10 Essentials to Bring on Semester at Sea


Lizette Nolasco

The MV World Odyssey is the ship that Semester at Sea uses as its campus.

Semester at Sea is an unusual study abroad program that lets students explore multiple countries while living on the MV World Odyssey, a German cruise ship. Another student from Chaminade and I had the opportunity to travel to 13 countries while learning about the history and culture of the places we visited on Semester at Sea’s Spring 2022 voyage. As the next set of voyagers prepare to embark on Friday, it’s important to realize attending school on a ship comes with different necessities than the average single-country study abroad program.

Rolling Duffle Bags
The MV World Odyssey cabins are small, so there is little space to store hard cover suitcases. Many students unpack their bags only to realize there is nowhere to put them. Some came up with solutions to this problem by stuffing their suitcases in their closets or bathrooms. However, a rolling duffle bag can be easily compressed and stored under the cabin bed where it is out of the way.

The ship store sells Semester at Sea maps, which act as a yearbook to sign at the end of the voyage. The only issue is that no one has any sharpies to sign it with. In a desperate attempt to get everyone’s signatures on their map, Semester at Sea students will go to great lengths to find the elusive sharpie. Some in possession of these goods sell their spares for high markups; others have waiting lists to use theirs, so it’s best to bring one at the start.

Hard Drives
Traveling the world for four months comes with taking many photos and videos. To avoid choosing between saving photos from Croatia or videos from Spain, get a hard drive to store the memories instead of deciding what to delete to save room. There is also limited Wi-Fi on the ship and google drive is unavailable so all assignments will be written on Microsoft Word, or done on PowerPoint which will take up laptop storage, making a hard drive a good investment.

HDMI, USB, and USBC Adapters
When transferring files from the hard drive mentioned above, it’s vital to have an adaptor. Not only will it help when moving photos and videos, but it is necessary when doing presentations for class. The ship does not provide adaptors to plug in a laptop to the TV to present, and professors occasionally ask if anyone has one they are willing to let the class use. This also comes in handy when streaming movies from laptops to the cabin TV’s for movie nights with friends.

Closed Toe Slip-On Shoes
The ship requires closed toe shoes for safety when encountering rough seas because doors may slam on the students walking to class. While wearing sneakers may seem like an appropriate everyday option, using up one of the few packed pairs of socks and tying laces to walk two minutes to the dining hall (The Berlin dining hall is the best) can get tiresome. Instead, find some crocs or slip-on shoes to avoid the hassle.

Seasickness Medication
Rough waters are a challenge that every voyage faces. Some voyagers such as myself were overconfident in their abilities to handle sea sickness and ended up needing to ask others for medication. A helpful tip on seasickness is that cabins on the front and back ends of the ship have more movement than cabins in the middle and can cause its residents to be more susceptible to sea sickness.

Board and Card Games
I had never played board games before coming on Semester at Sea, but playing games with strangers on the first night of the voyage established my friend group for the rest of the semester. It’s a great way to spend free time on the ship since there is little Wi-Fi, and it allows voyagers to bond over a similar interest. A popular game among the students on my voyage is “We’re Not Really Strangers,” a card game that asks personal questions.

A Small Wardrobe
Packing light will save room in suitcases and the hassle of carrying more luggage than one needs. Remember that the voyage is most likely to change itinerary, and what clothes are suitable for one country may not be for another. Instead of packing a bulk of clothes for every occasion, students often buy clothing from shops in the country as they need. On my voyage I packed light, bringing only three pairs of pants and six tops and bought the rest of my wardrobe along the way.

International Data Plan
There are only three computers on the ship with Wi-Fi access that is shared with over 400 voyagers. This rarity of internet access initiates a competition over the computers to make travel arrangements before the next port. Often there will be groups of up to 20 voyagers huddled around waiting for their turn. By getting an international data plan, students can make arrangements while in port or when the ship is near land to catch the signal. It also makes traveling in the country easier as there is access to google maps, Uber, and translators, which comes in handy when exploring somewhere new. The plan I used was T-Mobile’s international plan that costs $60 a month and provides service in over 215 countries.

A Flexible Mindset
On the Spring 2022 Voyage, the itinerary changed over five times. From visa issues to lost luggage to the pandemic to even a war, traveling on Semester at Sea comes with unexpected changes. In order to navigate these changes positively, voyagers must learn to accept and overcome circumstances as they happen. An understanding that worldly affairs and safety take precedence over a semester abroad is key to an enjoyable voyage.