Sam Stevens performs on the ice

One year ago, SPU alumna Samantha Stevens was a professional ice skater performing on Royal Caribbean cruise ships when the global pandemic took hold. As ports began closing to cruise ships, Stevens and the crew were suddenly stuck at sea.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Samantha Stevens ’17 was that rare Hawaiian girl who grew up on the ice. Rather than spend all her time under the tropical sun at a beach, she dedicated many hours to learning the basics of spins and jumps in a chilly, refrigerated arena.

And that, as it turned out, was her ticket to the world.

Stevens moved to Portland at age 15 to further her career in competitive skating. After earning her bachelor’s degree in communications at SPU, she worked for a few months in New Zealand for a public relations firm, then signed on as a skating entertainer on Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

For a while, it was everything the eager globetrotter hoped for. She was able to visit 23 countries in 18 months. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, she found herself quarantined on her Sydney-based cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, for over two months. While health officials pondered what to do next and how to contain the spread of the virus, she spent much of that time confined to her tiny cabin, eating by herself, doing her best to keep her athletic form, and watching countless movies. What else was there to do?

“I stayed busy by working out every day in my cabin,” she said. “I wrote every day in a journal or [did] research and writing for a blog article. I was trying to learn Spanish. I watched a lot of re-runs of the same movies and episodes that were on the TV.”

Overall, she says it was a pretty unique experience. “Royal Caribbean did a really great job helping us, but it was more the CDC and all the ports that wouldn’t let us off. I was there for about 65 days,” Stevens said.

Once released, she returned to Portland where she has been looking to pick up work related to her SPU communications degree. She hopes to perform again soon on a floating ice rink, but until cruise ships resume their usual sailing schedules, her skating career is on hold.

Stevens understands her window of opportunity for skating professionally will not remain open forever.

“While I can, and while I’m physically able to, I would love to keep doing this,” she said. “It’s been awesome for me.”

She’s guardedly optimistic about her chances for skating again at sea, and about the future — although she assumes conditions in years to come will likely differ from what they were.

“For travel, obviously when it first starts back up, it will be way more restricted,” she said. “As time goes on, I do think cruise lines will adapt. There will be more medical screenings. You’ll be screened for medical clearance before you get on board, but I definitely think cruising is going to come back.”

Just like the ice skater from Honolulu.

Samantha Stevens is on Instagram at @samanthajks

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