On Friday the 13th, the MV Explorer crossed the equator. I have decided that this is not some ominous sign, but rather that Friday the 13th is in fact lucky in the southern hemisphere, as everything is backwards down here (take the seasons as a prominent example).
What crossing the equator meant for us was that we had to appease King Neptune so that he would allow us to pass this imaginary line without any qualms (sea-monsters, storms, men overboard, pirates, scurvy, anything else that could go wrong at sea). Therefore, we celebrated the age-old ritual of Neptune Day, which has been practiced on Semester at Sea since it first started out over 50 years ago. Here’s what it entailed:
The day started off around 8:30, with one of our deans making a nonsensical announcement – complete with lots of odd aaaaaarrrggg sounds – over the loudspeaker, beckoning us to the top deck. As the announcement was being made, songs that immediately made me nostalgic for high-school dances (didn’t think that day would come) started floating down to the deck where I was eating breakfast with my friends, further calling us to join the party slowly forming above us. A procession of crew members dressed in absurd outfits and bearing tridents made their way through the hallways of the ship, banging pots and pans and gathering any stragglers still sleeping. I was excited to see what this day would actually look like – we have been hearing bits and pieces about it for months, and all I’d really retained was that many people (boys and girls) ended up shaving their heads, and that everyone had to kiss a fish. This proved to be true.
We made our way up to the 7th deck, where everyone was gathered around the pool, waiting for festivities to begin. “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus was playing - needless to say it was all very exciting. Soon, a line of administrators, including all three of our deans and dressed even more ridiculously than the crew procession had been, made their way to a makeshift stage at the end of the pool. One of our deans (Dean Bob) was dressed as Neptune himself, bearing a large trident and a crown, and wearing a grass skirt and sneakers, his entire body and face painted green. Our other dean (Mark Thomas) bore a slightly more subdued get-up, but sported a long, black, curly wig and quickly became the designated enforcer of the fish-kissing portion of the ritual about to take place. It was quite the sight to behold.
Then, the ritual commenced. Slowly but surely, each member of the voyage made his or her way through it. Here’s what we had to do: push our way through the crowd to the shallow side-portion of the pool, get green goop poured all over us by crew members (think Nickelodeon slime; slightly less gross), jump into the deep middle-section of the pool (which was entirely green by the end of this), swim to the ladder by the “stage”, climb out, kiss a fish (on the lips, as enforced by Mark Thomas), kiss Neptune’s (Dean Bob’s) enormous plastic ring, get “knighted” by a wooden sword, and then – for those brave enough – get our heads shaved by crew members and electric razors awaiting. I didn’t, don’t worry.
Anyway, it was quite the way to start my day. Especially when I should have been studying – I have two midterms (my second and third assessments of my entire semester) coming up tomorrow and the next day. I have a no-stress policy for myself on this ship, though (hence why I’m writing this instead of studying). Anyway, Neptune Day really demonstrated what a fun community Semester at Sea is and always has been; how absurd, how unique, how totally unafraid to be entranced with and caught up in the happy energy it generates in all of its participants. Here’s to tradition and to King Neptune!