Week before leaving -- (Jan 11-20)
Week 1 -- (Jan 23-Feb 1 Puerto Rico)
Week 2 -- (Feb 3-9 Salvador, Brazil)
Week 3 -- (Feb 10-16 On the way to South Africa)
Week 4 -- (Feb 19-24 Cape Town and African Safari)
Week 5,6 -- (Feb 25-March 8 Mauritius)
Week 7 -- (March 9-15 Chennai, India)

Week 8 -- (March 16-22 Penang, Malaysia and Singapore)
Week 9 -- (March 23-31 Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam)
Week 10 -- (April 1-6 Hong Kong, Guilin Shanghai, China)
Week 11 -- (April 7-13 Kobe, Japan)
Week 12 -- (April 14-20 On the way to Hawaii)
Week 13 -- (April 21-27 Honolulu, Hawaii)
Week 14 -- (April 28-May 8 Puntarenas, Costa Rica)


Week Thirteen -- Journeywoman's Semester At Sea...


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April 22 - One day in Honolulu, Hawaii

Oh I was tired! I think I had three hours of sleep before the alarm rang for us to get up at 4:45 AM. Sunrise in Honolulu, Hawaii was supposed to be at 5:00 AM. The alarm rang, I groaned, turned over and tried to get back to sleep (this is the first country I didn't see a sunrise). At 6:15 we got an official wake-up call. The U.S. Customs and Immigration folks were on board and needed to see each person individually before they stamped our passport. Groa-a-aned again and pulled myself out of bed. My throat was sore and all I wanted was more sleep. That was not to be so I did everything I was supposed to do and went for breakfast. Drats. There were no bagels left and I had to settle for brown toast (you see, when there is nothing big to complain about you find unimportant things to complain about). Anyway all that stopped when I stepped out on the deck, saw Honolulu and felt the lovely warm air of Hawaii. Visions of pineapples and hoola dancers danced in my head.

At 9:30AM I left the ship to wait for Liz Fischer, a Honolulu Journeywoman who had offered to show me 'her town.' Not only did this woman with a heart of gold get me to the Ala Moana Center for some shopping, she took a few other people from the ship to do their errands as well. I had a few hours to dash through the shops to look for a pair of dressy black pants to wear to the Ambassadors Ball. The fancy shops had nothing appropriate under $200 but at Sears, hidden in a little corner were the perfect pair that had started high and were drastically reduced to $11.74. They say there is the right pair of trousers for everybody in this world providing they look hard enough for each other. I started my search in Chennai, India and went through shops and markets in Penang, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Guilin, Shanghai and Kobe, Japan. I found nothing. But today in Honolulu that search ended with a modest pair of trousers with a heart that obviously had been broken many times. With each mark-down the rejection and creases those trousers suffered were enormous. That's where Jesse, our cabin steward came in. He promised to have the pants ironed flawlessly and ready for the Big Night. So all is well now for the pants and for me. I'm so glad we found each other. P.S. Jesse delivered the pants, they are pressed perfectly and we (the pants and I, not Jesse and I ) know we'll be happy together for a long, long time.

Liz loves to travel and understands the differences between being a tourist and being a traveler. She didn't suggest lunch at an upscale chain restaurant that I could have experienced any place in the world. Instead, we drove away from the fancy spots to Ono Hawaiian Foods (726 Kapahulu Avenue). This is a hole-in-the-wall spot that is run by Hawaiians for Hawaiians (and anybody else who chooses to visit). They don't accept checks or credit cards -- hard cash only, please). The interior is a hodge podge of homemade signs, curios, plus family photos and photos of celebrities all preserved under plastic (I spotted a signed head shot of Lily Tomlin). All the menu items were new to me but with some help from 'Auntie,' I chose Chicken Laulau (chicken steamed in taro leaves), rice and Poi (cooked, mashed taro). We ended our Hawaiian lunch with a coconut jelly dessert. Liz explained the high nutritional value of taro products, I tasted everything and can happily recommend this joint to all other travellers out there.

After lunch we popped by the grounds of the Lokahi Canoe Club where Liz is a member and I saw the six-person outrigger canoes that she paddles in competition. You can't be a weakling to do this extreme sport, folks. Those canoes are huge and ocean races can go on for forty miles. Phew! Now I understand why Liz needs lots of taro in her diet.

Next we saw the famous slopes of Diamond Head and we were supposed to dip our toes into the water at Waikiki Beach but I was suffering from lack of sleep and headed back to the boat for a quick pick-me-up nap. At six o'clock, Liz was there once again to take six of us (one, a birthday girl) to Side Street Inn (1225 Hopaka Street), another hole-in-the-wall sports bar cum family restaurant. This is the spot local chefs go to after their shifts, and supposedly Saveur Magazine devoted ten pages of coverage to this restaurant. My friend Flo would love this restaurant. She inevitably wants to taste a bit of whatever everybody else orders. Side Street Inn's menu is designed to allow everybody to taste, everything. Each dish (steak, calamari, tuna, ribs, chicken) is cut up into smaller portions and served family style. P.S. For dessert we wanted to try the 'fried pound cake' but we didn't have time. We needed to get back to the ship before 9:00 PM so that we wouldn't get dock time (see first few weeks of this blog to see what 'dock time' is).

Since we had only this one day in Hawaii before we left the port for another ten days of sailing, everybody stayed out till the last minute. We all know if 600 people arrive back one half hour before deadline there are bound to be lines to board the ship. Each student must go through a metal detector and their bags have to be searched for unauthorized items like liquor (in every port) and samurai swords (in Japan). Last night posed a real problem for the powers that be. Theoretically, everybody was waiting outside the ship (on time) and couldn't get in to be checked on time (so they deserved docktime as happens in every port). But, could you give 200 students and staff docktime because the search took so long? And, many kids who arrived late pushed into line and lots of the kids who behaved according to the rules had to wait to get in (yada, yada, yada, yada). The end result.... The dean gave nobody dock time. Smart man! And... if I had known that this would happen I would have stayed at Side Street Inn long enough to try the Fried Pound Cake.

Early A.M. I lifted my window blind and saw...

A cloudy Honolulu skyline

Leaving the ship

The kids stocked up on snack food

A visit to Ono Hawaiian Food

Signs and stuff everywhere

Liz explains about outrigger canoes

Journeywoman (Canada) meets Journeywoman (Hawaii)

Jesse delivers the formal black pants


April 22 - The Gala Ambassador's Ball

The Ambassador's Ball is THE major social event of Semester At Sea. It's a charity event, a sit-down formal dinner and the one night that make-up, jewelry and fancy dress shows up in full force. Students and staff alike scoured the bazaars of India, the markets in China and shops of Malaysia to find just the right sari or salwar kameez to wear to the event. In Vietnam they looked for a fabulous tailor that would sew their party dress or suit in the exact design in just the right material. They sought out jewelled shoes in Penang, fabulously flashy earrings in Guilin and purses to match in Hong Kong. Oh my goodness, the buying that went on.

Last night we saw the results of all the shopping sprees in countries around the world. Suddenly students whom I've seen running to their eight A.M. classes in jeans and large SAS sweatshirts suddenly emerged from their scholastic cocoons... and they were BEAUTIFUL butterflies. I should have known because seemingly ALL the women were on a diet last week. I wondered ... what kind of lunch is lettuce with apple and peanut butter for dessert? I felt like a glutton carrying my soup and sandwich tray. And everybody was sunbathing in 60 degree weather to achieve just 'the right glow.' I envied their bravery as I sat in my long-sleeved t-shirt and shivered.

The seventh deck spa was booked solid with appointments for cuts, colors, manicures and pedicures. I spied a young man with only one strip of hair (Mohawk) down the center of his head. He was there for a wash and cut. The 'strip' had become too long and unruly. I loved the fact that the esthetician didn't bat an eyelash as she washed and conditioned this one little strip of hair. Nothing is too different on the MV Explorer.

By five o'clock people were making their way to the dining room for the first sitting. Forget the red carpet on Oscar Night; watching the fashion statements on the ship that night was a comparable treat. There were satins and silks in hot pinks and golds. There were styles from India and some from Japan. The students mixed and matched colors and cultures. Three guys had matching cotton suits made in Vietnam -- one in lime green, another in bold apricot and the last in mustard yellow. The result was a wonderfully, festive melange. These were no longer college students in funky t-shirts. These were young men and women dressed beautifully for a night on the town. Oh, the excitement!

Black and white balloons filled the dining room. Framed black and white portraits of people the students had met on the voyage served as unique center pieces for the tables. We were served a delicious five-course dinner (all other meals on the voyage are presented cafeteria style). The Captain and his top officers were wearing their handsome formal uniforms. So handsome, in fact, that prior to the meal students donated $4.00 to charity to have their photos taken with the 'head honcho' (who was so patient with the long line that formed to get this souvenir). After dinner there was a huge dessert buffet that was set up in another section of the ship. I thought I was either at a Jewish or an Italian wedding and I made Solomon (the man in charge of this feast) promise that he would cater my granddaughter's wedding twenty years from now. This event (organized completely by students) was truly impressive when you think of the time and space constraints the kitchen staff was working under. They could only begin setting up to serve 700 people once lunch was over. Then came the moving of tables, formal table clothes and the folding of napkins (700 times) plus 700 champagne glasses to fill. I heard through the grapevine that the full clean up after the event went on until four in the morning and then the servers had to be up early to set up for 7:30 AM breakfast the next day. This SAS crew is incredible and they never stop smiling!

Later in the evening staff and students met for an Oldies Dance in the Faculty Lounge. They sang, they danced, they cavorted. I kept waiting for Fifties Music but their 'oldies' never got older than the Nineties. Oh, oh ... I'm not just old. I'm ancient.

P.S. The Captain was at the Oldies Dance and he asked if he could buy me a drink. I told him I was flattered and ordered bottled water (perfectly suitable for someone so old they didn't even have music from her era on the ship). A perfect ending to a perfect evening for a Life Long Learner in a sea of wonderful students.

Hanging flags for a special evening

Preparing the tables

Folding 700 napkins

Filling 700 champagne glasses

Final preparation of the dining room

Preparing ourselves

The spa is extra busy

Everybody dresses up including Mr. Mohawk

From moths to butterfies

Ms. Shanghai and Ms. Puerto Rico

Apricot, turquoise a lime. A fabulous combo!

Posing with the Captain.
Proceeds to charity.

Lovely students posing with

The dessert tables were impressive

One of the many delicious cakes

Oldies Dance in the Faculty Lounge

Staff Captain and Life Long Learner

The Captain and our youngest Life Long Learner


April 27 - We're bribed with tacos

I'm constantly amazed at the quality of food served on the MV Explorer. Preparing three full nutritious meals for over 1,000 people each and every day is not an easy job. This is especially true when you're at sea and you can't run out to the supermarket to replace ingredients you've run out of. However, after eating any food for three months straight it gets downright boring and that's where 'tacos' come in. Everybody on the ship loves tacos. I can't figure out why exactly but students and faculty alike absolutely long for tacos. I know this is only an 'on board' phenomenon but it's really quite curious.

Those in charge of the kitchen and those in charge of academics have taken note of this 'curious love' exhibited by the shipboard community and have devilishly started to use it to their advantage. They are all powerful. They can 'give' tacos and they can take them away. We all live in fear.

Since we are coming to the end of the voyage the registrar has handed out endless course evaluation sheets. Global Studies is the one mandatory course for everybody on board. That means getting over 700 Global forms back from students who are either studying, sunbathing, cavorting, working out, or sleeping (and no doubt dreaming of tacos). Filling out forms is definitely not one of their priorities. So what did this cunning registrar do?

She combined her power with the power of the kitchen to squeeze those forms out of us. During daily announcements we heard, 'Would you like tacos for lunch? Marie the registrar can arrange that for you. All she is asking in return is that 80% of the evaluation forms be handed in by sundown.' Normally, students only half listen to announcements; this time there was a hush throughout the ship as everybody took note. It wasn't long before they sprang into action. They filled out their forms, they also used peer pressure to make sure that their friends did the same. I was approached by three different students to make sure my form was in as well. The lobbying was impressive. We needed our tacos.

Oh the excitement as we prepared for lunch. Did we make our quota? We waited solemnly for noon announcements and heard, 'Today is TACO day!' Questions travelled quickly through the ship. Anxiety and tension rippled through the halls. Would they have enough refried beans? Get in line fast, the avocado runs out first. Are the taco shells hard or soft? Hurry up, the lines are getting REALLY long. I hope they have the yellow cheese. Is it low fat sour cream? Save a spot for me.

And Marie the registrar sat in her office and smiled.

First we saw the Mexicans

Then the taco shells

The videographer showed up to record this big event

The students were happy

Very happy!

The staff loved their tacos

They were prepared to fight for them!


End of Week Thirteen


Week before leaving -- (Jan 11-20)
Week 1 -- (Jan 23-Feb 1 Puerto Rico)
Week 2 -- (Feb 3-9 Salvador, Brazil)
Week 3 -- (Feb 10-16 On the way to South Africa)
Week 4 -- (Feb 19-24 Cape Town and African Safari)
Week 5,6 -- (Feb 25-March 8 Mauritius)
Week 7 -- (March 9-15 Chennai, India)

Week 8 -- (March 16-22 Penang, Malaysia and Singapore)
Week 9 -- (March 23-31 Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam)
Week 10 -- (April 1-6 Hong Kong, Guilin Shanghai, China)
Week 11 -- (April 7-13 Kobe, Japan)
Week 12 -- (April 14-20 On the way to Hawaii)
Week 13 -- (April 21-27 Honolulu, Hawaii)
Week 14 -- (April 28-May 8 Puntarenas, Costa Rica)

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