The health and safety of our voyagers and crew are the most important considerations on any Semester at Sea voyage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continually monitoring and adjusting our protocols to comply with best practice guidelines and recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, U.S. State Department, International Maritime Organization and the Cruise Line Industry Association. Guidelines and recommendations are continually evolving as the science and knowledge base grows. ISE will continue to adapt and adhere to all applicable policies and regulations as they are solidified and post updates here. Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic and the global response, all information provided here is subject to change.
Specific medical questions should be directed to: email@example.com More general health and safety or operational questions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or ProgramAdministration@isevoyages.org.
Fall 2020 has been canceled. Read the full update here.
The Spring 20201 voyage is still scheduled to run as posted. However, given the dynamic nature of the global response to the pandemic, all voyagers should be prepared to be flexible and expect changes. We feel confident and optimistic that Spring 2021 will run, largely in part because traveling by ship allows for the ability to make realtime changes, and it gives us the opportunity to be agile and quickly adapt to new information as it arises. In the event that a port currently on our posted itinerary does not meet our health, safety, and logistical requirements, an alternate port that does meet our criteria would be substituted. For SP21, likely contingency ports include: Callao, Peru; Panama City, Panama; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Willemstad, Curacao; St Georges, Grenada; Paramaribo, Suriname; Las Palmas, Canary Islands; Cadiz, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal. These contingency ports are also always subject to change at any time if they do not meet our requirements and other ports not listed here are also possible substitutions.
Communication sent May 14, 2020:
We want to reassure you that our Spring 2021 Voyage itinerary, embarkation and disembarkation dates remain the same. Although all upcoming itineraries are always subject to change as a result of a multitude of factors including health, safety, weather, security, and port availability, we have no plans at this time to change the current Spring 2021 itinerary. We will continue to update all voyagers via email with any new information as it becomes available.
Communication sent April 28, 2020:
The health and safety of our voyagers and crew is and has always been our #1 priority. With the uncertainty in the world regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have consulted with our global health and safety advisors and determined that the best course of action will be to revise both our Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Voyage itineraries. See the Spring 2021 Itinerary Announcement here.
The U.S. Department of State currently has a Level 4 Global Health Advisory: Do Not Travel. Will future voyages still happen despite this advisory?
As is always our policy, the Semester at Sea program will not travel to any country that has a Level 3 or higher classification as identified by the U.S. Department of State. So, as long as there is a Level 4 Global Advisory, voyages will not run. Our operations team is monitoring all advisories on an ongoing basis.
What happens if things get worse globally or the severely impacted regions change?
What guidelines/resources does your staff reference when developing itineraries in consideration of the COVID-19 Pandemic?
We will adhere to or be better than CDC and WHO regulations, etc. and also choose itineraries that have countries that are compliant with these regulations and/or will accept our regulations and practice. Our itineraries will be designed with back-up country options to call on if regulations should change and we have to make a diversion.
How are we handling COVID-19 prevention on-ship and in-country?
As we implemented during the Spring 2020 voyages, during times of increased sanitation recommendations, the crew will enact International Maritime Organization (IMO) sanitation level 2 protocol procedures which include:
- Increased sanitizing of all surfaces in public areas
- More frequent replacement of buffet utensils
- Required hand sanitizer usage of voyagers embarking and disembarking the ship
- Additional health screening upon embarkation (temperature screenings)
It is likely similar protocols will be in effect in the future. The MV World Odyssey will be in compliance with all rules and regulations set forth by the International Maritime Organization.
What are our protocols/resources for managing participants who may develop respiratory issues during the voyage?
The clinic aboard the MV World Odyssey is staffed with U.S. licensed health professionals and is equipped to handle common emergencies, urgent cases, & provide short-term follow-up for exacerbation of chronic conditions. The facility is most consistent with that of an urgent care clinic. We are capable of stabilizing voyagers with severe respiratory distress, including that seen with COVID-19. This includes oxygenation, intubation, and ventilation with a transport ventilator before an emergency evacuation is commenced.
The clinic is not established to take the place of a primary care provider & participants are instructed to bring ample supplies of the home medications with instructions for appropriate use for the entire voyage. If evolving medical conditions cannot be adequately addressed at the clinic, we work with numerous health care partners to meet the medical needs of the voyager in port. Occasionally, there are emergent needs that require a voyager to return home for additional medical care to ensure their safe recovery.
Does the ship have a ventilator on board?
Yes, the ship is equipped with a transport ventilator.
What is your process for managing a respiratory crisis?
We are capable of stabilizing voyagers with severe respiratory distress, including that seen with COVID-19. This includes providing oxygen, intubation, and ventilation with a transport ventilator until an emergency evacuation is commenced.
What is the pre-voyage screening process?
A medical health history form is required and reviewed by your voyage health team. A visit with your health care provider is required within 6 months of embarkation. The voyage physician will have final say as to whether a voyager is cleared to sail or not. In addition to the voyage MD, the review team consists of two counselors and a nurse who will review each health history form case by case.
As we learn more about the COVID-19 virus and as scientists develop recommended testing and therapies, we will update this website accordingly.
Will we prohibit voyage participation for those with high risk potential for experiencing complications from COVID-19?
There will be additional screening and documentation requests during the medical history review process. Keeping all voyagers safe and healthy is an absolute priority. We will continue to examine and update our process to reflect the most recent recommendations for safe travel.
Will we deny boarding to those individuals considered by the CDC at high risk for experiencing complications from COVID-19?
No, at this time 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.
However, they will require a higher level of screening by our medical team and will need current documentation from their private physician regarding their fitness to travel. Acceptance to sail with Semester at Sea is made on an individual, case-by-case basis. We will continue to update our policies and screening procedures regarding this as the scientific knowledge base evolves.
ISE does reserve the right to deny boarding to any individual we deem too high-risk to sail for their own good or the good of the shipboard community.
Can we test every participant before they get on the ship?
At this moment, a rapid point-of-care test for COVID-19 has not been developed that is reliable and commercially available. However, the science for this is rapidly changing. It is our hope that soon a test will be available to screen for either current infection or antibody to the virus, which would imply immunity.
Per the current recommendations, as voyagers embark, we will screen for elevated temperatures, symptoms, and recent high-risk exposure.
What is the ship’s medical clinic like? Can they manage emergencies well?
The clinic aboard the MV World Odyssey is most consistent with an urgent care clinic in the United States. The clinic is equipped and the staff is trained to handle common emergencies, including severe respiratory distress as can be seen with COVID-19.
While sailing, the clinic is staffed by two MDs, two nurses, and two additional high-level medical providers (MD, DO, PA, or NP). There is a provider call system in place, so help is always available.
In cases requiring advanced medical attention, the onboard health team works closely with our international crisis management partners to determine the most viable course of action.
Will quarantine measures still be in place each time we arrive in a country?
We anticipate they will not be as long as we remain free of significant infectious diseases before arrival. However, if a voyager acquires COVID-19 during the voyage, then recent experience tells us that, depending on the circumstances, the entire ship is likely to be quarantined.
Does sea time count as quarantine time?
Should a voyager become ill and require quarantine, this can be done while at sea or in port. We expect this to be the same should a passenger acquire COVID-19 during the voyage. However, each country has its own specific guidelines regarding COVID-19, and we must respect them. We plan to convey updated information as we learn more.
What is the capacity on the ship for isolating multiple voyagers who may be sick?
Besides the isolation room in the medical clinic, the ship has the capability to use individual cabins when necessary to isolate multiple voyagers.
Is there adequate personal protective equipment on board?
Yes, we can assure there are more than adequate resources to respond to emergencies, including COVID-19, for extended periods of time at sea.
Will the Semester at Sea medical and travel insurance carrier cover medical costs related to COVID-19?
Yes. Treatment for pandemic-related illness is covered on the medical side (doctor visits, medication, hospitalization, medical evacuation, etc.)
The policy Semester at Sea provides through Cultural Insurance Services International has two components: medical and security. While services deemed medically-necessary ARE covered, security evacuation for fear of catching a pandemic/epidemic illness is NOT covered. This is not a covered occurrence under the benefit due to the exclusion for endemic or epidemic diseases or global pandemic disease (this is not just this case for this policy — most insurance carriers do not consider it something that is insurable, at least not at this time.)
Voyagers are encouraged to read the full policy and consider purchasing additional coverage for items not included (for example, trip interruption/ cancellation if desired.)
Will the provided travel insurance pay if I have to go home mid-voyage?
As stated in the previous answer, treatment for pandemic-related illness is covered. If the attending physician, in coordination with AXA Assistance’s Medical Team, feels that a medical repatriation is medically necessary, then the repatriation can be covered up to the policy limit and according to the policy’s wording.
Will the provided travel insurance pay for Covid testing?
The provided travel insurance will cover Covid-19 testing as long as the individual being tested is experiencing symptoms or has been exposed to someone with Covid-19. There is no limit on the number of times someone can be tested (as long as they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.)
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.
Examples of initial enhanced COVID-19 preventative protocols (on top of routine best practices) include:
*These are examples from the Spring 2020 semester. Future voyage protocols are likely to be the same, or different, depending on the state of the virus (and any other public health concerns).