When we arrive at port, there are several opportunities for everyone. You can go and travel independently, but I usually stay close to port and go on trips semester at sea offers. When there is extra time, I am able to swipe my card and walk around the city, try the food and take pictures. But before we ever walk off the ship, the two days before we arrive in port we have "cultural pre-port" and "logistic pre-port." Cultural pre-port is when the faculty talks to us about what to try, for example in Spain they suggested we try the ham and sangria. They also tell us what to watch out for and what to pay attention to, whether or not the cars drive on the opposite side of the road or not. During "logistic pre-port" we talk more about what the currency exchange is, how much taxis and stamps usually cost and where we could find a phone to call home.
All the ports so far have been amazing. Spain was the best port to start off in. It was a small city, where you could basically walk to anywhere you needed to go. There were a lot of restaurants, museums and cathedrals that were close by.
Morocco was definitely not what anyone expected. It was so hard to get a sense of the culture until I spent the day at an orphanage and an evening with a Moroccan family during Ramadan. That is when my time in Morocco completely changed and I got to see the people for who they are. I even got the opportunity to go the second largest mosque in the world and watch their prayer.
Ghana was unbelievable. The people were friendly, we got great bargains and there was so much to do. I don't know if it's true or not, but I heard that we were the largest group of Americans to ever go to Ghana at one time, which was pretty exciting for being the 100th voyage of semester at sea. Next was South Africa. Cape Town was beyond beautiful but very much Americanized (which is not what I wanted when I planned on traveling the world). I was still able to walk through the townships and learn about its history of Apartheid and District Six. Then there was Mauritius, which was definitely the destination where everyone, including students, faculty and staff took the time to sit back and relax. Now I am on my way to India, not knowing what to expect but preparing myself for the culture shock.
If someone offered me this opportunity again, I would take it in a heartbeat. (I say that now but wait till I graduate and I get a huge bill sent to my front door.) This trip has given me more opportunities to experience the world than I ever thought I would receive, and it's only halfway through the voyage.