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Health & Safety While in Port

While not at sea, voyagers participate in a combination of Semester at Sea-sponsored Field Classes and Field Programs, and personal exploration. See additional information on in-country travel here.

SAS Planning and Country Vetting

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” (see example here) 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.

Semester at Sea-Sponsored Field Experiences

Participant health and safety is the number one priority on all Semester at Sea-organized Field Classes and Field Programs. Some key preventative measures include:

  • Contracted Tour Operators / Vendors/ Partners: All Semester at Sea programs utilize contracted and insured local partners who have been vetted and demonstrate a commitment to health and safety and proven track-record. These contracted partners meet minimum insurance requirements, guide training expectations and emergency response preparedness. Partners undergo a thorough inspection and on-site re-evaluation every three years (or sooner).
  • Contracted partners are responsible for the ongoing assessment of their transportation providers. Vehicles are expected to be routinely inspected and guides/ drivers are expected to have all relevant certifications and licenses.
  • Food and Water: All Semester at Sea programs provide access to clean drinking water and food prepared in trusted locations. While not every destination is able to meet each unique dietary restriction, most providers are accustomed to these requests and make every effort to help meet our needs.
  • Faculty & Staff involvement: Each Semester at Sea-designed program has at least one faculty or staff member serving in a leadership role. This person has access to all of the ship’s on-call resources should unforeseen events occur. Faculty and staff are not expected to be experts in each destination or itinerary (this is the local guide’s role), but rather serve a liaison and group manager.

Voyagers planning their own travel outside of Field Classes and Field Programs are expected to review all policies and expectations outlined here. Specifically, do not purchase or agree to participate in experiences (especially those promising free alcohol) where you are being aggressively recruited (usually via social media). Regardless of whether it is an organized company, a fellow voyager, a SAS alumnus, or another party, these types of experiences are not safe and have harmed previous voyagers. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. 

Specific policies and guidelines for planning your own travel in port are emailed to confirmed voyagers approximately four months before embarkation.

Health and Safety Considerations in Port

Some areas visited by Semester at Sea can pose some risks for malaria, yellow fever, and/or other infectious diseases. Semester at Sea recommends voyagers consult personal health care physicians and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding specific health conditions and vaccination requirements or recommendations specific to the countries (and regions) you plan to visit. Yellow fever inoculation is sometimes required for entry into some destinations. Malaria is endemic in many areas visited on Semester at Sea, though potential exposure will vary for each participant depending upon individual travel plans. New immunization requirements may be imposed at any time by the governments of the countries on our itinerary. Semester at Sea cannot provide medical advice regarding the prescription of inoculations and cannot be held responsible for unannounced health requirement changes.

Voyagers with serious known medical conditions, such as asthma or anaphylaxis, have an increased need to create a plan with their physician in advance of the voyage to address the limited availability of resources and immediate emergency medical response in some locations.

Emergency medical evacuations are available in all ports of call, however, in more remote areas of any country, medical attention and evacuations may be unavailable or not close-by. The quality of medical care and emergency response transport may not be at the same standard as your home country. Additionally, in remote areas of any country, cell phone service and internet may be inconsistent or unavailable. Semester at Sea provides information about medical capabilities in each country within the MyVoyage portal accessible during the preparatory phase. While on the ship, health and safety information can also be accessed through the ship’s intranet, “Homeport”.

Staying in Touch


Semester at Sea partners with SAFEY to provide access to a communication app. This app allows for Semester at Sea administrators to push emergent messages and notification out to all voyagers, as well as allows participants to:

  • Receive alerts and text messages regarding any high-level threats or security events currently happening in while in-country, and advice on what to do.
  • Call or send an SOS to a Semester at Sea administrators’ emergency number, showing your exact location.
  • Share your exact location with anyone you want.
  • Contact local police, ambulance services, or Semester at Sea administrators, from any country in the world.
  • Allow Semester at Sea to locate voyagers during an emergency and communicate directly with them via phone or text.

Instructions for how to download the app and device and settings requirements are provided to confirmed voyagers closer to embarkation.

Accessing the Ship

Voyagers are welcome to use the ship as a floating hotel as their home base (but are not required to.) The ship maintains tight security while in port. Much like undergoing a series of essential security checkpoints before boarding an international flight, Semester at Sea promotes a multi-level security plan to make certain that only our participants and registered guests gain access to our ship. To enter or exit the ship, all participants must scan their voyage ID and pass through a metal detector staffed by the ship’s officers and crew. Unauthorized persons are not allowed access to the ship. Personal belongings are searched and/or scanned by x-ray whenever participants enter the ship. Any prohibited items are confiscated at this time. (See list of prohibited items in the Voyager’s Handbook.) At the port/pier, Semester at Sea has a contractual agreement with each country’s port agent to provide security at the port entrance and to patrol the pier area where the ship is docked. Semester at Sea crew provide 24/7 security on the ship itself.

If the ship is located at a berth that is not in a pedestrian-friendly area, Semester at Sea works with the port agents and tour operators to coordinate shuttle service.