Have you ever dreamt of earning college credit aboard a luxurious cruise ship?

Dreams like that actually come true at Saint Leo University.

From Oct. 21-28, 2017, Saint Leo had 19 students set sail on the 4,200-passenger Norwegian Escape for the university's Learning at Sea Cruise. Presented by the school's Department of Public Safety Administration and Department of Criminal Justice, the topic of the western Caribbean adventure was "Smuggling on the High Seas: Human Trafficking and Dangerous Drugs."

Lex Hauryluck, a 21-year-old senior who is working toward a bachelor's in criminal justice with a specialization in homeland security, went on the trip.

"I thought it was an awesome experience," he says. "It really allowed us to get to know the professors who went with us on a personal level. There were some really high-intensity lectures that were cool to watch."

He admits that the whole environment of studying on a ship was unique as well.

"It was a nice break from being on campus, and the lectures were different from any classes I've ever taken at Saint Leo," he adds. "The boat was rocking at times, and you could hear the announcer on the ship making announcements about everything going on onboard. But the lectures were fast-paced and very intriguing."

Lectures were held on two full days when the ship was at sea. On the other days, the students and faculty had the opportunity to go on shore and visit several ports of call. These included Cozumel, Mexico, Costa Maya near the Yucatán Peninsula, Roatán off of Honduras and Belize. The original stops were scheduled for islands in the eastern Caribbean, but damage from the recent hurricanes shifted the itinerary to the west.

Hauryluck, who is also a resident assistant on campus, says his goal is a career in counterterrorism analysis in the CIA. He also recently took the New York City firefighter exam and would consider such a path to follow in his dad's footsteps.

An All-Access Adventure

Prior to embarking, the students paid a visit to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Miami.

"We got to talk to one of the Coast Guard officers who introduced us to what they do there," Hauryluck says. "We got to take a boat tour and got to ask some of the active-duty members about their firsthand experiences. It was really fun."

Dr. Robert Sullivan, an assistant professor of criminal justice, believes this early excursion was well worth it.

"The students got to go into restricted areas at the facility," he says. "They learned about how cargo is X-rayed and examined and how the chase boats and barricading systems work. It was a great behind-the-scenes look."

Sullivan was one of three teaching faculty members who lectured on the voyage. The former longtime law enforcement officer, who has been with Saint Leo for eight years, points to a late professor who originally came up with the idea for the cruise.

"Barry Glover, a Saint Leo icon, created the criminal justice program and started several other trips and initiatives here," he says. "The first cruise was around 2005. Dr. Robert Diemer and Dr. Karin May resurrected it last year when they approached me about bringing it back."

Engaging Lectures

Among the special guest lecturers who tagged along were Capt. Bill Watson of Hillsborough County, Fla. Fire Rescue and Coast Guard Maj. Dennis Post, who is involved in training for fish and game law enforcement. Topics in each in-depth presentation included looking at specific drug smuggling cases, smuggling methods, smuggling chases and human sex trafficking.

"Students were there at 8:30 each morning with their notebooks in hand," Sullivan says.

In addition to listening to lectures, the students also had several assignments connected to the cruise.

"They had to complete an extensive pre-trip research paper on drug smuggling and port security," Sullivan explains. "They also had to create a notebook about their experience and identify a topic they'd like to do further research on in the future.".

Another nice perk for the students aboard the Escape was meeting Guy Harvey, a well-known artist and conservationist, who spent plenty of time mingling with passengers and signing his artwork. It was Harvey who actually painted the hull of the Escape.

He says he asked the students if they got what they paid for, and they each answered with a resounding "yes."

As for the future of this unique experience at Saint Leo?

"We are looking at possibly an all-inclusive trip for next fall," Sullivan says. "This could be a trip to somewhere in Florida or one of the islands where we'd stay in one place."

Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog post were provided by Dr. Karin May and are used with permission.