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Neptune Day: Maritime Traditions Bring Voyage Community Together

kingEarly morning wake up calls, equator crossing, theatrical performances and ‚Äúfish guts‚Äù mean only one thing for voyagers on Semester at Sea: it’s Neptune Day!

“Neptune Day is a longstanding maritime tradition going back hundreds of years for all who have ventured across the equator,” said Executive Dean Nick Iammarino. “It has always been a Semester at Sea tradition.”

Crewmembers walked down the hallways of the MV World Odyssey, marching to the sounds of drums, cowbells and tambourines as an early morning wake up call to encourage all voyagers to participate in events happening on the ninth deck.

The official Neptune Day ceremony began with a theatrical speech by Dean Nick about the significance of what crossing the equator means to all sea-goers. He introduced King Neptune and Minerva, played by Captain Kostas and Academic Dean Toni Zimmerman and explained how participants transition from “pollywog” to “shellback.”

dsc_0179-1dsc_0054Crewmembers dumped green “fish guts” on voyagers’ heads before they jumped into the ship’s pool. Upon exiting the pool, they greeted a fish in recognition of all the sea life below and then bowed to King Neptune and Minerva, completing their shellback initiation.

Jordan Santiago is a junior at the University of Arkansas and participated in all of the day’s events. He talked about how glad he was that he went through the full Semester at Sea (SAS) Neptune Day experience.

“It’s a ritual that everyone has gone through before us,” said Santiago. “It’s like a rite of passage.”

Some voyagers also decided to shave their heads as part of Neptune Day’s festivities. Annamae Bolen is a junior at John Carol University and had several inches of her hair shaved off. She had been planning to shave her head since before the voyage was in Spain.

“It was liberating,” Bolen said. “Everyone was cheering me on as they shaved my head. I’ll never forget the feeling I had standing up once my hair was all gone.”

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Laura Roth is the Dean of Student life for the fall. She explained how events like Neptune Day and other SAS traditions help build stronger relationship between the voyagers.

“Days like today really bring the community together,” Roth said. “There’s the anticipation of the surprise of the day that everyone gets excited for. Everyone, including the crew looks forward to this type of thing.”

Neptune Day is recognized as one of the most memorable days of all SAS voyages. It always provides the community with an opportunity to come together and celebrate something so unique to the SAS experience of maritime culture.

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