Monday, August 29, 2011

On the Ship and Crossing the Atlantic

The MV Explorer at night, Montreal Harbor
10:00 pm Mon Aug 29, 2011

Position of the MV Explorer 10:00 pm August 29, 2011
Three days since we left Montreal!  We are now well out onto the North Atlantic, and much to my surprise, the seas have been CALM – much calmer than when we left Boston a week ago.  Yesterday we were in thick fog as we left the Gulf of St. Lawrence and rounded the south coast of Newfoundland to head out into the Atlantic – suffice to say that saw nothing of Newfoundland!  We do have a great GPS system on ship, however, so we are able to track our movements on a large map, that shows the continents, continental shelf, and the sea floor.  It is now VERY DEEP below us!

Pat ready to board the MV Explorer in Boston

We are starting to settle into more of a routine on the ship, now that the students are here and classes are under way.  I thought would use this blog to give more a sense of the ship itself, and life on the ship.  We are sailing on the MV Explorer, built in 2002 and which Semester at Sea bought in 2004 – it was intended to be a cruise ship, but something went wrong with the financing and SAS got it in a bit of a fire sale – a bargain for about $85 million!  (You can get most of the ship info at  

Students studying in the Piano Bar
My "classroom"
The 9000 volume Library

Because it was designed as a cruise ship, some of academic rooms have an “interesting” d├ęcor: I teach my Greening Religion class in what was designed to be a cocktail and piano lounge, and the information desk in the Library is a former bar (makes accessing information much more interesting…)

Decks 3 through 7 in the Aft of the MV Explorer; outside dining on Deck 6; Pool on Deck 7

Dan Pat's Cabin, 4077

There are seven levels and six decks on board, with the bulk of the passenger cabins on Decks 3 & 4, more luxury cabins on the upper decks (Pat and I topped out on Deck 4 after spending our first week on Deck 3, but no complaints – our cabin is still very nice. 

Still, some of our more senior colleagues have cabins with private balconies.  We’re inviting ourselves up for evening cocktails…).  

Computer Lab

Faculty & Staff Lounge Deck 7
Dan & Pat prepare for Lifeboat Drill!

The Union: Main Auditorium

Most of the public activities take place on Deck 6 where the Library, Computer Lab, and main teaching room/auditorium are found (the Union), as well as one of the 2 main dining halls.  There is a lovely Lounge in the bow (front) of Deck 7 that is reserved during the day for Faculty and Staff – I spend much of my day there as it is quiet and I can usually get internet access (which we can’t get in our room).  

Students on Decks 6 & 7 Leaving Montreal
Pretty stunning to look up from my work and see the Atlantic Ocean spread before me in every direction.  

Watching the Sunset over the Atlantic from Deck 6

We seem to spend a lot of time eating!  In part because no food is allowed in our cabins, so you have to wait until meal time, in part because we now eat three full meals a day with the rest of the ship.  But the food has been extraordinarily good, and we don’t have to do any shopping, preparation, or clean up – just show up and make our way through the buffet line!  Fortunately there is fresh salad and fruit at every meal, and Pat and I have an informal rule that we have to fill the first half of our plates with salad and fruit BEFORE we get to the entrees and dessert.  Still, we are already noticing the lack of access to regular running, biking, and walks with Lewis.  It is nice to be able to intermingle with students, senior “Lifelong Learners”, staff and families.

Sunset Dinner on Deck 6

When the weather is nice, it’s hard to find space on Deck 6, as everyone flocks outside.  It was particularly nice tonight: after 2 days of fog and clouds, the sun broke through this afternoon and we had a beautiful sunset AND a pod of dolphins playing along in the ship’s wake!  These fleeting moments of spotting whale spouts and diving dolphins make me pinch myself that I am really here.

I’m starting to settle into my teaching schedule of A & B days: I teach Greening Religion in the afternoon on A days, and Globalization, and Nature and Society on B days, as well as attend the Global Studies course required of all students and faculty.  Lots of activities go on in the evenings, so we have to budget our time wisely.  Pat is a Faculty Fellow for the Baltic Sea group (the students are divided into 8 “Seas” in the place of Residence Halls) and we both are “parents” of an “extended family” of 5 students with whom we share a weekly meal.

Much more I could say, but that should suffice for now.  One of the biggest challenges of this first week is that we are losing nearly an hour a day as we travel east 3000 miles to Casablanca – we pass through 5 time zones on this first ocean passage.  We lose another hour tonight, and we’re already a bit sleep deprived, so Buenas Noches for now, and I’ll write soon!

Sunset over the North Atlantic, Monday, August 29, 2011

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