Skip to Content
From wanderlust to reality for hospitality students on study abroad trip
Paws up for FIU students, who got an exclusive tour of the Odyssey of the Seas bridge from the ship's captain.

From wanderlust to reality for hospitality students on study abroad trip

Bon Voyage: What's it really like to set sail and study on the high seas?

April 28, 2023 at 2:30pm

Almost 50 students are currently taking classes in the Atlantic Ocean aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Odyssey of the Seas. The two-week Hospitality at Sea study abroad program is the largest and most popular at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and is now in its 10th year.

Students left Port Everglades for the transatlantic journey that started with seven straight days at sea. While it sounds luxurious, the students take classes daily, both onboard and during planned excursions from ports in Spain and Italy. Courses cover topics such as destination marketing, cruise line operations management and spirits and beverage management.

Faculty and industry connections have opened the doors to behind-the-scenes tours of exclusive parts of the ship, such as the bridge, from which the captain and crew command the vessel, and the crew corridor, nicknamed "I-95," a space for storage and other operations rarely seen by passengers. Students have also gotten to network with the ship's officers.

So what’s it like to sail across the ocean while studying? We interviewed Adilene Rivera Chavez, who just finished her junior year and is studying hospitality management at the Chaplin School. She’s from Sloatsburg, New York, in Rockland County and gives us a closer look into why she chose to study abroad.

What classes are you taking?

I am taking cruise operations management and lodging operations, which is one of my requirements classes and I am having a great time learning it in the industry 

What’s been your favorite class memory so far?

My favorite class memory has been doing debates with my professor, Patricia Drolet-Sadar, learning about the cruise industry. She has been an industry leader for more than two decades. 

What’s it like taking classes at sea?

Taking classes at sea is so much fun! The reason is because my professors make it possible to meet with ship's officers, like the captain, hotel manager, environmental officer and more. It doesn't even feel like you are taking classes because of the guest speakers and real-life experience. This is what hospitality is! 

Why did you decide to go on Hospitality at Sea?

I went a similar study abroad cruise to South America in December. That made me decide to go for this summer study. What better way to spend summer in Europe and get six credits! 

How is this cruise different from the Hospitality at Sea cruise to Patagonia you took in December?

This cruise ship is bigger than the last one. This means that there’s more extracurricular things to do, such as rock climbing, inside skydiving, and bumper cars. On this cruise, we also got a tour of the galley, which is the ship's kitchen.

I understand you had a special tour of an area of the ship nicknamed I-95.

I-95 is the main hallway on the cruise ship for the crew. This is where they move everything around without guests seeing it. Guests are not allowed in this area usually, so being given access to see the action was incredible. These cruise employees work really hard to give us a good time, and seeing I-95 really makes me appreciate that.

Do you want to work in the cruise industry?

This is my second cruise and loving this industry, I definitely want to work on a cruise ship for a couple of years. In the future, I would love to be a general manager of a hotel. What I didn't know before studying abroad is that cruise ships have hotel managers. Maybe I'll be the hotel manager of a floating hotel one day! 

Would you suggest other students do a study abroad and why?

I definitely suggest everyone study abroad at least once. The experience is incredible. Our Chaplin School professors are really awesome, and we're learning everything in hospitality first through our textbooks and then by experiencing it. On a study abroad, you can network and make connections with the executive team on board. The best thing is that you have the opportunity to go to new places in the world and learn at the same time!