This summer, as soon as the ship departs Castine, the Academy will be commencing a major reconstruction project to our pier. This work will be done to prepare for delivery of our new training ship, third in the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel, or NSMV, class. (For more information about the new ship, currently under construction, please see the NSMV portion of our website at NSMV – About MMA – Maine Maritime Academy). Following the conclusion of cruise in Portland on July 18th, the present TS State of Maine will head to a lay berth while construction in Castine is ongoing.
The Coast Guard gave Maritime Academies certain provisions during COVID to account for the required number of sea days. These provisions have now been rescinded and we have returned to the pre-pandemic standard of a 74-day training cruise.
Our broadband connection while at sea is extremely limited. Your student will have a TSSOM email account (firstname.lastname@TSSOM.MMA.EDU) to send and receive basic emails – “basic” means your student cannot send or receive any attachments or links with this account.. Your student can also download the “X-Change Voice” app to their phone to purchase and make satellite calls from their phone while underway. However, the X-Change app only works on their phone to make outgoing voice calls – there is no text option – and you will not be able to call your student while the ship is at sea. Whenever the ship is in a port, or is close enough to shore to receive signal, your student will be able to access their phone’s features to email, Facetime, text, and call you, and you’ll be able to call, text, Facetime, and email your student as you normally would as long as your plan supports international calling and data.
In case of emergency, please contact the Dean of Students, Deidra Davis, shoreside in Castine. Dean Davis will contact the ship and your student will then be able to use one of the dedicated satellite phones aboard to contact you.
Port visits are generally four days in length (Arrival day, two full days and a departure day). Time at sea between ports varies, but usually the ship is underway for no longer than 10-12 days at a time, and sometimes for far fewer depending on the distance between ports.
Depending on your carrier’s plan, your student will have unlimited access to make and receive calls, send and receive texts and photos, email, Facetime, etc. while in port and for as long as they are able to get signal offshore when arriving or departing. You may wish to purchase an international plan for the duration of the cruise. Be aware of the potential for a time difference, and ask your student to communicate their watch schedule to you, as students may not use their electronic devices while on watch.
Yes, you may see your student in any port during cruise as long as your student is not part of that day’s watch company. Overnight liberty may be approved for students with immediate family in port and your student will then be able to spend the night with you in a local hotel or at home, if your home is within a 50-mile radius of the port. Overnight liberty, if approved, commences when liberty is sounded, and expires onboard the ship at 0600 (6 am) the next morning.
No. Each company is assigned to stand watch on at least one day while the ship is in port. If your student is a member of the company standing watch on a certain day, they may not leave the ship, even if they are not physically standing one of the watch positions. Liberty is sounded in port daily at the completion of engine and deck maintenance and utility, generally between 1100-1200. Liberty expires, and students must be back aboard, daily at 2200 (10 pm) for freshman students and at 2400 (midnight) for junior/above and non-traditional students, except for those students with immediate family members in port who have asked, and been approved, for overnight liberty (described above). (Freshman students who have taken on additional responsibilities, such as volunteering to be members of the ship’s Emergency Squad or Boat Squad, will receive an extra hour of liberty in port and not be required to be back aboard until 2300, or 11 pm.)
Your student should plan to take all the medication they’ll need for the duration of cruise (plus a few extra doses) with them when cruise departs. Otherwise, prescriptions may be able to be refilled at domestic ports, or can possibly be mailed ahead of time to port agents for delivery. Students needing prescription meds should ensure that the school nurse (firstname.lastname@example.org) is made aware of the need for medication during cruise well ahead of departure, so that a plan can be worked out. Refrigeration for medicines is available for those medications that require it.
Yes. Mailing addresses for each port will be updated on the website. Mail is delivered to the port agent, who then delivers the mail to the ship. If a letter or package arrives after the ship has departed, the agent will forward the mail to the next port’s agent for delivery to the ship there. Mail letters and packages well in advance of the ship’s advertised arrival date.
Occasionally, students may need to come home during the course of the cruise. Generally, when this happens, students do not return to the ship. They will be given sea time credit for the number of days spent aboard prior to their departure. Travel home will be arranged and paid for by the Academy, and then billed to the student’s account. Typically, students will need to repeat the cruise they departed from, as it is a credit-bearing course.
Your student will be busy, and you’ll be able to stay relatively up-to-date on your student’s activities via the Cruise Blog. Pictures and captions will be posted as soon as we are able to, given the broadband restrictions underway, throughout the course of the training cruise. Your student will spend a block of days training in the classroom, then a block of days doing maintenance to the ship, then a block of days on watch, then a block of days assigned to the ship’s utility, or cleaning, crew (not necessarily in this order) before starting the rotation over again. (Training does not take place in port, but utility, maintenance, and watch do.) Upperclass students also have individual projects that must be completed. During evenings at sea, there are morale events – movie nights, tournaments of all sorts (cribbage, bingo, chess, card, ping-pong, and cornhole, to name a few), paint nights, and much more – as well as at least two barbecues while underway. Additionally, the steward’s staff host various food events throughout cruise –wing night, ice cream sundae night, a nacho night, to name a few. There is also a ship’s gym, located below deck of the aft house; a library, just outside the Ship’s Store; and many DVDs, fishing gear, board games, and decks of cards available for checkout through the Ship’s Office.
We try to arrange excursions via the agent in most ports ahead of time, and subsidize them so that the cost from each student’s pocket is no more than $25 each per excursion. In the past, these have included tours of Stonehenge while we were berthed in Southampton, England; a guided tour of the volcanic craters, lakes, and wildlife by SUV in the Azores, Portugal; and a tour of a chocolate factory in Spain. Students are also free to arrange and pay for their own excursions ashore, as long as they are within liberty timelines. Popular excursions students have arranged and participated in on their own in past ports have included a bus tour of the Golden Circle in Iceland, sport fishing in Florida, scuba diving/snorkeling in St. Croix, and horseback riding in the Azores. Students are also free to explore museums, restaurants, activities, and souvenir shopping on their own in each of our various destinations, and are encouraged to stay in groups.
There is a ship’s store which is open from 1700 (5 pm) to 2000 (8 pm) daily when we are at sea, and closed when we are in port. Students can purchase various snacks and sundries there such as soap, toothpaste, and uniform items. The ship’s store accepts credit and debit cards. Additionally, there is unlimited free popcorn available from the ship’s store whenever it’s open.
Absolutely! The first two or three days of cruise are spent dockside in Castine while we load supplies and stores. Students not part of the watch company may have some liberty and be able to spend time with you if you are able to be here. However, the ship will not be returning to Castine at the end of the Summer 2024 sea term. Instead, cruise will end, and students will disembark, in Portland, ME. You are welcome to pick your student up in Portland following the end of cruise; otherwise, we will work with students to make travel arrangements from Portland home.
There are some local lodging options; you can try the Pentagoet Inn (pentagoet.com), the Castine Inn (castineinn.com), or the Castine Cottages (castinecottages.com). Slightly further afield, there’s the Fort Knox Inn in Bucksport (fortknoxparkinn.com), or you can stay at any number of hotels in Belfast, Bangor or Ellsworth.
Cruise storage will be made available in Curtis Hall for those students who won’t have time to go home during Finals Week to drop off items from their rooms in Curtis Hall or The Commons. At the end of the summer sea term, we will transport items from cruise storage down to Portland for those students who don’t wish to return to Castine before going home. Students who live off campus must arrange for their own, off-campus, cruise storage.
Packing lists are, or soon will be, posted to the website so that students know exactly what they should bring on cruise with them. In addition to the items on the list, students may wish to bring diversions such as puzzle books, or craft and hobby supplies (such as equipment to tie flies, knit, cross-stitch, etc.). Binoculars always come in handy as does extra foul weather gear (Rain pants, rain coat, insulating layers.