How is the air filtered on board the ship?

The entire ship is ventilated with MERV 13 air filters which the EPA and CDC recommend  for commercial filtration for COVID-19. MERV 13 filters remove greater than 75% of the aerosol particles that cause COVID-19 and improve fresh air intake and circulation.

What are the cleaning protocols on board the ship?

The maritime industry is one of the most highly regulated in the world. There are crew members solely dedicated to cleaning surfaces like handrails, door knobs, and food service areas. Additional high levels of regulation exist for activities like laundry service and dishwashing. These protocols reduce the transmission of many pathogens, including COVID-19. 

What happens if I feel like I need to cancel after the payment deadline? I am not sure I will want to sail if COVID levels rise again

We offer a full refund up to 90 days prior to the voyage. Know that our home office and voyage team will not sail if we don’t have confidence in our safety, protocols, itinerary or plans. If a voyager chooses to withdraw within that 30 day window prior to a voyage, we are unable to offer a refund.

Will I be able to travel on my own in the countries on the itinerary?

We anticipate that independent travel will be permitted in the majority of the ports. We are watching this closely, but continue to get good news about the freedoms permitted for vaccinated travelers. If a specific country will not permit travel, we will consider visiting one of our Diversion Ports to allow for a better in-country experience. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and will communicate with our voyagers should we expect a country to prohibit independent travel.

How should I prepare for my voyage as related to COVID-19?

We suggest that all individuals use masks and social distancing to keep themselves healthy prior to your upcoming voyage. This is especially true in large gatherings and during holiday times. 

We recommend that you take a COVID test prior to leaving your home country for embarkation. If you test positive for COVID-19 prior to departure from your home country, do not travel to the ship. Remain at home and we will have you join the voyage at the next port. Our team will work individually with anyone who is unable to join the ship at embarkation due to a positive COVID-19 test. Students will be provided academic coursework and ship community building activities.

What happens if a student/faculty member/LLL tests positive for COVID-19 while on board the ship?

All passengers will be tested weekly throughout the voyage with an antigen test nasal swab. Any symptomatic individuals will be tested upon presentation of symptoms. If an individual tests positive, they will be moved to the quarantine cabins of the MV World Odyssey. 

Upon arrival in port, quarantined passengers will either complete their quarantine on-ship or be moved to an in-country quarantine or medical facility (dependent upon the regulations and guidance of the individual country.) The insurance that is part of your voyage tuition and fees will cover up to $2000 of any fees related to quarantine. There is also a $1400 trip interruption coverage that can be used for transportation to rejoin the voyage once the quarantine period ends.

Throughout any necessary quarantine or isolation time, our on-ship medical team will monitor your symptoms and overall health and intervene as necessary.

What happens if a passenger becomes symptomatic while traveling in-country?

Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms while traveling in-country should immediately self-quarantine and arrange for a COVID-19 test. COVID testing is covered by your travel insurance if you are symptomatic. Depending on the location, this may occur on ship or at a medical facility within the port country. Anyone experiencing symptoms should NOT board the ship if they are off ship when the symptoms develop.
If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they will be administered two PCR tests to confirm the diagnosis. Close contacts of the individual will also be tested for symptoms and may be quarantined, dependent upon the individual country rules and regulations. 
COVID-19 positive passengers will be quarantined as required by the host country. In some countries, this may require isolation in a medical facility. In others, it may simply require a hotel stay. Semester at Sea staff will remain in-country with any quarantined individuals to monitor their health and well-being, arrange transportation to the next port, and facilitate academic learning while isolated. 
If the individual is being medically treated for COVID-19, the CISI insurance that is included in all participant program fees will cover all costs.  If the quarantine period in a hotel or quarantine facility is required for COVID-19 treatment, CISI insurance will cover up to $2000 USD, or 10 days maximum of accommodation and meal costs. 
If an individual must quarantine for a period of time as close contact or as a result of testing positive but does not need any medical treatment, this is also covered by the quarantine insurance as long as it is mandated by a government/public health official.

Is there a scenario in which the entire ship may be quarantined?

Yes. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 while on-board, it is possible that the entire ship will need to be quarantined until the outbreak is controlled. A quarantined ship typically means that the ship is alongside at a port and all passengers are required to stay in their cabins. Should this occur, academic coursework will continue. In addition, our student life team has robust plans for entertainment, education and mental health interventions in order to minimize disruptions.

What kind of medical treatment is available on-ship for COVID-19 positive passengers?

Our team of physicians and medical providers are equipped to provide support services to any sick passenger. This includes care for nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Our team also has access to pharmaceutical interventions, antibiotics, and supplemental oxygen. 

Any passenger needing additional medical support will be transported to an in-country hospital for services. Our itinerary has been carefully crafted to ensure the availability of appropriate medical services.

Will future voyages still happen if travel advisories remain in place?

Determining overall voyage viability and which countries we will call on is a complex process involving many internal and external stakeholders. All itineraries are carefully assessed and each destination (and back-up diversion ports) must meet our health, safety and security criteria. Travel advisories are one component of the assessment criteria; however, a given rating does not automatically approve or deny a specific destination.

How are you handling future itinerary planning?

There are many factors we consider with itinerary planning — the health and safety of our voyagers, our crew, faculty and staff and the people of our host destinations being the utmost priority. We will adhere to, or be better than, CDC and WHO regulations and will call on countries that are compliant with these regulations and/or will accept our regulations and practice. While we can’t predict the future, we can (and will!) put plans in place that allow us to be flexible and adapt as our world changes. Published itineraries have always been subject to changes but in the COVID world, voyagers should assume changes will happen.

The benefit of ship-based travel allows for real-time itinerary adjustments. If a port of call does not meet our high standards for health and safety, then we won’t go and we will call on an alternate port that does. It’s as simple as that. Our health and safety criteria are informed by the U.S. Department of State, our private intelligence and security partner, our insurance providers, our medical staff, and our local partners on the ground in each port of call. Every voyage itinerary is planned with alternate back-up-ports in mind in case we need to divert.

COVID-19 isn’t going away… how can I be sure future voyages will be safe?

It will take time for the world to continue adapting to our new reality of living with COVID-19 and for the best practices for preventing and treating the disease to be refined. This is one reason why Semester at Sea has chosen to cancel two voyages. Our staff will be planning and bench-marking off of best practices identified in higher education, the travel industry as a whole, and the cruise industry specifically. Semester at Sea is uniquely situated as a member of each of these industries and relies on expertise from each of them to help guide our health and safety decision-making.

During the voyage, all public areas and surfaces will be disinfected multiple times a day by our dedicated crew.

In August 2021, the World Odyssey ventilation systems were upgraded to allow constant fresh air exchange, minimizing recirculated air.  Air filters were also installed to increase filtration of airborne particles, including viruses and bacteria.

As a ship-based program, Semester at Sea is accountable to full compliance with all policies and guidelines set forth by the International Maritime Organization. By the time subsequent voyages sail, we anticipate ship-based travel will be well underway worldwide and best practices for preventing and responding to COVID-19 will be more fine-tuned with practices that are proven effective. 

How do we anticipate future voyages will look different?

While we can’t predict the trajectory of this pandemic nor how the science will evolve to inform decision-making, we can all assume that the next SAS voyages will look different than past voyages.

Even in the presence vaccines, we are planning for the following:

The capacity of the ship will be reduced to a smaller number than normal to allow for appropriate social distancing.
Social distancing will be very important at all times when on the ship so capacity in all public spaces and rooms will be reduced to allow for a minimum of 1.5 meters/5 feet of social distancing.
Masks will be mandatory when not outside on the decks, in your cabin, or eating in the restaurants.
There will be required and ongoing education and training of all crew and passengers regarding signs and symptoms of significant illnesses, reporting them in a timely manner, and how to prevent and reduce the spread of illness.
Dining hall tables will be spaced for proper social distancing and meal seating times may be assigned to voyagers.
The MV World Odyssey has ample outdoor dining options which will be utilized as much as possible. 
Public areas and cabins will have continuous fresh air exchange and a Merv 13 filtration system will be installed.
Field Programs and Field Classes will be carefully planned with approved Tour Operators to ensure safe protocols are in place in each port including hygiene, mask wearing, social distancing and venue/activity planning.
The potential for modifications to the program structure to allow for more effective contact tracing and exposure management.

As evidenced by our decision to cancel two voyages, ISE is committed to running a program that exceeds health and safety standards and stays true to our mission. SAS will sail again. It will look different (just as everything in our lives is now looking different), but it will still be the transformative adventure of a lifetime. Semester at Sea is committed to remaining the leader in comparative, international experiential travel.

How will in-country travel and Field Programs be affected?

We expect independent travel in most countries will be permitted. We also reasonably expect that some countries may welcome us to disembark and explore, but only on organized SAS Field Programs or Field Classes.

Semester at Sea is monitoring all countries on the itinerary and the Voyage Leadership team will keep you informed as to the specific rules and requirements in each port country. Field Programs and Field Classes will be carefully planned with approved tour operators to ensure safe protocols are in place in each port including hygiene, mask wearing, social distancing, and venue/activity planning.

What if a Semester at Sea voyage is canceled at any point prior to embarkation?

If a Semester at Sea voyage is cancelled prior to embarkation, all participants will receive a full refund of all program fees paid to the Institute for Shipboard Education.  Note: Application Fees are not refundable.  However, students and Lifelong Learners may transfer to a future voyage, pending cabin availability, at no additional cost. All other external expenses related to international travel such as passport and visa fees, immunizations, and flights are not included in our refund policy. Participants should consider refundable airfare. 

Review the full cancellation and refund policy (section 3c) of the Participant Contract here. 

What if a Semester at Sea voyage itinerary is modified due to COVID-19 or any other reason?

If a port diversion is needed for any reason during an active Semester at Sea voyage, every effort is made to replace a missed port with the Diversion Ports listed under each voyage on our website. Program Fees are not refunded in the case of an itinerary adjustment. Any in-country travel booked through Semester at Sea will be fully refunded. In-port excursions and flights purchased through third-party providers are not refundable through Semester at Sea; participants should consider travel insurance.

Review the full cancellation and refund policy (section 3c) of the Participant Contract here. 

Will testing be available on board the ship?

Rapid Antigen and PCR testing capabilities are available on-ship. Antigen testing of all voyagers will occur on a regular basis. If someone tests positive, then a PCR test will be administered. If the initial PCR test is positive, then a second PCR test will be administered. If the second test is also positive, then the individual will be quarantined until the infection passes and a negative test result is obtained.

All participants will be charged a $270 Covid Testing Convenience fee that will be charged in three $90 installments throughout the course of the voyage. This fee will cover all testing on the ship and to disembark in each port from the point of embarkation through disembarkation from the voyage. Any testing to fly to the port or fly to your home country after the voyage will be the responsibility of the participant. If a participant needs to get a COVID test while on land because they are symptomatic, this will be covered by your CISI travel insurance.

How will the medical screening process work in the future? What if I’m at high risk for severe illness from COVID?

All voyagers must visit their primary care physician and complete a health history form within six months of embarkation. Each health history form is reviewed by our medical staff on an individual and confidential basis and follow-ups are conducted as required.

Beginning with the Fall 2021 Voyage, proof of Covid-19 vaccination is now a sailing requirement. See the Vaccination section of the FAQ for more information.

Acceptance to sail with Semester at Sea is made on an individual, case-by-case basis. ISE does reserve the right to deny participation to any individual deemed too high-risk to sail for their own good or the good of the shipboard community.

Individuals in COVID-19 high-risk categories (such as age 70 or older, immunocompromised, or those with chronic diseases such as heart, lung, liver, or kidney disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer) are encouraged to apply for future voyages. These individuals, however, will require a higher level of screening by our medical team and will need current documentation from their private physician regarding their ability to travel.

During the voyage, all participants should anticipate additional and frequent screenings and testing according to the best practices for prevention and treatment available at the time.  

Can we/will we test every participant before they get on the ship?

The MV World Odyssey will have COVID-19 testing capabilities on the ship, and all voyagers and crew will be tested prior to boarding and multiple times throughout the voyage.

In addition, all voyagers and crew will have their temperature taken every day while at sea and all individuals boarding the ship, including passengers, crew, vendors, immigration officials, etc. will be screened for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (or other infectious diseases) and have their temperature taken upon boarding.

SAS will continue to monitor this evolution and adapt the program accordingly as required (without compromising our commitment to our mission!)

What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19?

While vaccinations can prevent severe disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. Considering this, and the evolution of virus variants, it is still possible for vaccinated participants to test positive for COVID-19 during their voyage. Voyagers should plan and adjust their expectations knowing there is the possibility, though much less likely post-vaccine, that they could have to self-isolate or quarantine either on the ship or in port. 

We currently have allocated nine cabins onboard reserved exclusively for the purpose of self-isolation/quarantine if needed. The cruise industry will be subject to specific protocols for how all ships must handle positive cases. We anticipate these protocols will mirror the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, but could be more conservative given the nature of ship-based travel. As CDC and cruise industry regulations become available, Semester at Sea must be in 100% compliance with those regulations and we will share updated policies and procedures with voyage participants.

If a COVID-19 positive voyager is required to self-isolate or quarantine, either on the ship or in port, Semester at Sea will ensure the voyager is well-cared for. Voyagers will be monitored and supported by our shipboard medical team throughout their diagnosis and recovery. We will also have dedicated staff to support the voyager including helping them to remain connected to the program (coursework, extracurricular programming, etc.) and facilitating reunification with the shipboard community.  Specific arrangements with each port will be secured ahead of time so a plan for shore-based treatment, recovery and repatriation home (or return to the ship) will be well known to the captain and crew in advance if required.

Semester at Sea has been managing student health situations for more than 59 years. We have carefully designed our itinerary to ensure access to medical services. Our partnership with AXA Travel Insurance provides for the care of sick or injured students in-country and their return home or their return to the ship, when the time is right.

Are there medical facilities in each port that can treat COVID-19 should I acquire it during the voyage?

Through our contract with CISI (Cultural Insurance Services International), Semester at Sea receives medical capability briefings for each country prior to arrival from AXA Assistance. These briefings provide lists of preferred medical facilities that indicate they have been vetted by their local representatives to provide quality and reliable care. These preferred facilities also have an established direct-bill arrangement with AXA to assist with prompt care and logistical response.

In the event that on-site medical care does not meet the needs of an individual (related to COVID-19 or otherwise), AXA would coordinate a transfer to another facility that can meet the needs.

What if passengers are required to quarantine during the voyage?

If a COVID-19 positive voyager is required to self-isolate or quarantine, Semester at Sea will ensure the voyager is well-cared for. Voyagers will be monitored and supported by our shipboard medical team throughout their recovery. We also have dedicated staff to support the voyager to ensure they remain connected to the program (coursework, extracurricular programming, etc.) and are reunified with the shipboard community.  Specific arrangements with each port will be secured ahead of time for shore-based treatment, recovery, and return to the ship (or, if needed, repatriation back home).

Why is Semester at Sea traveling to level 3 and 4 State Department countries? Will SAS divert if they stay Level 3 and 4?

All countries on all SAS voyages must pass a health, safety, and security assessment (both at the time of itinerary planning as well as closer to the ship’s arrival.)  

Prior to arrival in each country, ISE administrators consolidate all updated health, safety and security briefings and recommendations obtained from various resources including but not limited to: U.S. State Department, World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and their contracted intelligence and medical partners. This “just-in-time” updated information is used to make decisions and is provided to the Voyage Leadership Team to share with the shipboard community. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our team is also carefully observing vaccination and infection rates of countries on our planned itinerary. A level 3 or 4 warning issued by the U.S. State Department due to the prevalence of COVID-19 may not preclude a voyage from visiting a particular country, as our entire ship is vaccinated against the virus.

Health and safety information is shared in presentation format during a mandatory “Pre-Port” meeting and key information is provided in writing on the “Green Sheet” (emergency contact information, key reminders, logistical information about ship’s location, etc.).  These essential community-wide meetings provide voyagers with specific details about the health, safety and security risks and any specific Semester at Sea policies or expectations related to the upcoming destination. 

Prior to embarkation voyagers are provided an “in-country planning guide” and are encouraged to arrive at the ship with a rough plan for each country. Once onboard, Student Life staff encourage students to share their plans and host programs that help connect like-minded voyagers.