Sea
my yellow hat for the New Year in June Party!
Special activities were a Tour of the Bridge (the navigation center of the ship) and viewing of special things we pass by such as the long bridge between Stockholm and Copenhagen, huge oil rigs that dot the North Sea, Surtsey, the volcanic island that made headlines in 1962 when it just appeared, offshore wind turbines, birds and whales, and the Aurora Borealis. The maneuvering at each docking and leaving of a port was a marvel to watch, too. There were also special nights: a Captain’s Dinner when we had to be in semi-formal attire, Two’s Company, a Variety Show by a Scot, a Comedy Show about Icelandic history, and a Party the Captain threw as we passed the Arctic Circle, a Crew Talent Show, a Passenger Talent Show, a Magic Act, an Irish duo, and a ‘New Year in June’ Party.
offshore wind turbines
@ the captain's Reception and Dinner
There was a noticeable difference among the seas we sailed. The Baltic Sea, Denmark Strait, Irish Sea, and English Channel are quiet seas that confined themselves to countries that surrounded them.  The North Sea, south Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic are much bigger and rougher seas. Around Iceland were 2-4 meter swells so the MV Explorer swayed a bit more, giving us some level of seasickness. Those huge seas are a large source of the world’s petroleum. 

Tom and Marivic, Bill and me at dinner
Purser's Office
Out of the 700 passengers, five were Filipinas. Marivic and I are married (to Tom and Bill) while the other three are 2 sisters and a friend:  Lily and Cora and Carmen. What thrilled me the most, though, is that 70% of the 218 crew is Filipino! As a matter of fact, 2 of the 5 on the Captain’s senior management team are Filipinos, the Purser Lito Untivero and the Executive Chef Danilo Yatco! The Ship Doctor, Jocelyn Franco, and Ship Nurses, Jocelyn Reyes and Cristina Tablizo, are also Filipinas. (They had two other doctors for passengers on the cruise.)  It is just too bad they had no Filipino entertainers. But half the Crew Talent Show was provided by Filipinos! One Filipina represented us in the Passenger Talent Show. If I had not contracted a cold the week before, there would have been 2 representatives!

2 of 5 in the senior management team is Filipino!
Bill and I signed a petition for the continuation of the Enrichment Voyages Program. After being seasick for a night, I don’t think we will like being at sea for a month though. Perhaps we will confine ourselves to shorter cruises around the Caribbean or Mediterranean. But this particular Enrichment Voyage was a definite Experience!