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Voyage 132: Navigating the Unexpected

Voyage 132 of Semester at Sea has been a journey marked by unpredictability from the beginning. Before our ship even departed from Antwerp, Belgium en route to Morocco, a devastating earthquake shook the country. While acknowledging the profound impact on the Moroccan community, it sparked immediate conversations aboard our ship regarding the safety of our planned visit. Questions arose: What would be the impact of our visit after the devastation?

After a few days of uncertainty, an announcement over the ship’s PA system echoed through the corridors, summoning all voyagers to the Union for a crucial update to our voyage itinerary. Speculation ran high, with some anticipating a diversion to Portugal, one of our designated official diversion ports. However, to our surprise, we were changing course and were detouring to Máalaga, Spain.

In the ensuing 24 hours, sleep eluded everyone as library computers buzzed with activity day and night. Students huddled, crafting new plans, forming fresh groups, and researching our unexpected destination. Amidst the chaos, the new port injected a thrilling energy into our lives.

For five days in port, I explored a foreign country with newfound friends, reveling in the spontaneity of travel. In Málaga, I embarked on a journey to Mallorca, Spain, with a new friend who quickly became my closest companion throughout the voyage. Subsequently, I flew to Porto, Portugal, spending a few nights connecting with a larger group that would evolve into great friends. Without this diversion, my entire Semester at Sea experience would have taken a radically different turn, altering the relationships and adventures that defined this leg of my academic journey.

Fall 2023 Diversion Port: Málaga, Spain (Photo by Addy Holmes, FA23 Videographer)

Similarly, as tensions heightened with the conflict between Israel and Palestine, questions emerged about our next port following Greece—would it still be Jordan? The answer came through another ship-wide announcement, redirecting us to Oman. Departing from Greece, rumors circulated about further escalations. Just days before entering the Suez Canal, a decisive 180-degree turn was made, steering us on the timeless route around the southern tip of Africa.

Without a finalized plan for our next ports or duration, we set sail westward through the Mediterranean. Eventually, a new itinerary emerged, leading us to Gibraltar, the Canary Islands, South Africa, and Mauritius before rejoining our original schedule in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Unfortunately, this change meant forgoing our ports in Oman, UAE, and India. While some were disappointed by the exclusion of the Middle East, a different perspective revealed the opportunity to explore beautiful island nations and South Africa—an adventure that would become my favorite port.

Semester at Sea voyagers on a field class in Capetown, South Africa

Navigating this especially uncertain Semester at Sea journey required adaptability from the voyagers of the MV World Odyssey, reminding us of the important lesson that in life, opportunities often conceal themselves as challenges.

As the MV World Odyssey charts its course toward Malaysia, the voyage nears its conclusion. Despite the challenges and uncertainty, I could not have asked for a more enriching voyage experience. While I may have missed out on some planned experiences with the changes in itinerary, I discovered unforeseen opportunities that have made this journey truly unforgettable.

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