FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How long has your program been running?
We launched Ocean Passages in 2015 after two decades of experience running high school and college programs aboard Tall Ships. Over these many years in sea education, we learned the particular value of experiential education in geographical areas undergoing historic transformation.
Is it now legal to travel to Cuba by boat?
Yes, with the proper authorization. Our program operates under all the educational, humanitarian and nautical requirements of both U.S. and Cuban law.
Can I join a voyage later than the listed start date?
No. The numerous safety and logistical considerations require everyone to participate as a cohort in initial safety orientation training.
What’s the age range? Do I have to be a student?
You’re welcome to participate in our gap programs if you’re between 18 and 24 years old. Student status is all that is required for our Winter Term voyages (which earn college credit), but it is not required for our gap programs. You must be a Maine high school student between the ages of 15 and 19 to participate in our Summer Voyage.
Do I have to know how to sail and swim? Or how to speak Spanish?
No sailing experience is required; we’ll teach you everything you need to know. Swimming proficiency is required to do any snorkeling. Competency in Spanish is not essential, but is certainly welcome.
Will we snorkel in Cuba?
Yes, in some of the most amazing coral reefs left in the Atlantic.
On the ship, who does what?
The ship can support 20 students (“cadets” or “trainees”) and nine crewmembers: captain, three mates, cook and four deckhands. Everyone collaborates to keep the ship safe and sailing, from standing watch to basic navigation. It’s all about the teamwork – we work together, eat together and take excursions together.
On the way from Maine to Cuba, is there any time on land?
Yes. As the program dates approach, we’ll analyze weather and consider student preferences to develop a voyage float plan. For instance, that might entail stops in Mystic, Baltimore, Norfolk or Charleston. For safety reasons, always the top priority, the schedule must remain flexible. Consequently, once underway it is not possible to reliably schedule family visits with students in port. However, the ship course and speed can always be tracked online.
Do male and female students live together on the ship?
Yes and in close quarters. Both students and crew are required to sign the ship’s Code of Conduct, which is based on strict principles of mutual respect.
What should I bring – and what shouldn’t I bring?
It depends. For all of our programs, once you’re enrolled, you’ll get a packing list detailing precisely what you need and some recommended additional purchases. For our gap programs, you’ll also get your own official Ocean Passages duffel bag designed for about 90 pounds of gear. Everything you bring has to fit in the duffel bag.
Will my cellphone and laptop work onboard?
A wet boat without reliable Wi-Fi isn’t the best environment for laptops. But it’s fine to bring your smartphone, which can work within shore cell transmission range. And you’ll also be glad to have the phone camera handy during voyages.
What about Internet while in Cuba?
It varies. Cuba has limited Internet and Wi-Fi access. So while you can find it, don’t expect instantaneous and regular service (and tell your parents the same thing!). In a pinch, the ship has its own radio and satellite communications, so it is always in contact with the Ocean Passages office in Portland. That’s available if really needed, but not just to chat with your friends at home.
What’s the food like aboard the ship?
We’re partial but if you’re asking – the food is great, maybe because things always taste better at sea. And there’s plenty of it. After provisioning in Maine, everyone eats together three times a day. Once notified, we can accommodate special dietary needs. And everyone’s encouraged to toss a line over the side to catch the night’s fish dinner.
Can I shower on the boat?
We will teach you the tricks of saltwater showers with a light fresh water rinse, but we do not currently have any fresh water showers on the ship. While on shore, we always try to arrange for showers as soon as possible.
How much does it cost?
The tuition for the fall semester is $19,500, and the tuition for the spring semester is $13,500. The Winter Term program fee costs $2,850; this does not include tuition or flights to and from Cuba. Our Summer Voyage program costs $2,400.
If I were sick or injured, how do I get medical care?
Ocean Passages has made a commitment to the safety of its crew and shipmates by purchasing MedAire, a medical emergency provider that serves ships in remote locations. Treatment facilities aboard consist of a MedAire medical kit administered by the ship’s medical officer and a 24/7 medical consulting service via radio with MedAire’s trained medical professionals. If needed, we immediately initiate medical evacuation. In Cuba, we would also work closely with the U.S. Embassy to act expeditiously to address a medical emergency.
Do I need to be concerned about the Zika virus?
Yes. As has been well reported, the virus has now migrated even to the United States. Our policies defer entirely to guidance from public health authorities and we will strictly enforce compliance with all Centers for Disease Control and State Dept. travel guidelines.
Do I need any vaccinations?
Cuba is a tropical country. Ocean Passages does require that all students be up-to-date on their Tetanus, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations.
Can I stay in Cuba beyond the program dates? Can family or friends visit?
Probably not. Some U.S. restrictions have been liberalized, but American citizens still may travel to Cuba legally only for a handful of specific purposes – otherwise, a U.S. travel “license” is required. Ocean Passages has worked closely with the Departments of State, Commerce and Treasury to operate our program. We assist with flights to and from home, as needed, including time in Cuba pursuant to such program logistics. But any additional travel by students or any visitors must comply fully and independently with Treasury Dept. regulations governing travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens.