The $3 million cruise ship terminal in Mombasa last week received its first vessel this year when MV World Odyssey, the world's floating campus, called at the Kilindini port on Sunday.
The terminal suffered a two-year hiatus as Covid-19 led to a global suspension of cruise holidays and was idle for close to three years.
The cruise liner arrived with 800 tourists for a five-day tour in the country bringing a ray of hope to the tourism sector as the year comes to an end. Although no other vessel is expected, sector players are hoping for a better 2023 as more liners resume travel.
Classes on the ship
MV World Odyssey, a custom-made floating university, was on its maiden voyage to the port city of Mombasa. The vessel had among its guests 500 students of various nationalities, 100 lecturers and 180 crew members. It is known to operate the biggest floating campus in the world and students take classes on the ship. It is one of six cruisers known as Semester at Sea floating campus.
MV World Odyssey was built in Germany in 1998, and has all the amenities of a college, with reception and administrative offices.
“The ship has a similar feel to a college or university with its the architecture and design, and meets all SAS requirements including safety, programme features, and efficiencies,” said the vessel's newsletter adding, “our reception desk area is welcoming with around-the-clock crew as well as the Semester at Sea field programme and administrative staff.”
There are nine classrooms, each with modern technology to support engaged learning, a recreational area with an indoor fully kitted gym — weight machines and cardiovascular equipment.
Choose study subjects
The minimum time a student can stay on the ship campus is 100 days and has to choose study subjects from a list of 20 to 25 fields at any particular point.
“Students can earn 12 to 15 academic credits from the Colorado State University during the voyage,” according to the management.
The ship’s captain, Petros Poulakis said the Semester at Sea started its journey in Amsterdam, the Netherlands on September 9, 2022 and has called at Lisbon in Portugal, Casablanca in Morocco, Valencia in Spain, Dubrovnik in Croatia, Piraeus in Greece, Limassol in Cyprus, Aqaba in Jordan and now Mombasa in Kenya.
Fresh student intake
“We are so happy to be in Kenya and I am sure all passengers are happy. After Kenya we will go to Mumbai in India and the final destination is Dubai, where we will have a fresh student intake and then we sail back to Mombasa on January 29, 2023 for another five days’ stay then we head to Europe until April 21, 2023 when all the students will disembark,” said Captain Poulakis who has operated the vessel since 2021.
Semester at Sea admits undergraduates, recent college graduates, gap year and lifelong learners.
Eva Gerald, a student in marine biology from Flanders, Belgium described the trip as a success, saying they have interacted with various cultures and people while in voyage.
“Semester at Sea is really a great programme. We are taking university classes while going around the whole world. We just visited Europe and now we are in Kenya and my parents are in Kenyan and I hope to spend some time with my dad who lives in Samburu East, Kenya,” said Mr Gerald.
Kenya’s Tourism Cabinet Secretary Penninah Malonza said the arrival of the ship is a clear sign that tourism is now recovering from the Covid-19 crisis.
“The last time we received a cruise ship was in 2018. So, this is a positive sign for tourism because the visitors will be here for five days,” the CS said after welcoming the tourists.
Ms Malonza said the Kenyan government had lined up elaborate strategies to market the country and increase its visibility in the tourism source markets.
During the visit, the passengers will also be learning about Kenya as part of their semester studies.