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Enrichment Voyage Sails Through Caribbean, Central, and South America

From December 17 to January 3, 811 voyagers sailed on the Passages & Exchanges Enrichment Voyage visiting seven countries and nine cities throughout the Caribbean, Central and South America. Many accomplished a major bucket list item (transiting the Panama Canal), some improved their Spanish, others learned to love birds that much more, several found a way to quiet their minds with daily morning meditations with our resident Buddhist monk. From the youngest voyagers (five months) to the oldest (94 years), everyone found that the voyage offered endless opportunities for fun and education, regardless of age.

This Enrichment Voyage was the first for some, the third for others, a reunion stand-in for SAS alumni, a family vacation, a major birthday celebration, a major anniversary celebration, an escape to warm weather, a desire to learn a little something while relaxing, or a chance to unwind.

“We’ve sailed on commercial cruise lines and one of the things that stands out here is the number of people who are eager to go in and listen to a lecture or jump in to a workshop,” said Ed Sobey, first-time Enrichment Voyage participant who has sailed on two Semester at Sea voyages. “The attitude here versus a commercial cruise line is ‘I’m on vacation and I want to learn something.’”

Enrichment Voyage days on the MV Explorer are filled from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. with yoga and meditation to start the day and games night, singing, and dancing to a D.J. to end it. Sandwiched between those hours are workshops ranging from the arts (drawing, painting, crafts) to personal growth. And there are lots of lectures—on politics and history (of Africa, Mayans in Guatemala, Central America and the challenges around drug trafficking), on science (marine life, climate change, and astronomy), and on world cultures.

One special guest expert and lecturer was Captain Ken Puckett, a former Panama Canal pilot who guided several hundred ships through the narrow channels of the canal for more than a decade. Captain Puckett’s voice echoed over the ship’s loudspeakers as it passed through the intricate lock system.

“I didn’t realize how absolutely fascinating and exciting and thrilling—and I’m talking about a peak life experience—it was going through the Panama Canal. I think some of that was due to Capt. Puckett because he prepped us so beautifully,” said first-time Enrichment Voyage participant Diane Vella of Rockport, MA.

The voyage included visits to the ports of Nassau, Bahamas; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Ensenada, Mexico; and San Diego, California. A variety of field programs were offered in each port—some adventurous, some relaxing, some enlightening.

“The excursions have been really inspiring; I hiked a volcano and went on a Canopy Tour in Costa Rica,” said Galina Pappu, first time Enrichment Voyage participant and resident director at Santa Clara University.

Of the 811 voyagers on the Passages & Exchanges, nearly 50 were children, ranging in age from five months to 16 years. They had about as many adventures as the adults, both on and off the ship. When not in port with their parents, they participated in Kids Club with activities that included life as pirates (which helped make Cartagena’s forts and the pirate history of the Bahamas understandable and that much more cool), made piñatas in honor of that Mexican tradition, and learned the art of Huichol yarn kites.

Also on board the MV Explorer were five college groups from Adelphi University, Morehouse College, Piedmont Virginia Community College, Spelman College, and SUNY Plattsburgh with more than 100 college students in total. All of the university groups took courses on either literature, culture, or history related to the countries visited and offered by their respective universities, and received full credit. Classes were daily and while at sea for one to two hours. Adelphi students also participated in service learning programs in four out of the five countries visited.

“I got an opportunity to study abroad for a full semester but I didn’t feel ready to do something that big and I thought that this [voyage] was perfect because you get an introduction to so many places in a short period of time; I thought it was perfect,” said Rae’Johne Smith, a student with the Morehouse/Spelman group.

Like Semester at Sea, one of the most beloved aspects of the voyage was the community. People of all ages came together to learn, explore new cultures, celebrate the holidays, and make new, lifelong friendships along the way.

Participants disembarked the MV Explorer truly feeling a little bit more enriched, and many were inspired to sign up for the May 2014 Iron & Ice voyage.

To read more about the travels and stories of the 2013 Passages & Exchanges voyage, visit the voyage blog. The December 2014 voyage, Tropics & Transit, will visit many of the same ports as the 2013 winter voyage with new additions of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

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  • Life on Land

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