Semester at Sea: Soaking, Singing and Becoming a Shellback

A picture of a man dressed as King Neptune, in green, who presided over the festivities and knighted the new shellbacks with his triton.

Editor’s Note: Lauren Jones, a third-year student majoring in English and Economics, is on Semester at Sea this spring and has agreed to blog about her experience. Catch up with her previous entries here.

Post-India, we had two full weeks (no weekends) of class at sea in the Indian Ocean. So for about eight hours in the middle of this stretch, we were excited to get off the ship and explore the island nation of Mauritius!

Umbrella's hanging over a lane in Mauritius.But once we arrived, it started pouring rain. So the hanging umbrella lane pictured was one of the only pictures I took, because I frankly spent most of the day taking refuge inside a shopping center close to the ship. Since I had to cancel my beach and hiking plans, my friends and I worked on our movie for the ship’s upcoming 72-hour film festival inside the mall.

Still, through our pre-port lectures, I learned a lot about the island nation. Mauritius is unique in that the Portuguese found it uninhabited in 1507, settled there, and then the island’s ownership was shuffled around several European countries. These non-colonizers brought over a bunch of indentured slaves and laborers, who ended up staying when most of the Europeans hauled out after WWII. Since its independence from the UK in 1968, Mauritius has grown in to a popular vacation destination. With a mix of citizens of mostly Malay and Indian descent, the country has four official languages, and I found that it was a great place to practice my French! Mauritius is also home to the (now extinct) Dodo bird, and has a lovely museum to commemorate this fallen majesty.

I returned to the MV Explorer soaked to the bone, but in the days that followed afterward, SAS put on plenty of awesome events to break up the monotony of classes:

Neptune Day

Whenever a ship crosses the equator, tradition states that the voyagers have a set of initiations to follow in order to turn from ‘polliwog’ status into a ‘shellback.’ I don’t know what these terms mean, but the initiation involved being drenched with blue kool-aid, jumping into the pool and then kissing a dead fish. We were also given the option to shave our heads, which a surprisingly large number of people took up. I don’t really understand it all, but these events happened during our study day and were an overall enjoyable, weird, community-bonding experience.


A picture of a man dressed as King Neptune, in green, who presided over the festivities and knighted the new shellbacks with his triton.

King Neptune, in green, presided over the festivities and knighted the new shellbacks with his triton.

Voyager & Crew Talent Shows

We have some talented people on the ship! From singers and piano players to dancers and beat poets, the talent show was full of highly entertaining performances. I even sang my heart out with my coworkers on the Communications Team!

But the crew is a whole different level of talented. Our crew represented their 20-plus countries well through acts like Indian dances, Philippine pop songs, other strange cross-dressing love songs, and storytelling from our much loved Caribbean dining crew.

72-Hour Film Fest

Teams of five people had 3 days to make a SAS-themed video for the whole community. It could be sad, funny, scary or provocative, as long as we fulfilled certain criteria (such as the use of the community theme “ubuntu” and the inclusion of elephant pants) and kept the videos under five minutes. The student union was packed during the night of the festival, where some films were deep and meaningful, and others were just hilarious.

Sea Olympics

This was the event that we had literally been anticipating for the entire voyage. Each hall on the ship is divided into seas, and during the Olympics we faced off against one another to achieve the status of sea gods. With classic games like tug-of-war and relay races, a lip sync / dance competition, a backwards spelling bee and other various water games, there was something for everyone from every sea – including the ship kids and lifelong learners – to participate in. My Caribbean Sea won second place (to Deck 3’s Bering Sea), and we were both surprised & pleased with our ability to organize ourselves. Go Pirates!

An image showing a water balloon toss during the Sea Olympics on the cruise ship.

A rocking ship took the water balloon toss to a whole new level at the Sea Olympics.

So despite the soppy weather in Mauritius, the long stretch at sea turned out to be refreshing. I found that I had more time to spend with friends that I hadn’t traveled with, caught up on the homework that didn’t get done in India, and enjoyed participating in these crazy community-building events that only come around once.

One Comment on “Semester at Sea: Soaking, Singing and Becoming a Shellback

  1. What an experience you have had, Lauren. I’m so glad you took that opportunity. I have sure enjoyed your blogs. I love you.

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