This year's program takes place aboard the ALEXANDER von HUMBOLDT II, a German flag registered Class ‘A’ sail training tall ship.
Class Afloat offers rigorous and internationally acclaimed academic programs for Grade 11, 12, University and Gap Year students while they sail the world’s oceans aboard a majestic tall ship. Class Afloat has a long legacy of commitment to academic excellence, community service, leadership and personal development since first setting sail over 30 years ago.
Stayed up until 11pm to see the Eiffel Tower light up in the dark.
Every hour after sunset, they light up the Eiffel Tower for 5 minutes with "sparkles".
Supposed to be the best place to see the Eiffel Tower.
The family in Paris!
Chocolate shoes in Brussels, Belgium
Waiting for a warm Stroopwaffle in Amsterdam beside the flower markets.
Class Afloat was an absolutely incredible experience for me. From September 2021 to May 2022, I travelled all around the world, learned how to sail an actual tall ship, met some amazing friends from several different continents, and made countless wonderful memories through all of my crazy experiences. I apologize for only sitting down to do this now, and I’m very thankful for my Dad who helped keep you all up to date, but I have the whole story now and I’m going to tell it to the best of my ability.
Leaving Home and Seattle -
On September 24th 2021, I said goodbye to my siblings and left New Orleans, flying with my parents up to Seattle where we stayed for a few days. We had a great time hanging out around the city. I had a delicious breakfast with my Mom and then the three of us went to visit Snoqualmie Falls, which was really pretty. That night we went and had dinner with Ib Khalil (A friend of Dad’s and the current CO of Coast Guard Base Seattle) and he took us to see the skyline of Seattle from across the water. The lights at night are beautiful. The next day, my 16th birthday, I said goodbye to my parents and flew to London by myself. There I ran into another Floatie, Chance, the student from Bermuda, and we flew into Seville together. One of the teachers, Rafael, met us and 6 other students there and helped us get out sea bags into a big yellow van, which then took us on a 2 hour drive in the middle of the night to UNEDCO.
UNEDCO has become a bit of a legend to the 21-22 Class Afloat students. I don’t know if that’s because we stayed there for almost a month or because of how eventful that time was, but I will certainly never forget that place. It was a small summer camp almost an hour drive into the mountains of southern Spain. There were two buildings and a small pool, stair-stacked up the side of a mountain. The big building had three of the four dormitories, a hangout space, and the mess where we ate all our meals. The one at the bottom of the hill had the last dormitory and all the classrooms where we had school.
Once all the students arrived, we went through about a week of games to get to know one another. I’m proud to say I knew everyones names within three days, but it took other people almost the whole time at UNEDCO to figure them out. After that week a group of us, including myself, went canyoning in the Grazalema National Park in Southern Spain, which was super fun. But for the most part, our time at UNEDCO was spent in classes or in the pool, which turned out to be a huge blessing for all the students as it was always really sunny. We did a Paella cooking class, which my team won, and a Flamenco Concert and Dance Lesson about halfway through our time there. I wore a long skirt so it was really fun to learn how to swish it around. There were two days of shore leave while we were there, one in Ronda and one in Seville, which I described below. We were there for too long though, so everyone was certainly glad to pack up their bags and hop on the bus to Bordeaux.
Ronda, Spain -
Going out on shore leave in Ronda was our first jailbreak out of UNEDCO in over two weeks, and it was amazing. They loaded us all up on a huge bus, dropped us off in the middle of the city, and left us to our own devices. So naturally, the first thing my group did was go sit in a beautiful garden to use their wifi because we hadn’t been able to get online since before UNEDCO. After we’d done all we needed to on the internet, we went and got pizza and gelato for lunch. Then we just walked around the city for the rest of our time there. It was built around a ravine and was higher than all the land around it, so the sunset there was almost as beautiful as all the ones I saw at sea. Finally, it was back on the bus to UNEDCO.
Seville, Spain -
Seville was the second and last day of shore leave we had in Spain. I went with a different group that time, but we basically just walked around, seeing all the sights, treated ourselves to some different food than what we’d been having, and stocked up on snacks for the rest of our time in Spain. The cathedral there was gorgeous, honestly one of the prettiest I saw all year. But the whole feel of the old city was like we had stepped into the past. All the buildings looked like parts of a castle and there were horse-drawn carriages giving tours around the square. The sky that day really just topped it off as one of the most beautiful places I visited. I also bought a beautiful, hand-painted white fan as a souvenir.
After Seville, we left UNEDCO and took a 17 hour bus ride to Whoo Hostel in Bordeaux, France. And by the way, that’s way too long of a drive to do in a cramped bus with 45 teenagers.
Bordeaux, France -
This was my favorite port by far, and there are a couple of reasons why. The first is that this was the first time that my friend group, the one that I became really close to on the ship, went on shore leave together. The second reason is that there was a fair being held in Bordeaux while we were there and it was so much fun! Other than that, the city itself had some beautiful architecture, fountains, and bridges, along with some great shopping.
Between these two ports we took another bus ride, this one 12 hours long, and ended up in Forest Lodge.
Forest Lodge, Netherlands -
Forest Lodge was a beautiful summer camp in the Netherlands where we stayed before getting on the ship. While we were there, we attended our classes every day, except for the day we did a high ropes course, a Jacobs ladder, and a rock climbing wall. I couldn’t make it to the top, but it was still super fun. It was the last time we would live on land for months, so everyone took advantage of the space to run, go on long walks, and do whatever things they wouldn’t be able to on the ocean. After about a week and a half, we packed our sea bags again and drove to Bremerhaven to finally board the Alex 2.
Giethorn, Netherlands -
We took one of the days we were at Forest Lodge to go to Giethorn, a tiny town that some people call the Venice of the Netherlands. In the town itself, there were no roads, only canals and footpaths to get around, and there was also pretty much nothing there. But it was a very pretty, very quiet place, and because we were there in the fall, the colors were amazing. One of the owners of the ice cream stand we went to gave us free ice cream too, it was great. After Giethorn, we went back to Forest Lodge and took another bus ride to Bremerhaven, Germany, where we finally boarded the Alexander Von Humboldt II.
Alexander Von Humboldt II -
Arriving in Bremerhaven and finally boarding the ship I knew I was going to be living on for the next six months was probably one of the best moments of the entire trip for me. Most of the reason I had wanted to go on this program so badly was the sailing part of it, so to finally be getting on the ship was incredible. We officially boarded on October 29th 2021 and had two days of sail training while docked before we set sail on November 1st. I will never forget the feeling of leaving port aboard the Alex 2 for the very first time.
We sailed north for a day and docked in Denmark to refuel, just in case we had to use the engine, and then set our course for Madeira.
We sailed for 9 days from Denmark to Madeira and I experienced my first watch, my first time on helm, my first time on lookout, and my first time setting a sail. Because of the way our class schedule worked out the students ended up only having to stand two hour watches instead of four, so for this first sail I stood the 8-10 watch. It was a little bumpy in some places, but I’m happy to say I never got seasick.
We arrived in Madeira November 19th and had three full days of shore leave there, from 8 am colors to 11 pm curfew. There, my group went to the botanical gardens and got caught in a downpour, got some of the cheapest and yummiest ice cream of the whole trip, and even rode on Monte sleds, better known as toboggans. Each toboggan has two sledge drivers called "Carreiros," dressed in a traditional outfit - straw hat, white pants, and special shoes with thick rubber soles that help them keep traction. The Carreiros run, kick, and steer the large wicker sleighs 2km down the narrow, steep and curvy roads. It was one of the coolest experiences of the trip. The food was delicious after almost two weeks of ship food and we made sure to stock up on lots of snacks for the next voyage. Madeira was altogether a beautiful port, and I’m glad it was the first one we docked at.
Savage Islands -
We left Madeira on Nov 23rd, but were unable to visit Morocco. A new National directive from the capital in Rabat restricts visits from passenger vessels. The replacement port Class Afloat gave us was called the Ilhas Selvagens nature preserve, which lies just north of the Canary Islands. We called it the Savage Islands. There, we rode on the Zodiacs for the first time, the small boats kept on the ship, and had our first and last swim call. It was fun, but plagued by jellyfish. From the Savage Islands, we sailed to La Gomera, another of the Canary Islands located just west of Gran Canaria.
La Gomera -
In Madeira one of my fellow Americans, Dory, had bought some mini boxed apple pies that she shared with all the Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving while sailing.
The next island we visited was La Gomera, one of the smaller Canary Islands. But before docking there, we actually sailed right by La Palma, where there was an ongoing volcanic eruption. By day, we could see the trails of dried lava snaking down the hill into the sea, going right through buildings. But by night we could actually watch the bright red lava spew out of the volcano and burn its way down to the sea. We arrived in La Gomera the day after that, where there wasn’t much to do but go to the beach, but it was a much needed retreat from school and the ship. We left December 2nd and sailed to Gran Canaria.
Gran Canaria -
In Gran Canaria, we visited the sand dunes on the Northern shore of the island on an unfortunately windy day, but it was fun to watch all the kite surfers off the coast. On December 5th, Jules, Maya J, Liz, and I went surfing. I discovered I’m not very good at it, but I still had a blast. We also ran into the Sorlandet, a ship Class Afloat had previously used for their program, and one that one of our teachers had already sailed on.
Cabo Verde -
Cabo Verde was one of the first places I had genuine culture shock. It was vastly different from everywhere we had been before, because it was entirely African, not European. It was also the first place where I was the minority, which gave me a unique perspective. We went on a city tour with one of the locals as our guide, went to a huge outdoor market that had anything and everything you wanted to buy, and swam at the beach a lot. It was also the last port we had before the Atlantic Crossing, so everyone bought a lot of snacks and ramen.
Atlantic Crossing #1 -
The Atlantic Crossing was 21 days long, made longer by our decision to sail directly south and cross the Equator. We had school for most of those days, but we took Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, and New Years off. There was a ship wide secret Santa and I got a yellow bracelet from Chance. My friend group did a smaller gift exchange, so I carried on the tradition of opening a gift a week before Christmas. The students decorated as best we could, and it certainly helped that our ship itself was green, but it was still hard without many decorations. It worked well enough though. On New Years Eve, my friends and I popped a bottle of sparkling apple juice on the foredeck and shared it in plastic wine glasses. We crossed the equator on New Years Day and officially became shellbacks, but I’m forbidden by Neptune himself to tell you how. As fun as the whole crossing was, I was happy to get to Grenada.
Seeing land for the first time in almost a month was nice, especially because it was the most luscious looking island I’d ever seen. It looked exactly how you would imagine a Caribbean island would, white beaches, bright blue waters, and the greenest jungle canopy in the world. We weren’t allowed to get off the ship for shore leave because of Covid, but we were allowed to leave in bubble tours around our final exam schedule. I went glass bottom kayaking, snorkeling, and on a spice tour where we got to taste rum. I felt a bit like Captain Jack Sparrow. Even though we didn’t get to go on shore leave, Grenada still ended up being one of my favorite ports. And I finished my exams there!
Barbados - Semester Break
Barbados was only about a day sail from Grenada, and it was our semester break. We didn’t have classes for about a two week period, the longest on the whole program, and it was so nice. My group went on a taxi tour around the whole island, cracked open a coconut with a pocket knife, took a sunset swim, and got stranded ashore when our ships mooring lines broke. The crew had to ferry us back and forth for the rest of the port. About halfway through the port our second semester students arrived and our first semester students departed. It was a bittersweet farewell. We sailed out of Barbados on January 23rd, headed for Dominica.
Unfortunately, when we arrived and docked in Dominica, our shipboard director announced that some of us had gotten Covid while in Barbados, so we were unable to get off on the island. Instead, we set sail once more on a meandering course to the Dominican Republic.
Covid sail -
The students who had Covid were quarantined in certain areas on the ship, trying to prevent further spread of the virus. Surprisingly, it worked. But, because of the amount of students who were unable to stand watch, it was decided that school would be canceled and all the healthy students would stand four hour watches. So, for that twelve day sail, I stood the 8-12 watch.
Dominican Republic -
We arrived in the Dominican Republic and left the ship to go stay at a hotel in Samana. We were there for about 5 days doing community service projects like painting houses, designing and painting a mural, and building a playground by a school. I was a part of the mural painting group. The wealthier cemeteries have gardens, so we painted a garden and a rising dove along a wall in front of the El Limon Municipal Cemetery. I didn’t get any shore leave in this port, but the service projects were incredibly rewarding for me personally, so this was also one of my favorite experiences from the past year. We got back on the ship and set sail for Bermuda, but on our way out of the Dominican Republic we saw tons of Humpback Whales breaching and dancing with each other. They were beautiful. Also second semester classes started on this voyage.
We didn’t do much in Bermuda, we weren’t there for very long, but it was a beautiful island. We learned how to make Bermudian kites, toured an old fort guarding the port, and I found a great boba spot. We also climbed to the top of the Cathedral and got a lovely view of the city. Finally we set sail across the Atlantic again to the Azores.
In the Azores, we docked on the most colorful pier I’d ever seen. It was completely covered in murals from the hundreds upon hundreds of ships who had docked there over the years. Naturally, Class Afloat wanted the students to design and paint one, so four other students a teacher and I got to work. We painted a great design next to where we had docked. Also in the Azores we went to a scrimshaw museum and a whaling museum, as that was a huge part of their history. And the hot chocolate at Peter’s Bar was the most delicious I’d ever tasted. After a couple of days, we set sail to finish our journey back to Europe.
St Malo -
The second Atlantic crossing complete, we docked in St Malo, a city on the French coast. It was a historic pirating city with huge stone walls surrounding the old town, and I must say it had amazing crepes. St. Malo and the adjacent coastline also experience some of the largest tidal ranges in the world. However, St. Malo is perhaps most well known for the Corsairs - privateers that made St. Malo their breeding ground in the 17th and 18th century, offering a glimpse into Brittaney's important seafaring past. My group walked around the old city, on top of the wall for the most part, got some delicious French food, and also got Thai food for the first time in over a year.
Mont St Michel -
While in St Malo, one of our port programs was going to Mont St Michel, a huge monastery in the middle of nowhere with a town built around it. Walking through it was like stepping back in time. Everything was made of stone and most of the architecture dated back hundreds of years. We got some delicious food and walked all around the entire town. It was gorgeous.
We left St Malo on April 1st, setting sail for the last time. It was a bittersweet time, and I stood two watches for most of it, not wanting to miss out on any of my final days at sea. Too soon, we were sailing on familiar waters again and Bremerhaven was in view. We docked there for a few days, packed our red sea bags for the first time since getting on the ship, and said goodbye, getting on a bus to Switzerland.
We drove for hours, all the way through Germany into the Alps in Melchtal, Switzerland. There, we stayed in another summer camp called Sportscamp high in the mountains and continued our schooling. It was pretty remote, so we didn’t get much shore leave, but my group went to Lucerne one of the days and enjoyed our time on the lake in the center of the city. Another one of the days we went to a ski mountain and I went sledding and toured the inside of a glacier. Finally, I went on a cheese and chocolate factory and saw where all Gruyere cheese is made. I had a lot of samples that day. But for the most part, we just did classes in the beautiful scenery of the Swiss Alps.
We departed Melchtal on April 24th and spent 10 days in Salzburg, Austria at a place called Hotel Josef. It was a great spot with a soccer field, hammocks, basketball hoops, and several comfy classrooms. We continued doing classes there and took a day to visit a historic falconing castle. By the way, the Alps are prettier from Austria.
After Austria, we drove to Prague for three days of full shore leave. It was amazing. We saw all the historic bridges, the royal castle, and played giant chess outside of the largest cathedral in the Czech Republic. One of the days I also went and visited Terezin, one of the concentration camps inside the Czech border.
After Prague, we drove to Berlin and stayed in Mugglesee for 9 days. There, we finished our classes, took our exams, and took the tram into the city a few times. We went on a bike tour, saw the Berlin Wall, and visited Museum Island and the Humboldt Forum. But the best part of our stay in Berlin was the fact that each cabin had a kitchen so for the first time in a year we could make our own meals! Which was really good because we didn’t get fed much. We stayed next to a lake that was only hip deep, but it was super fun to wade through. All in all, Berlin was amazing.
Forest Lodge -
Forest Lodge this time was just for two days, really just a stopover between Berlin and graduation. It was very nostalgic for everyone, and we did a lot of reflection along with starting to say our goodbyes to one another.
The final destination on the program was Amsterdam for our graduation. I reunited with my family there and stayed with them for one night before I officially graduated. The next day I got ready with my friends and headed to the Bimhuis theater where I was awarded a cord for having the highest grade in English 11 and the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Award for being an altogether great 11th grader. The farewells were sad, and the program was over, but I had some of the best experiences of my life on Class Afloat and I’m so glad I did it.