Semester at Sea is leading the study abroad world in our return to safe, meaningful travel. Our team and ship crew successfully navigated sailing the Spring 2022 voyage, and we look forward to Fall 2022 and Spring 2023. All voyagers and crew are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Additional details are available below in the FAQ.
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, European Medicines Agency, 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.
COVID-19 and Voyage Prep FAQs
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?
Yes! Independent travel is a key component of the Semester at Sea experience. Our team has carefully selected countries and port experiences that will allow participants to study, travel, and explore independently.
What happens if a voyager tests positive for COVID-19 while on board the ship?
Protocols are constantly changing as the world emerges post-pandemic. We understand from our ship management team and in-country partners that routine testing for COVID-19 will not be required to board the ship or enter a country during the Fall 2022 or Spring 2023 voyages.
If an individual is symptomatic, our health team will administer appropriate tests (COVID-19, influenza, strep, etc.) If a voyager needs to be isolated, we have isolation/quarantine cabins available. Our on-ship medical team will provide frequent evaluation and interventions as necessary.
Is there a scenario in which the entire ship may be quarantined?
Yes. If there is a severe outbreak of COVID-19 or other contagious virus 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 in port and all participants are required to stay in their cabins. This has always been a possibility with infections like influenza, but has only happened in very rare instances in our over 50 year history.
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 a COVID-19 vaccine be required on Semester at Sea voyages? What if I’ve already recovered from COVID-19?
All voyagers (students, Lifelong Learners, faculty, staff, and crew) are required to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This requirement is in place to help protect our shipboard community, and the residents of the countries we visit and to help lay the foundation for a successful voyage.
This policy is currently in place for all future voyages and there are no exceptions to this policy. You must be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. View CDC Frequently Asked Vaccine Questions here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html
Which vaccine should I get?
All participants on upcoming voyages will need documentation indicating they have received the recommended dose (or dosages) and any recommended boosters of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or the European Medicines Agency (EMA). If voyagers do not have access to a FDA or EMA-approved vaccine and/or boosters, our Medical Team will review alternate vaccines on a case-by-case basis.
Semester at Sea is not requiring or recommending a specific vaccine (e.g. Johnson & Johnson vs. Moderna vs. Pfizer-BioNTech, etc.). The current recommendation is to get any one of the approved vaccines as soon as you are able.
Travel and Itinerary Planning
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.
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.
Health & Safety Procedures
Will masks be required on future voyages?
At this time our ship management company, international guidelines, and cruise line practices do not suggest that masks will be required during the Fall 2022 or Spring 2023 voyages.
We follow guidance from many agencies and currently we do not anticipate mask-wearing will be mandatory anywhere on board the MV World Odyssey.
Will testing be available on board the ship?
Rapid Antigen and PCR testing capabilities are available on-ship. While we do not anticipate routine screening of all passengers, individuals who are symptomatic may request a free Rapid Antigen test in the medical clinic during normal clinic hours.
All Fall 2022 voyagers will be charged a $90 COVID-19 convenience fee to cover additional healthcare staff and complimentary COVID-19 testing costs.
What are the medical services and capabilities like on the ship?
Trained Medical Staff
One of the great parts about studying abroad with Semester at Sea is that you travel with a team of U.S. licensed health professionals ready to support you 24/7 no matter where you are in the world.
We have increased the number of medical personnel on this voyage to include one physician, one nurse practitioner, one physician assistant and three mental health counselors. Each day our on-ship Medical Clinic holds open hours to see and treat voyagers.
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 in the United States or Europe. 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 and participants are instructed to bring ample supplies of their 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 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.
In cases requiring advanced and/or emergent medical attention, the onboard health team works closely with our international crisis management partners to determine the most viable course of action (including helicopter evacuation).
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?
At this time, we do not anticipate routine screening or testing of all participants for COVID-19 infections. Individuals who are experiencing symptoms may request a test in our medical clinic. Typically when a voyager is ill, our medical team will screen for influenza, strep throat, and COVID-19.
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 do not yet have specific details to share regarding shipboard and/or in-port isolation and quarantine policies as the science and data evolves, so do the projected COVID-19 cruise ship policies. 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 57 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. Students may opt for additional insurance protection through Semester at Sea that refunds 75% of program fees and tuition if they are advised to medically withdraw from the program. More information about these insurance products will be available as the voyage approaches.
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).
Does Semester at Sea provide travel insurance?
All voyagers are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy provided by Semester at Sea. This policy provides for medical treatment in the port countries, including treatment for COVID-19. Coverage includes doctors visits, medication, hospitalization and medical evacuation.
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.
Examples of initial enhanced COVID-19 preventative protocols (on top of routine best practices) include:
* Future voyage protocols may vary, depending on the state of the virus (and any other public health concerns).