Coronavirus / COVID-19 Response

We are dedicated to continually evolving our health and safety protocols in line with best practices and expert recommendations.


We are hard at work preparing a safe, impactful, and engaging community for all upcoming voyages. The health and safety of our voyagers and crew are the most important considerations on any Semester at Sea voyage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continually monitoring and adjusting our protocols to comply with best practice guidelines and recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization, U.S. State Department, European Medicines Agency, and the Cruise Line Industry Association.

Guidelines and recommendations are continually evolving as the science and knowledge base grows. ISE will continue to adapt and adhere to the most conservative policies and regulations as they are solidified. Given the dynamic nature of the pandemic and the global response, all information provided here is subject to change.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

To help set up future voyages for success, we are now mandating all voyagers and crew are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

All voyagers (students, Lifelong Learners, faculty, staff, and crew) are required to be fully vaccinated (and boosted as appropriate) with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This requirement is in place to help protect our shipboard community, and the residents of the countries we visit, and to help lay the foundation for a successful voyage. 

This policy is currently in place for all future voyages and there are no exceptions to this policy. You must be vaccinated and boosted regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. View CDC vaccination information here.

All participants on upcoming voyages will need documentation indicating they have received the recommended dose (or dosages) and any recommended boosters of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA or the EMA. If voyagers do not have access to an FDA or EMA-approved vaccine and/or boosters, our medical team will review alternate vaccines on a case-by-case basis. 

Semester at Sea is not requiring or recommending a specific vaccine (e.g. Johnson & Johnson vs. Moderna vs. Pfizer-BioNTech, etc.). The current recommendation is to get any one of the approved vaccines as soon as you are able. For more information on finding a vaccine, visit the CDC resources here.

Travel Insurance

All voyagers are covered by a comprehensive travel insurance policy provided by Semester at Sea. This policy provides for medical treatment in the port countries, including treatment for COVID-19.

The policy Semester at Sea provides through CISI (Cultural Insurance Services International) has two components: medical and security. While services deemed medically necessary are covered, security evacuation for fear of catching a pandemic/epidemic illness is not covered. This is not a covered occurrence under the benefit due to the exclusion for endemic or epidemic diseases or global pandemic diseases. (This is not just this case for this policy. Most insurance carriers do not consider it something that is insurable at this time.)

The provided travel insurance will cover COVID-19 testing as long as the individual being tested is experiencing symptoms or has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. There is no limit on the number of times someone can be tested (as long as they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.) Treatment for pandemic-related illness is covered on the medical side (doctor visits, medication, hospitalization, medical evacuation, etc.)

Voyagers are encouraged to read the full policy and consider purchasing additional coverage for items not included (for example, trip interruption/cancellation if desired.)

Medical Facilities Onboard

Trained Medical Staff

One of the great parts about studying abroad with Semester at Sea is that you travel with a team of U.S. licensed health professionals ready to support you 24/7 no matter where you are in the world.

We may increase the number of medical personnel on any given future voyage to include additional trained physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, and medical swing positions (who stay in-country with any voyager who needs to remain in port for medical reasons after the ship departs). There is a provider call system in place, so help is always available.

Medical Facilities Onboard

Ship Clinic

The clinic aboard the MV World Odyssey is staffed with U.S. licensed health professionals and is equipped to handle common emergencies and urgent cases and provide short-term follow-up for exacerbation of chronic conditions. The facility is most consistent with that of an urgent care clinic in the United States or Europe. We are capable of stabilizing voyagers with severe respiratory distress, including that seen with COVID-19. This includes oxygenation, intubation, and ventilation with a transport ventilator before an emergency evacuation is commenced.

Going forward, the medical clinic will have improved and enhanced medical equipment and PPE for treating critically ill patients with COVID-19 or other serious illnesses. The clinic has been redesigned to separate and treat those passengers with suspected infectious diseases from those without.

The clinic is not established to take the place of a primary care provider and participants are instructed to bring ample supplies of the home medications with instructions for appropriate use for the entire voyage. If evolving medical conditions cannot be adequately addressed at the clinic, we work with numerous health care partners to meet the medical needs of the voyager in port. Occasionally, there are emergent needs that require a voyager to return home for additional medical care to ensure their safe recovery.

In cases requiring advanced and/or emergent medical attention, the onboard health team works closely with our international crisis management partners to determine the most viable course of action (including helicopter evacuation if necessary). 

Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about Semester at Sea and COVID-19

What happens if a student/faculty member/LLL tests positive for COVID-19 while on board the ship?

All passengers will be tested weekly throughout the voyage with an antigen test nasal swab. Any symptomatic individuals will be tested upon presentation of symptoms. If an individual tests positive, they will be moved to the quarantine cabins of the MV World Odyssey. 

Upon arrival in port, quarantined passengers will either complete their quarantine on-ship or be moved to an in-country quarantine or medical facility (dependent upon the regulations and guidance of the individual country.) The insurance that is part of your voyage tuition and fees will cover up to $2000 of any fees related to quarantine. There is also a $1400 trip interruption coverage that can be used for transportation to rejoin the voyage once the quarantine period ends.

Throughout any necessary quarantine or isolation time, our on-ship medical team will monitor your symptoms and overall health and intervene as necessary.

What happens if a passenger becomes symptomatic while traveling in-country?

Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms while traveling in-country should immediately self-quarantine and arrange for a COVID-19 test. COVID testing is covered by your travel insurance if you are symptomatic. Depending on the location, this may occur on ship or at a medical facility within the port country. Anyone experiencing symptoms should NOT board the ship if they are off ship when the symptoms develop.
If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, they will be administered two PCR tests to confirm the diagnosis. Close contacts of the individual will also be tested for symptoms and may be quarantined, dependent upon the individual country rules and regulations. 
COVID-19 positive passengers will be quarantined as required by the host country. In some countries, this may require isolation in a medical facility. In others, it may simply require a hotel stay. Semester at Sea staff will remain in-country with any quarantined individuals to monitor their health and well-being, arrange transportation to the next port, and facilitate academic learning while isolated. 
If the individual is being medically treated for COVID-19, the CISI insurance that is included in all participant program fees will cover all costs.  If the quarantine period in a hotel or quarantine facility is required for COVID-19 treatment, CISI insurance will cover up to $2000 USD, or 10 days maximum of accommodation and meal costs. 
If an individual must quarantine for a period of time as close contact or as a result of testing positive but does not need any medical treatment, this is also covered by the quarantine insurance as long as it is mandated by a government/public health official.

Is there a scenario in which the entire ship may be quarantined?

Yes. If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 while on-board, it is possible that the entire ship will need to be quarantined until the outbreak is controlled. A quarantined ship typically means that the ship is alongside at a port and all passengers are required to stay in their cabins. Should this occur, academic coursework will continue. In addition, our student life team has robust plans for entertainment, education and mental health interventions in order to minimize disruptions.

What kind of medical treatment is available on-ship for COVID-19 positive passengers?

Our team of physicians and medical providers are equipped to provide support services to any sick passenger. This includes care for nausea, vomiting, fever, and diarrhea. Our team also has access to pharmaceutical interventions, antibiotics, and supplemental oxygen. 

Any passenger needing additional medical support will be transported to an in-country hospital for services. Our itinerary has been carefully crafted to ensure the availability of appropriate medical services.

What happens if someone tests positive for COVID-19?

While vaccinations can prevent severe disease, no vaccine is 100% effective. Considering this, and the evolution of virus variants, it is still possible for vaccinated participants to test positive for COVID-19 during their voyage. Voyagers should plan and adjust their expectations knowing there is the possibility, though much less likely post-vaccine, that they could have to self-isolate or quarantine either on the ship or in port. 

We currently have allocated nine cabins onboard reserved exclusively for the purpose of self-isolation/quarantine if needed. The cruise industry will be subject to specific protocols for how all ships must handle positive cases. We anticipate these protocols will mirror the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, but could be more conservative given the nature of ship-based travel. As CDC and cruise industry regulations become available, Semester at Sea must be in 100% compliance with those regulations and we will share updated policies and procedures with voyage participants.

If a COVID-19 positive voyager is required to self-isolate or quarantine, either on the ship or in port, Semester at Sea will ensure the voyager is well-cared for. Voyagers will be monitored and supported by our shipboard medical team throughout their diagnosis and recovery. We will also have dedicated staff to support the voyager including helping them to remain connected to the program (coursework, extracurricular programming, etc.) and facilitating reunification with the shipboard community.  Specific arrangements with each port will be secured ahead of time so a plan for shore-based treatment, recovery and repatriation home (or return to the ship) will be well known to the captain and crew in advance if required.

Semester at Sea has been managing student health situations for more than 59 years. We have carefully designed our itinerary to ensure access to medical services. Our partnership with AXA Travel Insurance provides for the care of sick or injured students in-country and their return home or their return to the ship, when the time is right.

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