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Cruise U: Setting Your Mind Adrift with a Purpose

It's safe to assume St. Augustine, who said 'The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page,' would have approved of The Scholar Ship, a sea-going university.

It's safe to assume St. Augustine, who said "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page," would have approved of The Scholar Ship ( This sea-going university offers students the opportunity to read volumes in a rich multi-cultural, globally-focused setting. Students sign up for 16-week semesters aboard the Oceanic II that literally take them half way around the world to the places they're learning about.

Backed by Royal Caribbean Cruises and seven major universities, the floating campus caters to an international student body of 600 undergrads and post grads from 35 different countries. A group of 120 multinational academic and program staff live on board as well (along with 416 crew members), working with local university professors, specialized tour guides and others in port to offer students a stimulating learning environment on board and off.

"What sets our program apart is how we integrate academic field study with the classroom curriculum," says Ronald Zighelboim, Royal Caribbean's chief marketing officer for The Scholar Ship. The ship will stay put in most ports for about a week so students can participate in field study programs -- five-day courses are guided by local networks of academic, business and community organizations -- or community service projects, which are organized in collaboration with the University of Miami's Rotaract Club (a student organization operating under Rotary International). There will also be time for sightseeing tours and independent travel.

Courses will be taught in English by professors and teaching staff from universities around the world, including the program's seven official "Academic Stewards:" Al Akhawayn University, Morocco; Cardiff University in Wales; Fudan University, China; Macquarie University, Australia Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico; University of California at Berkeley, USA; and University of Ghana, Ghana. Most students can transfer academic credit for a completed semester at sea to their university back home.

According to Zighelboim, students can expect to pay about $25,000 for the semester ($19,950 for tuition, meals and a standard cabin, plus the cost of activities in port), though he stresses scholarship money is available.

"We're committed to diversity, so if a good student can demonstrate economic need, we have financial aid for him or her," says Zighelboim, adding that $2 million in scholarship funds were awarded to students worldwide for the September semester.

To make the educational experience relevant and practical for students, senior human resources executives from corporations like IBM, Microsoft and HSBC have helped develop and fine-tune the curriculum.

"A competitive workforce demands that job candidates have genuine international experience. As a student, there is no better way than a study aboard experience to gain this type of cross cultural experience," Zighelboim adds.

The Itinerary

For the upcoming fall semester, the Scholar Ship departs Piraeus, Greece, on Sept. 5, with ports of call including Lisbon; Panama City; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Papeete, Tahiti (1 night); Auckland; Sydney; Shanghai; and Macau (1 night); before the semester ends in Hong Kong on Dec. 23.

The spring semester departs Hong Kong on Jan. 2, 2008, bound for Shanghai; Laem Chabang, for Bangkok; Chennai, India; Port Victoria, Seychelles (1 night); Cape Town; Cape Verde Islands (1 day); Barcelona; Istanbul; and Lisbon (1 day), before the semester ends in Amsterdam on April 19. All are six-night stays except were indicated.

The Ship

The Scholar Ship is the 28,891-ton Oceanic II. Built as the Kungsholm in 1966 for the Swedish America Line, the ocean liner has been refitted over the years and has sailed for P&O, Princess Cruises and more recently, Louis Hellenic Cruises.

"It's an unbelievably prefect ship for our purpose," says Zighelboim.

The ship has 389 double-occupancy cabins with private bathrooms that can accommodate 778 students and faculty. Amenities include a fitness center and medical clinic.

"Finding a vessel we could transform into an oceangoing campus was a unique challenge," said Michael Bonner, chief operating officer of The Scholar Ship. "We wanted a ship with ample public space, expansive outdoor deck areas, comfortable staterooms, and appropriately sized rooms to conduct classes. After nearly a year of reviewing dozens of alternatives, we found a vessel that is ideally suited for our program. It is a classic ocean liner with a deep-draft hull, spacious rooms and decks designed specifically for longer global voyages."

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