Below are the accounts of 17 individuals whose different backgrounds made up a sample of the shipboard community on the April-May 2011 Secrets of Passage Enrichment Voyage to Central America and the Panama Canal. A shared love of travel, education, and adventure brought them to the MV Explorer for a voyage they would not soon forget. 

Mary Harvey, 84, and Sally Murray, 69, Danville, CA and Salt Lake City, respectively

Sisters. Travelers. Adventurers. In her 70s, Mary took a solo cross-country trip through the U.S. in her RV. At age 19, Sally took the Queen Mary to Paris where she lived for 1-1/2 years working as a governess for an ex-pat American family. Now, both retired, the sisters are embarking on new adventures. Mary wanted to go on a cargo ship as a civilian passenger to experience the world. After some research, she realized she had surpassed the elder cut-off age. She wanted to explore the world by sea, but not on a traditional cruise line. Sally heard about Enrichment Voyages, called her sister and said, “Let’s go.” “I had done a lot of elder hostel trips and all the people are fun and smart and interesting. I had a feeling this would be the same,” said Sally. The April 2011 Enrichment Voyage the sisters joined did not disappoint. Said Mary: “I feel like we’re sailing on a five-star hotel with all these great side trips. Little did I know there would be so much to do and so much more to learn.” Mary took a poetry class with Sir Christopher Ball and discovered her inner poet. Sally dove into art classes and Spanish-language workshops. “Enrichment Voyages, and the Semester at Sea for lifelong learners, is a revelation for me,” said Mary. “It’s the way travel should be. You meet intriguing people. You have the freedom to choose the types of trips you want to take. You learn wonderful things. And you don’t have to unpack over and over again.”

Sir Christopher Ball, 76, United Kingdom

Former English professor, academic leader and policy maker in Great Britain. Published poet. At age 70, he ran 10 marathons in 10 days (yes, you read that correctly) because he wondered if he could. He and his wife, Wendy, have two biological children and adopted four children of various races and ethnicities. “The color [of their skin] was the most obvious thing to people, but the real challenge was just bringing up six children each with differing personalities.” Sir Christopher first lectured as part of ISE’s 2010 Forum on Global Engagement. He and his wife returned for the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage. “We’ve had a wonderful time. This [Enrichment] Voyage is a wonderful model of lifelong learning and of course, Semester at Sea is an ideal form of global education.”

Iris Serbanescu, 24, Ontario, Canada

Tourism management graduate student at Humber College. The Humber College students were part of the school’s Study @ Sea program, a travel elective course in the graduate-diploma program. The Enrichment Voyage was Iris’ first time on a cruise ship with a focus on educational enrichment. She has studied various aspects of “voluntourism” with her fellow classmates and her instructor, Mary Lendway, on the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage. “The experience has just completely shifted how I view travel and the importance of giving back. This is the complete opposite of cruising—it’s fun but not frivolous. Instead of being onlookers, we engage with the communities that we have the privilege of visiting.”

Mary-Patricia Moynihan, 39, Charlottesville, Virginia

Runs a private Spanish language tutoring company and led Spanish language workshops aboard the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage. “I’ve been traveling since I was a baby. We went to Ireland every year of my life,” she says as the child of Irish immigrants. Having always thought of herself as bicultural, being bilingual was the next, natural step. After studying Spanish and Hispanic literature she taught Spanish at Chaminade High School in New York for eight years. In 2006, she left teaching to fulfill a dream of traveling the world and spent 14 months traveling to all seven continents and visiting all the cultural sites she had taught about but had never seen firsthand. Though she is quite familiar with cruise ships, her time as a lecturer on the Enrichment Voyage was a first. “As you learn very quickly that wasn’t a cruise it was a voyage. … Professionally for me it was such a neat thing to fill in the gaps of my travel, but to go with this sense of community makes it especially meaningful because when you spend 3 weeks in the company of the same small group of people its special. I found that I had a number of moving experiences and that comes down to the people that I met.”

Gloria Reitz-Dake, 89, San Diego, California

Former elementary school teacher, first in her native Minnesota and later in Southern California. Later taught as a junior college professor at Long Beach Community College in California. Her first ocean crossing was aboard a troop transport in the early 1950s while in her 20s when she went to Japan to teach children of American soldiers. Received her PhD in psychology at age 50 then taught psychology at Chapman University and at Long Beach Community College. Worked as a private psychologist for 30 years until she retired in 2002 at age 80. Went on her first Semester at Sea voyage in Fall 1999 as a lifelong learner after hearing about the program from a former student who, 20 years after taking Gloria’s class, had kept in touch with Gloria and invited her to come on the ship. “When we got to India I just knew so many of these students had never experienced the type of poverty they would see in India and I got ready to help.” She wound up inadvertently counseling students on the ship. Sailed again with SAS on the Summer 2007 voyage and again for Enrichment Voyage April 2011. “We, of my generation, are survivors of the great depression and World War II. We lived the ups and downs that Langston Hughes expressed in his poem, “But I’se Still Here!” Now, we reap the benefits of Semester At Sea’s Enrichment Voyages, meeting others who are still interested in continuing to learn and are willing to share their experiences. Semester At Sea gives us this wonderful opportunity.”

Dorothea Parker, 68, Atlanta, Georgia

Director of Biomedical Technology Service Laboratory at Morehouse School of Medicine. She’s been traveling alone for the past 13 years, since the death of her husband and former travel partner. She has almost circumnavigated the globe and has been to almost every continent. “I love learning about new cultures. I have a zest for life. I enjoy going to new places. It’s an adventure each time.” Since 1996, she and a friend have made a pilgrimage to each of the summer Olympic games, which has taken her to Athens, Sydney, and China, thus far. She’s sailed along the Yangtze River, explored the Amazon, traveled along the Nile and, with her husband, took a three-week road trip through France, Germany and Italy. Her first Enrichment Voyage was in May 2010. “I like coming back to this ship. It’s the enrichment that I like. With the lectures and conversations, you always get a different group of people who are just as interesting and fascinating as the next. And, even some of the crew remembered me.”

“For me, [Enrichment Voyages] are a neat way to see a lot of different places, but also where you can have some down time. I can do as much as I want to do or nothing at all.”

Margaret Skokan, 37, Denver, Colorado

Cytogenetics Research Assistant at University of Colorado’s Health Sciences Center, Instructor at Colorado Swing Dance Club and all-around dance enthusiast. She and her husband, Victor Ward, teach workshops and dance classes all around Denver and some parts of Colorado. The couple taught dance on the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage. Margaret’s brother, Thomas, sailed on the SAS Fall 2002 voyage and her mother, Catherine Skokan, sailed in Fall 2002 and Fall 2009. Margaret found the Enrichment Voyage inspiring and life changing, even if she admits that may be a bit cliché. “For Victor and me to be able to share our love of dance with others and really have them take it in and smile and love it as much as we love it, really means a lot. … I got a message recently from one of the voyagers who signed up for swing and hustle classes because she was inspired by the dancing on the ship.” Margaret thought getting on to the MV Explorer to teach dance was a long shot, but she was hopeful. Now she’s converted and can’t imagine performing on any other vessel. “My mother would tell me how special the connections were that she made during her time on this ship, but I didn’t really understand that until I experienced it for myself. I may have been an entertainer on the ship, but I also learned so much from everyone I met. It really is like one big family.”

Farrah Evagues, 28, Corona, California

Elementary school teacher. Has traveled through Europe, Asia and Australia alone and with her family. Sailed on her first Enrichment Voyage in December 2005 after learning about the program while in graduate school studying education. Taught elementary school in Hawaii for two years before returning to the continental U.S. to explore new opportunities. While in between jobs, she decided it was time to travel and explore new places. On the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage, she selected all the tours connected to education and visited schools and orphanages in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. “I was able to see the similarities and differences between how they taught in these countries and what they taught with versus how and what I taught in my classrooms. I got a real understanding of teaching in a foreign country versus America. It inspired me to look into volunteer work or maybe even teaching overseas.”

Ann (Warmington) McNamee, 67, McMinnville, Oregon

Retired elementary and middle school teacher following a 30-year career. Worked in a small town (McMinnville) that she describes as “very sheltered, very white, very righteous, and very religious”. The youngest of five children of dairy farmer parents. Though her hometown of McMinnville was small (and sometimes small minded) her parents weren’t. They encouraged her to explore and travel. So, she made her way around the world as one of the original students on the first Semester at Sea voyage in Fall 1963 when it was called University of the Seven Seas. She was deeply inspired by that voyage and lived her life trying to build a more integrated society. “We went to orphanages and youth centers and I saw that these kids didn’t have a chance. I thought I couldn’t change the world, but I could adopt a baby or two and give them a few more opportunities.” Together with her first husband, she adopted three children of all different races and ethnicities from various parts of the U.S. and the world: an African-American son, a Korean daughter, and an Anglo son. She also had a biological daughter. “I didn’t think I was doing anything so noble. It felt very right to me.” From 1964 to 2001, she owned some type of VW van and, each summer and school vacation, she would take her children on trips around the U.S. With four children on a school teacher’s salary there wasn’t much exotic traveling and no return trips with Semester at Sea until the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage. “When we pulled away from Ensenada it was such déjà vu. It was like pulling away from each of those ports in 1963. I could just hear all the kids singing from my own voyage. I just thought ‘Oh my gosh, this is so great.’ It’s been a rich life.”

Mona Long, 77, and Betty Chalmers, 86, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Self-described “active retirees” (as noted on Mona Long’s business card), neighbors at an independent retirement community, and recent travel buddies. They are willing to take a dare, have an adventure and relish in the fact that they were the two eldest adventurers on a zip-lining tour over the rainforests of Costa Rica. The ladies are avid travelers and have explored various parts of the world, independent of one another. Every two years, Mona takes a grandchild to Paris or London—when they turn 12—to expose them to cultures outside of the U.S. (She has seven grandkids, now ages 10 to 27, so one trip left). Mona’s grandchildren have continued their travel experiences as exchange students, on service projects, or working in other countries. Two of Mona’s children and two of her grandchildren are Semester at Sea alums. Several of Betty’s grandchildren live in various parts of the world, including Moscow and the Caribbean. “Betty and I are in that generation where we have global families with grandkids in Italy, Moscow and Uganda. Finally, people are lecturing about it. And, I have to say, it’s not a bad way to live.” Mona organizes Lifelong Learning Institutes in Oklahoma and learned about the Enrichment Voyage from a neighbor in her retirement community. She invited Betty to join her. Said Betty: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed myself on the Enrichment Voyage. We’ve done some things that we never thought we’d do. Listening to the speakers and meeting so many different people has provided such intellectual stimulation.”

Carroll Cotton, 74, St. Helena, California

Retired college administrator.  Served as the Dean of Students on the Fall 1967. The April 2011 Enrichment Voyage was his first time back with Semester at Sea in more than 40 years. Carrol discovered the Enrichment Voyage from a neighbor in his retirement community in St. Helena and was surprised to see the vast change in ships from his time on the SS Ryndam to the current MV Explorer. One of the most exciting, unforeseen experiences was an impromptu reunion with a former student (Jae Krug, see below) on the ship. “This is a great way to learn—for the regular voyages and the Enrichment Voyage. It was then and it is now.”

Victoria Heydari, 49; Lynda Duray, 28; Jessica Fisher, 28, Massachusetts (near Boston)

Graduate students at Mt. Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Joined the Enrichment Voyage upon the suggestion of their professor to better study interior architecture (a focus of their graduate work) in various countries and cultural environments. Aside from exploring ancient pyramids and colonial buildings, the trio participated in excursions where they learned as much from their octogenarian fellow travelers as from the guides leading them. Said Victoria: “Because you’re in an educational mindset you’re choosing trips that are more educational and what’s offered is more educational. It’s so much better than a regular cruise ship. I’ve never seen a pre-port briefing before and especially one with photos and explanations of the cultures that we’ll be seeing.”

Jae Krug, 63, San Francisco, California

Retired cruise ship host and world traveler. Semester at Sea alum from Fall 1967 voyage. The April 2011 Enrichment Voyage was his first time back with SAS after he sailed on an alumni voyage in 1969. He credits his ’67 voyage with saving his life and giving him more direction for his future. “I knew there was a big world out there with wonderful people and I had the chance to experience that. I wanted to do everything and learn everything and meet everyone.” That wanderlust and desire to explore propelled him into the cruise industry allowing him to circumnavigate the globe multiple times and visit all seven continents. He now credits the April 2011 Enrichment Voyage with helping him get closer to making more major life decisions. “I feel alive on a ship and I feel connected. Semester at Sea is perfect for me; I meet fun and intelligent people here.”