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Neptune Day marks Semester at Sea 124th equatorial crossing

The morning of March 7th was off to a raucous start as voyagers awoke to crossing the equator and celebrating the 124th bi-annual Neptune Day. King Neptune and his court were present in all their glory to welcome a new group of shellbacks to the family.

Kissing the royal fish on Neptune Day

Neptune Day is a long-standing naval tradition, but Semester at Sea does it a little differently. As the MV World Odyssey crosses the equator, voyagers who are crossing for the first time are considered “pollywogs” until they participate in the Neptune Day ceremony.

“Being a shellback feels so great,” Erin Hattamer said after successfully completing her shellback initiation. “I feel like I’ve been working towards this my whole life.”

Neptune Day celebrations include completing a series of questions and rituals like getting dunked with fish guts and kissing the ring of King Neptune. Voyagers also have the option of shaving their head.

“Getting dumped with the fish guts tasted like raw fish,” said student Laura Taylor, “But it was cool because it was the step we needed to take to pass our tests and now be able to sail the sea.”

Students celebrate crossing the equator and officially becoming shellbacks.

Much of Neptune Day is planned by King Neptune and his court. Neptune requests that some of the ceremonies and traditions remain a secret so that the next group of pollywogs don’t know what to expect.

“Neptune Day is traditionally a day shrouded in mystery,” Neptune said.

Nonetheless, pollywogs and shellbacks alike had a day filled with shaved heads, fish kisses and dolphin sightings. Crossing the equator was cause for much celebration.

“You jump in the water and come out clear as day, clean of body and mind,” student Lindsey Johnson said after passing her sea test. “I feel like an official sea traveler and I finally feel like the sea belongs to us. I don’t know if I can walk on land after this.”


  • Life at Sea

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