Semester at Sea: Study Around the World
98% Rating
(146 Reviews)

Semester at Sea: Study Around the World

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Explore multiple countries around the world while earning up to 15 credits! Each voyage varies in it's destinations, but will definitely provide a wide range of cultures and countries to see. Check the SAS website for lists of past trips and plans for the future ones. Hope you have your sea legs ready!

Fall 2018 Semester Voyage

  • Dates: September 9, 2018 - December 23, 2018
  • 107 Days, 11 Countries, 13 Cities, 4 Continents

Destinations: Germany, Spain, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam, China, Japan, (Hawaii) United States

Spring 2019 Semester Voyage

  • Dates: January 5, 2019 - April 19, 2019
  • 102 Days, 11 Countries, 15 Cities, 4 Continents

Destinations: (Hawaii) United States, Japan, China, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, Germany

Fall 2019 Semester Voyage

  • Dates: September 9, 2019 - December 23, 2019
  • 106 Days, 11 Countries, 12 Cities, 4 Continents

Destinations: Poland, Kiel Canal Transit, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Morocco, Ghana, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama Canal Transit, Ecuador, Costa Rica, (California) United States

Cape Town
Ho Chi Minh City
Program Type
Subject Areas
Art History
Creative Writing
Cultural Studies
English Literature
International Business
Liberal Arts
Marine Biology
Women's Studies
Some Activities
Online Application
Price Details
Our program fees include up to 15 academic credits, housing, buffet style meals, medical insurance, one in-port field trip for each course, and a full-time shipboard residential and student services team. We have full scholarships, service and journalism fellowships, need and merit grants, and skill based work study financial aid awards available. We award $4 million in financial aid each year!

Questions & Answers

As long as you were enrolled as a full-time student the semester immediately before your voyage, and you have proof of admission to the university you are transferring to (such as an admission letter) after your voyage, then you should be all set!
Unfortunately, you'll have to wait until you're enrolled at an accredited university / college. Hope that helps!
Yes there are options for people with specific dietary restrictions. I had a friend who had some and you just need to let them know before you begin (you can call the ISE/SAS office too). The chefs work with you to determine your needs. Since the ship picks up food along the way, they do their best to accommodate with what they have. Just know going into it that you may be eating a lot of the same...
All courses are taught in English. To help prepare you for in-port experiences, SAS will give you a cheat sheet of common phrases for the local language in each country. Additionally, sometimes brief language sessions are taught by visiting lecturers prior to arrival in each country.

Program Reviews

based on 146 reviews
  • Academics 7.9
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.2
  • Housing 9.6
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 61 - 75 of 146
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A taste of the world in 4 months

This program was a great introduction to international travel and a nice way to get a taste of many different locations. While moving around so much meant that we didn't get to fully immerse ourselves in every country, it was amazing what we were able to learn and experience in just 2-5 days in each place. The stability the ship offered meant consistent food (without food poisoning and taking into account food allergies), small but comfortable, clean living spaces, and medical care regardless of which country we were in. Also, pre-ports and other optional lectures were an incredible, invaluable way to learn about each country before arrival.

Some things to beware of:
-Minimal connectivity to home (just emails while on the ship) and it's very difficult for family/friends to visit because we move around so much. This made relationships challenging, though not impossible.
-There are few, if any, alone times or places to escape on the ship. This made me stir crazy and gave me "cabin fever", especially during long stretches at sea.
-The gym on the ship is not great for cardio lovers.
-Be sure to have extra funding. There were several unexpected charges that came up mid-voyage that threw off my careful budgeting.

How can this program be improved?

-Better study spaces.
-Upgraded gym, esp. more treadmills.
-More choices of low cost field programs.
-Fewer unexpected charges mid-voyage.

Yes, I recommend
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The most impactful experience of my life

I've been staring at this box for an hour, trying to think of the best way to put my experience into words. Let's start at the beginning:

In college, I'd wanted to travel abroad for years, but never had the finances or fluency in a necessary language or credit match to make it worthwhile. Senior year rolled around, and I was 9 credits shy of finishing a second degree, so I figured I'd stick around for a summer session after my final semester and knock it out. As fate should have it, I sat down in a lecture and a poster on the wall caught my eye: Semester at Sea.

To this day, I remember texting my Mom after class and asking if she had heard about Semester at Sea. I certainly hadn't heard of it. She exclaimed that she had, and nearly got into the program in college herself. So I did some research and was blown away by the experience offered by the Institute of Shipboard Education. Digging deeper, I realized that Semester at Sea offered a ton of financial aid and scholarship opportunities and did have classes that would align with the credits I needed to finish my degree. (At this point, it's important to note that I jumped into the Semester at Sea program VERY last-minute, so I'd suggest not waiting until your final year in college to start researching...)

After making sure everything checked out financially and academically, I did a massive pile of paperwork to apply for a position in the program, as well as for scholarships and aid to make it more affordable. Luckily, I was granted a position on the Summer 2011 voyage around the Mediterranean, and even more luckily, granted a work study position as the Communications Coordinator's assistant, as well as a small scholarship.

Enough about my good fortune, though. I had never traveled outside North America, so I was giddy with the opportunity to finish my college education on this "floating campus," as they dubbed the MV Explorer.

I still remember the anticipation of boarding the ship. The nervous energy around arriving in Nassau, Bahamas (where we boarded) and seeing hundreds of unfamiliar faces who I'd eventually get to know as well as lifelong friends from home.

The guy I split a hotel room with on that first night in Nassau is still one of my closest friends -- he lives 20 minutes from my office in San Francisco. The first person on the entire trip that I met was a girl at the hotel check-in line -- we still talk and have seen each other a handful of times since 2011. I've driven 20+ hours through the snow from California to Colorado with two guys I became close with on the trip -- we met up with 8 other people from our voyage who lived as far away from Colorado as Boston and Virginia and spent four days partying, skiing and reminiscing.

This is the most important memory of my time on Semester at Sea. As cliche as this is bound to sound, some of my best friends were scattered among those hundreds of strange faces in Nassau. It's the most important takeaway from my time on Semester at Sea, because I truly believe that you'll learn as much about life and love and, most importantly, yourself, in a summer of traipsing around Europe, Asia and Africa with 500 strangers as you will in four years of lectures.

For the sake of the review, let's talk about logistics here. First, the academics:

I took four classes on the ship (most people take three, but I needed that last class to finish my degree and the administration allowed it upon request). Poetics of Travel, Travel Writing, Ethnomusicology and Global Studies. The latter is required of every student on every voyage, but it is pretty interesting, honestly. I was a Journalism/Creative Writing major, so the writing classes were write up my alley. I still trade writings with some people I got to know in those classes and keep in touch with the professors. In Ethnomusicology, we essentially studied musical practices of global cultures and it was absolutely mesmerizing!

You only go to class and study and turn in assignments when the ship isn't docked, and besides the way to your first port and the way back home, that's rarely longer than three straight days. Sometimes, you'll have minor assignments at port, but who is going to complain about having to write a paper about what visiting Pompeii meant to them? That's just awesome.

All in all, the academic aspect wasn't extremely aggressive and most of the professors are just as interested in traveling and experiencing new things as the students, which is why they're on the ship in the first place.

Second, the travel:

My voyage embarked from Nassau and traveled to Barcelona, then Naples, then Rome, then Dubrovnik, then Athens, then Sofia, Bulgaria, then Istanbul, then Casablanca, before returning home to Boston. I won't go into too much detail about each place because I want you to experience it yourself, but I can vouch for every single one of those places being just as amazing as you'd expect. When I returned home and people asked me, "What was your favorite country?" I literally had no answer. They all were so fantastic in so many different ways that it would be impossible to choose.

For example, our port in Bulgaria was a last-minute scheduling change from Egypt due to conflict arising in the latter. Needless to say, everyone was a little bit disheartened by that news. But, one of my favorite memories was going on a field trip to a remote Bulgarian village, to which no foreigner had ever been before. We took a tour of the town, met the "Mayor," and were treated to singing, dancing, food and drink for hours.

Lastly, the ship life:

Everyone from the crew to the staff to the faculty to the fellow students were truly a joy to be around. You could stay in your room with your roommates and watch movies together or just wander aimlessly from deck to deck and either way you'd find someone to strike up a conversation with and exchange travel plans.

The administrators did a good job of creating fun activities for us too, including the infamous Sea Olympics and an orientation-day scavenger hunt. I'm still Facebook friends with a crew member named Edward, who was the friendliest, fistbump-giving person on the whole ship. From a small gym, to a pool, to a basketball court, there were always activities to do, which were very necessary when you were feeling cramped and away from land for too long.

It's been more than three years since I finished my voyage in August 2011 and I don't exaggerate when writing that I still think about Semester at Sea every single day. I think about all the friends I've made -- both the ones I kept in touch with and the ones from whom I've drifted -- and long for more adventure in the Italian countryside or the Grand Bazaar in Turkey.

Semester at Sea isn't just a study abroad experience, it's a life-changing study in human relationships. I can't possibly put into words exactly what the trip meant to me, but I can recommend it higher than anything I've ever suggested, for those looking to travel, study and meet new people along the way.

In sum, Semester at Sea made me a better, more opportunistic, happier person. I've forged lifelong friendships and created endless memories that warm me on a daily basis, even years later. Someday, I hope to return as a teacher, administrator or lifelong learner.

Please, if you have the opportunity to do so, GO on a Semester at Sea. It'll be the best decision of your life.

How can this program be improved?

The trip is pricey, but well worth it if you can swing it. Put the work in to apply for aid, scholarships and work study. Find a way to make it happen.

Yes, I recommend
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Semester at Sea (SAS) is an incredible program that allows students to travel all over the world while studying on a "floating campus". After learning that students travel via cruise ship to different countries around the world, I was sold. Other important factors that drew me to SAS was that it's not a major specific study abroad program, students have free travel in every country, and it is very affordable.

I was lucky enough to sail with one of my best friends from high school. Looking back, I still would have decided to participate on Semester at Sea even if my friend didn't go. I met so many different types of people while on board the MV Explorer. In fact, I met one of my best friends on my voyage! Every person was just as excited as me, if not more, to set sail in the Mediterranean. Getting the names of my roommates the day we boarded the ship made me a little nervous, but we all got along just fine. I never had an issue with my roommates and there was enough elbow room for everyone in our cabin.

The rigor of the classes wasn't what I was expecting. At the time of my trip, the hosting institution was University of Virginia. I was prepared to do lots of studying but was happily surprised to learn how casual the classes were. The homework and exam load is very do able and the professors understand students don't want/ have time to study while in port. The Field Programs (mandatory class field trips) were worth my time and money. An example of one of my Field Programs: going to a winery in Spain to learn about their winemaking process then had a 6 course lunch overlooking the vineyards. It was amazing! In general field programs never took up more than half a day, were fun, and somehow never interfered with my travel plans.

A highlight of the trip was backpacking Italy with my friend. We had 1 week, 2 backpacks, and 1 laptop to get us through 4 different cities. We had made plans to do most of the site seeing by ourselves and then take advantage of a full day Rome tour offered by SAS. I wouldn't have done it any other way. It was so much easier to take our time in the cities we liked and hop on a train whenever we wanted to leave. Utilizing the SAS Rome tour was the best decision we made in that country. We were exhausted at the end of the week and I don't think we would've visited half the museums and tourist spots if we were on our own. The Rome tour included tickets to every "hot spot" in the city, a tour guide who spoke English, and an air conditioned bus ride back to the ship. That's a win in my book.

Ultimately I would definitely recommend SAS to everyone. There are plenty of financial aid opportunities offered through the program and some universities will give you aid as well. Take advantage of this amazing program! You won't regret it!

How can this program be improved?

Bring back the summer voyage. I heard it was cut because of the budget, but I think most students would like to travel during the summer. It's much harder to miss a whole fall or spring semester at the home university.

I would also suggest that the hosting institution have academic credit that transfers to ALL universities. My university is very strict on transferring classes so I ended up with 9 elective units instead of 9 units towards my majors.

Yes, I recommend
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Semester at Sea

This is the best program if you want to see multiple different countries! On days when you are at sea, you are in classes and days when you are in port, you are exploring...what is better than that!

How can this program be improved?

The food on the ship was a little repetitive with there being a pasta every day. Other than that, this program was great!

Yes, I recommend
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Semester at Sea 2013

The program is great for people that are more interested in overall exposure rather than immersion. It gives you the opportunity to observe and experience many different countries and cultures while taking classes.

The professors are amazing and you live with them on the ship. This gives you the opportunity to build the professor-student relationship beyond the classroom. They work really hard to help students see the world through a global lens and develop a cross-cultural awareness.

The best part of the time off the ship is that you have to think on your feet. You can go anywhere in the country of port so you learn to roll with the punches and make the most of it. Its also great to be able to travel in groups of other students so you never feel lost.

I would recommend Semester at Sea to anyone. Although do be advised that the trip is very pricey, the students are almost all American and mostly white. The trip is what you make it, you can either party you butt off or pursue cultural aspects of each county. In my trip we managed to do both.

How can this program be improved?

Sometimes they have to change ports on the fly due to things out of their control in certain countries. For instance, in my trip we could not go to Istanbul due to the student riots of 2013 and had to go to Crete instead which was not nearly as exciting.

Yes, I recommend
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Opened my eyes to the people of the world

I sailed on Semester at Sea during the Fall 2013 voyage around the Atlantic. I was actually on crutches for the first month of the voyage, and then in a boot for the rest, so I had a very interesting experience. That being said, I am very grateful that I went and have grown so much because of it. A typical day on the ship will include breakfast, then a class or two, then lunch, then I would be done! I'd often do homework on an outside deck in the sun, or read while sunbathing. I read a lot of books while we were at sea. I would also attend special seminars in the evening that would be about the next port we were visiting or about a professor's expertise, including a session on favelas in Brazil, and even a talk about living and working in space by our two astronaut professors. When we were in port, there is no typical day, and every day is a new adventure. I saw theatre in Dublin on a whim, met phenomenal people in a township in South Africa, traveled through the Amazon, saw baseball in Cuba, the stories go on and on. Some people experienced sea sickness but I loved the rocking of the ship at night as I fell asleep. I met some incredible people who are very passionate about exploring and bettering the world who I remain in contact with. I had the travel bug before Semester at Sea and since the voyage I only want to continue exploring the world. While this program is very different from a traditional immersion experience, there was no other way I would have been able to see so much of the world in so little time.

How can this program be improved?

The food on the ship was not my favorite, and that was the biggest drawback. We were able to bring snacks on board, and that was helpful, but in general the food services were disappointing.

Yes, I recommend
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sas is the best!

I had always wanted to study abroad in Europe, but when I found SAS instead I knew it would be so much better. I can always go to Europe on my own, but the experiences I would gain with SAS would be much more difficult independently. I went to countries that I would probably never imagined traveling to on my own. Even better I was there with the safety of a company over me. SAS really preparea you for each country, from making sure you know the exchange rate to also knowng how to contact all relative authorities (police, hospital, embassies). Inforation that would have been more difficult to find on my own.

How can this program be improved?

I would make it a longer program so that we could spend more time in each country.

Yes, I recommend
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Best Test Taste Ever

Semester at Sea is great for getting a taste of different cultures and different countries. I would recommend the program to anyone! I hope to return as an alumna one day!

The only complaint I have is on the Summer 2013 Voyage our Academic Dean forced our Professors to give more deliverables. I needed a B to get credit; thus balancing schoolwork, traveling, and socializing was a struggle. Sometimes I wonder if I ever recovered from sleep deprivation that summer. For example, when I was in France and Barcelona, I spent a lot of my time working on a research paper.

The crew members are amazing, the experiences are unforgettable, and the giggles never stopped.

How can this program be improved?

Less stress on class deliverables. Participation is class should be stressed.

Yes, I recommend
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Life-changing Experience

Semester at Sea was an incredible was for me to experience around 17 different countries, while still getting an eye-opening education and making friends. Living on a cruise ship with 400 other students is a great way to branch out and throw yourself into completely different cultures alongside your friends. Since the teachers live on the ship with you, you really get to know them and see them all the time. The program wants to make sure you don't have time to feel homesick by constantly planning fun events and activities in between ports. I would highly recommend this program and it has definitely made a lasting impact on me.

Yes, I recommend
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Can't imagine doing any other program!

Semester at Sea gives you the opportunity to live with college students from around the world, along with your teachers and their families, travel the world via oceans and seas, all while taking classes. I went on SAS without knowing anyone, now I have lifelong friends all over the country and the world. I went to markets in Morocco, volunteered at a cultural youth center, went on hikes, went on a jeep tour, went to Pamukkale, partied in Barcelona, along with SO much more I NEVER thought I would get the opportunity to do. I thought I would never be able to go on SAS because it was too expensive, but I got almost the whole tuition in scholarships and traveled as cheap as possible while still having the best time of my life. I learned so much about myself, other cultures, tried SO much new food, saw DOLPHINS & WHALES, and had the most influential teachers. Advice: wake up for sunrises, they're the most amazing sunrises youll ever see, don't spend all your money on partying but definitely experience the nightlife & explore cities LATE at night with a group!

How can this program be improved?

I have been thinking long and hard about this one and the only think I can think of to be improved is the food. I don't think anyone else really minded it but as someone with celiac disease there wasn't always many options for me. It definitely was manageable though and once I talked to the kitchen staff they were more than happy to work with me! Advice: bring bread or crackers for "snack time" when everyone else is eating cookies and PB&J !!

Yes, I recommend
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Unbelievable Experience Tainted by Bad Reputation

Semester at Sea has a reputation among some institutions as being a party cruise. While there are a population of students on each voyage whose first mission in each and every country is to find the closest bar (love those USD kids), it is also an unparalleled experience not offered anywhere else. 11 countries in 4 months with true freedom given to students to explore is a breeding ground for party-seekers on a parent dime. However, as in my case, it is also bred a traveler who found her independence, determination and capability of wonder.

Academics were rigorous. Living conditions were-yes- extremely nice, being on a renovated cruise ship. But, hey, it's still a big step for a lot of people to crunch down living space to approx. 30 square feet and call a boat home for 4 months.

I recommended SAS to everyone. 3 friends took me up on it. We each had amazing and different experiences, but were able to relate to so much of each other's experiences. Both regarding ship life and traveling.

To be improved: Financial aid should match whatever student is receiving at university. On the flip side, would have loved opportunities for students without financial aid or work study to work on board. Working on board- for those who sought a job or needed the money, despite receiving no official work study- would have been a great way to support travel and integrate into the ship community.

How can this program be improved?

See above.

Yes, I recommend
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Semester at Sea is hands down the best way to see as much of the world as possible during a study abroad experience. The variety of cultures, both on the ship and in the various ports, is unmatched. I considered Semester at Sea the best decision I have ever made, and it has transformed me into a global citizen.

Yes, I recommend
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Strong academics, great professors, lots of drunk freshmen.

I was a senior in college when I did this program (which went to Europe and North Africa). It was great that I got to meet people that were Juniors and Seniors, but social wise people were more into being of drinking age, going out, and getting completly wasted in port. The professors were great, some of the staff were nice and some really unhelpful- however, the staff changes every voyage so don't let that keep you from going! If you go out and explore, do a mix of SAS programs and not. For the countries I didn't feel as comfortable in I did a city tour the first morning or day to get my berrings with a group, THEN went out with friends. There were good, bad, and downright ugly times but overall I'd definitely go again. Best part? Over a year later and I still talk to my ship friends everyday. Once in a lifetime experience.

How can this program be improved?

Some of the higher up staff on the shil were terrible at handling issues, and the home office was incredibly rude to my mom and myself on more than one ocassion.

Yes, I recommend
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The most gratifying experience I have ever had

Semester at Sea is, as they all say, a truly life changing experience for all of the right reasons. Looking back, I have no regrets except for sleeping because if I didn't absolutely NEED sleep SAS would've been my reason not to. There is not one moment where there isn't someone interesting and exciting to talk to, something fascinating and eye opening to see, and even a dull moment. I would live on that ship if I could and be totally and completely happy with my life.

How can this program be improved?

Although there was always something yummy to eat, I kind of wish they didn't give so many carb options

Yes, I recommend
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One of the Most Memorable Summers of my Life

There is so much to be said about Semester at Sea. First off you live, travel and study on an incredible ship (don't make the mistake of calling it a boat). And this ship becomes home and everyone on board becomes extended family. Teachers and their families become life long friends and life long learners become mentors and travel companions. The back deck is a study room, a ping pong palace, a pool side resort and frequent reading nook all wrapped in one. There is something to be said about studying outside and looking up to see the never ending blue of the ocean. You will have to train yourself to walk, work out and play basketball on swaying grounds but after a while you learn to love the movement as it rocks you to sleep at night. And don't under estimate Taco Night, PB&J Sandwiches and the Chocolate Chip cookies, all of these things will develop a new meaning in your life.

Traveling with SAS is really great because you are provided the freedom to pack a bag and take off on your own/with some friends or you can sign up for the awesome trips that SAS has already planned out. As long as you make it back to the boat before it leaves the port you have complete freedom to make each stop your own personal adventure.

Traveling with Semester At Sea was one of the best decisions I ever made and I would do it again in a heart beat. Who knows maybe I'll wait and go as a life long learner in the future. If you are looking for a unique and rewarding experience definitely sign up for Semester at Sea.

How can this program be improved?

hmmmmmmm.... This is hard because I really can't think of many. Maybe having more events to meet teachers/ life long learners because they all have such a vast experience in not only life but in travel as well and I would have loved to meet more of them to have absorbed all their wisdom.

Yes, I recommend

About Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea began at Chapman University in the 60s, but the program was called “University of the Seven Seas.” On that first voyage, 275 students set sail for 22 ports around the world aboard the MS Seven Seas to begin a tradition of shipboard...