Tuesday, December 05, 2006


these last few days are hard... the process of packing is going slow and we had to take all of our stuff down from the wall this morning. It is very strange to go into our room now... nothing on the walls, it is almost like we just moved in and we have yet to go around the world.

anyway... before I get too emotional...

I've put up some more pics from around the ship that I haven't had the chance to put up yet.

I'm off to pack up some of the books I've bought back... not fun but someone has to do it.


Saturday, December 02, 2006


Arriving in Spain was very bittersweet. I was in full denial that we were docked in our last international port. Having been to Spain previously, I didn’t have the same feelings of anticipation that I had for all of our previous ports. However, our experience in Spain exceeded my expectations in many, many ways.
We arrived in the port city of Cadiz at 0800 on 11/23. Joe and I decided to explore the city of Cadiz and planned to rent a car the following morning. It was wonderful to step out into the streets of España, hear the beautiful Spanish language, and peer out onto the Atlantic Ocean! I could hardly believe that we were on the edge of the Atlantic.
We wandered around the streets of Cadiz and ended up at a sweet little restaurant for lunch with our friends, Alden & Kate. We drank a few generous mugs of beer, ate many small sandwiches (only 1 Euro each!), and found ourselves out on the streets in the middle of Spanish siesta. I am so intrigued by the timetable in Spain… breakfast between 10 & noon, lunch between 3 & 6, and then dinner after 10pm. I think I could get used to that lifestyle in the summer months, but it’s a little tough in the winter months with so little daytime sunlight. Anyway – we went with the flow and found ourselves eating many lunches post 4pm.
So… calling the following morning “scary” or “an adventure” is an understatement in my book. Joe had booked a rental car in Cadiz, but it turned out that the rental company was actually a few miles up the coast, north of Cadiz. No big deal, right? We had the option of taking a bus ride up there, or taking a ferry to the northern end of the Bay of Cadiz. Heck, why not take the ferry, right? WRONG.
So, when you picture a ferry, what do you see? I see a large, stable vessel, often with the capacity to hold many, many people and a significant number of cars, trucks, etc. No.
This was not one of those ferries. It was a very small passenger ferry that held – at maximum – maybe 100 people? I’m not sure. But, again – no big deal, right? WRONG.
Joe and I were the only passengers on the ferry on this particular morning, and let’s say that it was bit windy outside. Thinking nothing of this fact, Joe and I decided to sit in the front row seats of the ferry for our 25-minute ride across the bay. OH MY GOSH. I am not kidding you when I say that this ferry ride made any other boat experienced seem tame. The wind was out of control, and the waves & swells would – literally! – launch the entire boat into the air, CRASH down on the sea, rock back and forth at disconcerting angles, only to be launched again – sometimes sideways – into the air again. I was NOT loving it. I was hanging onto my seat with clenched fists, letting out the occasional whimper, and holding on for dear life. Beyond the fact that I was scared out of my mind, my stomach started to lurch in every direction, too. Joe was trying to calm me down, (unsuccessfully) but he eventually started feeling the effects, too. SOMEHOW, I made my way to the back of the boat by shimmying along the handrails so I wouldn’t fall down. Twenty-five minutes have never seemed so long. I have dubbed this ferry the “Scary Ferry” also known as the “Scawy Fewwy” (say this in a little kid voice).
The good thing about the Scary Ferry? Nothing on our gigantic ship seems scary anymore. Hurray! So, after gathering what was left of our stomachs and lying down for a bit, Joe went to get our car and off we were to Sevilla!
We didn’t arrive in Sevilla until the late afternoon and spent much of our time trying to locate the hotel we had booked online. We knew the hotel was located approximately 10 minutes outside the heart of downtown, but we had printed out the wrong directions and found ourselves totally lost on small cobblestone streets in the center of the city.
Since Joe speaks a teeny bit of Spanish, he was able to ask a few people for directions to our hotel. After many unsuccessful attempts, we finally found it! It turned out to be a fantastic hotel – our room was a two-level loft with hardwood floors! Pretty cool.
So, once we were settled, we went back into the city to meet our friends at the main Cathedral. I love looking at old cathedrals in Europe. The detail and architecture are so beautiful and so powerful. If you look at Joe’s pictures, you’ll see pictures from far above the city. These are taken from the very top of the tower in the Cathedral. A very beautiful place, but I’ll let you make your own determinations from the pictures.
We concluded our evening by attending a traditional flamenco performance. I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I figured it would be a good time. As we were standing in line to purchase tickets, a man (named Jeff) asked Joe about his SUNY New Paltz fleece jacket. Joe explained that he doesn’t actually work at SUNY New Paltz but at UC Santa Cruz. This lead into a long discussion about student affairs, and it turned out that Jeff was in the same field, working at a university in Switzerland. But, there’s more. After sitting down and sipping our sangria, Joe mentioned that we were with a few friends on Semester at Sea. “Oh yeah, I did Semester at Sea in 2001,” says Jeff. WHAT?!? Isn’t that amazing? We’re at a random, small, quaint flamenco show in the middle of Spain, and he just happens to not only have been a staff member on Semester at Sea, BUT he was also wearing a Semester at Sea t-shirt under his sweater. Small world.
The flamenco show was fantastic! I cannot believe how fast the dancers move their feet and their bodies. The singers and guitar players are incredible, too. I was very, very impressed. It made me want to learn how to dance flamenco!
The following day was very rainy, so we spent much of the day in the Royal Alcazar, a beautiful palace once occupied by royal families. This place is incredible! The detail of the architecture, stone & woodwork, and gardens were absolutely gorgeous. As you look at the pictures, you will see the influence of Muslim design and Arabic writing throughout the Alcazar. It was so interesting to see the blend of Muslim and Catholic influences all over Spain. I’m not sure I would have appreciated this blending of religio-cultures quite as much if we had not just traveled through Egypt and Turkey.
I loved the city of Sevilla. It has a wonderful Spanish European feel and is very inviting. I wouldn’t mind living there for a year or so, get involved in a Spanish immersion program, and learn to eat dinner at midnight!
The next day we headed for Granada. Having never been to Granada, we felt that we should go the famous Alhambra Palace. The Alhambra is on a short list to become one of the “new” Seven Wonders of the World. We spent over 4 hours at the Alhambra, just taking in all of the architecture, history, gardens, ceramic tiles, and amazing views overlooking the city of Granada. I don’t have the patience to spend 4 hours at most historical sights, but this place was worth the entire afternoon. Wow. Take a look at Joe's pics.
We traveled back to Cadiz on our last day in Spain and found our friends at an outdoor café sipping mugs of beer and reminiscing about our amazing voyage together. Many students were in tears as they boarded the ship and swiped in their official shipboard ID into the on-ship computer. I was trying to hold it together, but I was feeling the same way. We’ve all been a big, interconnected family – for good times & bad – over the last 3 months. It’s hard to believe it’s coming to an end.
The mood on the ship currently is pretty quiet and solemn, as the students are busy writing papers and studying for finals. Some people have started packing, but I can’t bring myself to do that quite yet. It would mean that I have to drag myself out of full denial that I am leaving this ship, our floating home. There are so many things I will miss, they are almost too difficult to name, but I’m going to try – for my own sake – and hopefully you’ll enjoy them, too.
What I will miss:
1. Our cabin (#4055) with our little mini bathroom and super comfy bed.
2. Eating meals out on the back deck of the ship, overlooking the ocean and contemplating how amazingly lucky we are to be on this ship.
3. Waking up just in time for the last 5 minutes of breakfast, and seeing all of the others doing the same thing… dragging themselves into the dining hall in their PJs with bags under their eyes.
4. Gaining an hour - 24 times - over the course of our voyage!
5. Playing euchre, hearts, Texas hold ‘em, and spades up in the faculty lounge with Joe, JB, and Tim.
6. Eating all of our meals together with different groups of people, sharing stories from the different ports and planning new adventures.
7. Walking down the ship’s hallways during rough seas and seeing everyone swaying into walls, looking like drunk fools, and laughing at ourselves.
8. Doing an abs workout or yoga class on the 7th deck, overlooking the ocean & peering up at the big “Semester at Sea” logo on the side of the ship.
9. The excitement on the ship whenever we have “Taco Day!” for lunch.
10. Looking at the world map on the wall of our cabin, incredulous at all of the places we’ve been.
11. Never having to make our bed or do the dishes.
12. Bonding over such things as seasickness, the sound of our morning wake up call, and how long the iceberg lettuce has been sitting around.
Most of all, I’m going to miss the people. This voyage has surpassed my expectations in so many ways, and I never could have imagined how much I would MISS these people. There is something really special about living on a ship for 108 days. You get to know people in very different ways. I honestly feel as though I’ve been living in an alternate reality, a life that is an offshoot of my regular life, but one that has no basis or connection to my former life. I don’t want to walk away from these people. I know I don’t have to. My biggest goal, and simultaneously my biggest fear, is to keep this experience close to me – to walk around with it every day and not allow it to drift too far from my consciousness. I know I have been affected significantly, and that is a good thing.
Only 4 more days at sea.
I’ve got some hugging to do!!!
See y'all SOON!
Can't wait to see you in Ft. Lauderdale, Mama & Dad!!!

still rocking and a rolling out here on the Atlantic

Well our almost perfectly smooth voyage has ended... the Atlantic is paying us back for all the nice smooth seas we have had.

It is tough to even think about packing when you can't stand up, but it seems to be getting better and since we don't really want to pack, it is ok. Today is a study day for the students, first day of finals tommorow.

Had an amazing Talent show last night, we have a large group of talented folks on the ship and it was fun to watch.

The Spain pictures are now up and hopefully Joy will get to do her blog today.

Brian S. - thanks for the pictures... Jackson sure is cute
NO takers on the airport yet... I guess I should look up when we are coming in.... ok we get in at 1:50 p.m. on Dec. 10th into San Jose

Hope everyone is GREAT!!!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The ocean is.... SWELL

wholly crap we've got some movement as we head across the atlantic towards Florida.

The Croatia pictures are up http://joeandjoy.com/croat/index.html

and I hope to get Spain up real soon. We rented a car again and it was a little more hair raising to drive in Spain, especially while in town. You can't get any narrower... I thought Ireland was narrow but Spain has it beat. But of course we had a great time and saw some wonderful sites.

Only endulged in Churros con Chocolate once which is my big regret... I'll have to go back.

Look for the Spain pics soon... enjoy your last weeks without us cause we are going to be cranky when we get home!

oh yeah and who is picking us up at the airport?

GOOD LUCK ON FINALS to all the Crownies
Someone send me a picture of that Stevens kid

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Arriving in Croatia was fabulous. The coastline is absolutely beautiful in contrast to the red tiles on all the roofs, the intrigue of the old walled city, and the giant mountains looming in the background. Joe and I decided to rent a car with our good friends, J.B. & Theresa, which totally made our trip. Having the freedom of our own vehicle was wonderful, and of course – Joe was our official driver and the three of us were happy to be sightseeing passengers.
On the first day we ventured into the walled city – built in the 1600s, which is a fascinating place. We had a beautiful blue-sky day, so we walked around the entire exterior of the walled city on top of the passageways on the outer wall. Joe and I took hundreds of pictures – it was such a beautiful day! (You’ll see the pictures SOON!) Some students decided it would be a good idea to cliff-jump off the cliffs below the city’s walls. Many of them had a great time, however, we learned later on in our trip that one of the students jumped from over 60 feet, hit the water wrong, and broke her back. Scary. Luckily, her spinal cord was not affected, so she was rushed to the hospital and eventually transferred via a medical evacuation plane to a different hospital in Vienna for immediate surgery. One of the RDs, our friend Kate, went with her to Vienna, and she just wrote me and let me know that the student is doing okay. It’s amazing that more stuff like this hasn’t happened on this voyage. I’m just glad the student isn’t paralyzed, although her voyage is over and I’m sure she’ll have permanent physical damage. Scary.
Anyway – after exploring the walled city, we were on a mission to rent a car. Dubrovnik, and the entire coastline of Croatia, is a huge tourist destination in the summer, but it is very serene and quiet in mid-November. Thus, tourism offices are not exactly prepared, nor excited, to deal with tourists. I can relate to this, having lived in Steamboat where the winter and summer are absolutely brimming with tourists, and the mud-season is barren of visitors. I used to relish those months where we had Steamboat back to “ourselves,” so I didn’t blame the Dubrovnik folks who seemed a little off-put by our presence. So, it took us a little while to find a rental car, and once we did – we decided to book the car for the following 4 days, stay on the ship the first night, and venture out early the next morning. And that’s what we did!
The next morning the four of us hopped into our Ford Focus and hit the coastal road. We knew we wanted to find a little villa along the sea, but we didn’t have a solid plan. So we just started driving. What a gorgeous drive!!! After about an hour and a half we arrived in the small town of Orebic on the Plejesac peninsula. We decided to stop and have lunch and check-out one of the tourist agencies to see what was available. The gentleman at the tourist agency was pretty doubtful, at first, that he had anything available by the sea. Then, after making a few phone calls, he directed us toward this house that didn’t have a seaside view from our apartment, but was attached to a home with a large terrace overlooking the sea. We decided to go check it out, and it turned out to be perfect and became our home for the next 3 nights. It was set right on the coastline amidst a grove of orange trees. So perfect! It was also within 5 minutes walk of local markets, so that we could make dinner in our little kitchen, drink wine, and kick back & relax.
This was the first port that truly felt like a vacation. All of the other ports have felt like a mental and physical challenge in some sense – which is good. Croatia didn’t feel that way. It is a tourist destination, and – beyond its recent history – I’m not quite certain why it is a port on Semester at Sea. Particularly in the off-season, it’s not a place that has a whole lot going on, and for the students it’s not easy for them to get around because they are not allowed to rent cars.
It’s hard to believe that Dubrovnik was a war-torn area in the very recent past – the beauty and serenity of the place masks its ugly past. The one aspect of the city that reveals the effects of the war is the tiled roofs. Many roofs have very new tile work, which we’ve been told indicated that those homes or buildings were bombed during the war and had to be re-built. You’ll be able to tell the difference in the pictures… some roofs look very new, while others are clearly worn.
Some highlights of our trip:
1. Croatia is wine country, but – again – since we were visiting in the off-season, most wineries were closed. But that didn’t stop us!! We ventured into one particular winery (that looked closed) and asked if we could do a wine tasting. Not exactly what you’d expect in the states… The gentlemen were more than willing to allow us to have a taste, so the man who spoke the most fluent English led us through the winery, arrived at one particular vat of wine, picked up the hose that was lying on the floor, brushed it off, picked up a glass that was sitting by the vat, brushed it off, and proceeded to pour the wine from the hose into the glass. We all thought this was hilarious, and – wow! – it was good red wine! So, we decided to buy a few bottles. Again, this was a little different in that we were asked – “Do you have any bottles with you?” Stunned, we looked at each other and said, “Well, we have some empty plastic water bottles..?” The gentlemen nodded that this would be a perfect solution, so we got our plastic bottles, he promptly filled them with the wine hose, and we went happily on our way. Pretty funny, huh? This was only one of a few times that we received wine in this manner.
2. Another highlight of our trip was being able to play Bocce Ball in an outdoor, lighted court while we drank our hose-filled wine, ate pizza and french fries, an d laughed the night away. We were certain the Bocce ball court was going to be closed, but were delighted when the not-so-helpful woman behind the counter said, “yes, you can play.” Woo-hoo!
3. Joe and I were itching to go for a hike in the mountain range behind our villa, so we went on a 2-hour hike to the top of the ridge and it was absolutely beautiful! It felt SO GOOD to be out in nature, taking in the fresh crisp air, and d getting our heart rate up after so many countries where we were breathing the intense pollution and humid air. We also ventured on many mini-hikes to old churches (which reminded me of the missions in California), old villages, and a few quaint local towns.
4. At one such old village, Joe happened upon a sign that read, “This site protected by the law.” This intrigued Joe, so he decided to check it out. Lo and behold, we were met by a wonderful woman named Vesna who was very surprised to see us in the off-season. After concluding that we seemed like nice people, she led us on a personal tour of this old, mostly abandoned stone village where only she and one other couple currently live. Wow. Her stories were fascinating. She was originally born in Bosnia, moved to London for much of her young adult life, was a journalist for the BBC, and then – somehow – found herself on the coast of Croatia inquiring about a home in an old broken-down village. And she’s been there ever since! She was definitely – and expectedly – a little quirky, but that only added to the charm of the place. She invited us into her very simple but amazing stone house, and offered us some homemade herb brandy, which she said she gets locally from “the brandy man in the van.”
This is one of the most amazing things about Semester at Sea… that you can end up totally off-the-beaten-path, in a small village with someone like Vesna. On most cruise ships, you are only in a port for 12 to 24 hours, which does not allow for these off-the-beaten-path experiences. I value these moments so much because they really give one a true taste of the people and the culture of a place.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Croatia. I’ll let Joe fill in the blanks with his picture commentary, but this is our story for now. We are currently docked in Gibraltar for a re-fueling session, and we arrive in Cadiz, Spain in the early morning. I can’t believe this will be our last international port!!! Where has the time gone? I’ve already asked some of the crew members if they will hide me in one of the closets so I can stay on the ship for the next voyage. The laughed and said they’re not allowed to do that. WHAT?!
See y’all SOON!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Here's a quick blog about our port arrival... don't worry - I'm planning to write about our experience in Croatia later today, so check back a little later...

This was the absolute best port arrival ever. We were told the evening before our arrival in Dubrovnik that our ship’s captain was planning to blow the horn as we sailed around the corner near his family’s home. One official administrator had said that the captain would be blowing the horn at 0630, and then the executive dean said that he would be doing this at 0730. Being the optimist that I am, I decided to believe that this would not occur until 0730.
So… at approximately 0625, what do I hear? The freaking horn!!! I instantly jump – literally leap – out of my bed, mutter to myself “shit, I’m going to miss it!,” throw on my clothes, and sprint up four flights of stairs to the seventh deck. I burst out of the doors onto the deck to find that I am not too late. Whew!!
Our fabulous captain Roman is not a shy guy. He was not messing around when it came to blowing that horn. He did a couple warning horn blows when we were still about five minutes away from his home, and then just let it LOOSE with that horn! Wow. There was DEFINITELY no one left sleeping in his quaint little village by the sea. I was CRACKING UP, I thought it was so flipping hilarious. But then when I saw his family waving from the deck of their home, I burst into tears! I was doing the ol’ laugh & cry at the same time. Some of his family’s neighbors had made big banners and were waving, too. When Captain Roman stepped out onto the little winged platform that jets out from the bridge and started waving to his family, I totally lost it. It was such a cool moment.
I just read this blog to some students who rolled their eyes when I said I cried, but c’mon… that’s good stuff.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

one more to go... (tear)

So of course we had a great time in Croatia... a highlight for me was that we rented a car and I got to drive... not a real fancy car but it was fun to drive. It was a Ford Focus Diesel 1.6 L engine and it moved pretty well. If I could get that car in the states I would consider buying it... especially since they are building bio-diesel pumps in Santa Cruz County.

more on Croatia later... but I am finally putting up the Cairo pics... and for those who think we slack sometimes on our blog, we have friends who haven't written about Viet Nam yet and you get the treat of all of our pics... and of course it is great for us too... we are glad we have been able to share with everyone who reads.

so yeah... Cairo is loading as we speak and I will try and get Turkey up tomorrow and then hopefully Croatia up before we get to Spain... we shall see how we do.

Hope everyone is well!!!! Happy November!!!!