Semester at Sea Traditions by Abby Runkle

I am currently aboard the MV World Odyssey with Semester at Sea! The program has sailed for sixty years, and I am currently on its 132nd voyage. Over these years, the atmosphere and traditions have stood the test of time and will continue for many more to come. I have highlighted some of the amazing days that are held throughout the voyage.

Neptune Day
From early wake-ups to a cold plunge into the pool before breakfast, Neptune Day is nothing short of fun. In the maritime culture, it is a ritualistic transition from a pollywog to a shellback when crossing the equator for the first time on the water. The day begins with drums, cowbells, and banging on cabin doors. Voyagers then make their way up to the top deck in their swimsuits where a theatrical performance is put on by the Deans and previous shellbacks. Each pollywog then is initiated through a series of events. It begins by eating a pinch of salt to be one with the sea, “fish guts” are then poured onto their heads before jumping into the pool. When exiting, pollywogs kiss a fish to recognize the sea life below. The ritual was finished by being knighted with a sword. Traditionally many voyagers shave their heads in respect to King Neptune. On my voyage we had a few dozen people shave their heads! The rest of the day was celebrated by swimming and enjoying the company of our community.
Sea Olympics
Sea Olympics is one of the more well-known traditions of Semester at Sea. It is a day off from school in which students participate in a variety of activities to earn points. The voyagers are divided based on their cabin location into seven different seas. Each sea goes head-to-head to bring home the victory! The activities range from tug-a-war to Mario Kart to food-eating competitions. Throughout the voyage, participants practice and rally behind their sea.
Shipboard Auction
The shipboard auction is a time to purchase one-of-a-kind items to remember the time spent aboard. The auction is divided into two parts: the crew paintings silent auction and the ship-wide auction. Traditionally the ship-wide auction was a live event held in the auditorium, but on my voyage, they decided to have both parts silent. The crew silent auction benefits the artist and crew members. A percentage of the profit goes to the artist and the other portion is used to buy each crew member holiday presents or to update their space on the ship. The ship-wide auction has tangible and non-tangible goods; some examples are American snacks, handmade bracelets, and time to spend in staff-only areas. The profits made from this portion of the auction benefit future voyagers through scholarships.
Alumni Ball
The Alumni Ball is the last event on Semester at Sea where the community comes together during their voyage. It is a celebration of students, lifelong learners, factuality, and staff becoming alumni of this amazing program. The event is held on one of the last days at sea before arriving at the final port. It is a time for voyagers to dress up and have a final five-course meal with their friends before disembarking the ship for the last time. It is a night to cherish and celebrate the past semester and all the adventures that came with it!

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