By Kelsey Archer Barnhill
It is officially day two of quarantine in Vigo, Spain before we embark on the iMirabilis2 cruise. I flew from Edinburgh to Vigo on 12 July. International travel during the pandemic made the trip more stressful than usual as increased wait times and delays are now standard across all airports. Upon check-in I had to present my Spain Travel Health QR code as well as my negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate from 48-hours prior, which were also checked when boarding my flight to Madrid. After passport control and security in Madrid, the QR code had to be presented one last time before boarding my final flight. These increased health and safety measures, combined with a delayed flight in Heathrow due to security staff shortages, had me running through the Madrid–Barajas Airport for my flight to Vigo.
Happy I made the transfer, I was even more relieved when I saw my 7-kilo overweight suitcase had also made the tight connection. I’m not known for packing light, but fitting everything I needed for a 6-week cruise as well as some communal equipment into one suitcase seemed to justify the extra £65 fee.
After a short taxi ride from the airport where I got to practice my Spanish, which has become rusty since my 2015 Erasmus, I arrived at the hotel where I am currently under 10-day quarantine. The route from the airport to the hotel allowed me a glimpse of our research vessel, the Sarmiento de Gamboa, waiting for us in port.
I am quite happy with my room for the next week, which has a desk, dining table, and bath tub. As we are unable to leave our rooms, the hotel is keeping us well-fed with meal deliveries. I am happy each meal thus far has included some fruit or vegetable component to offset the daily donut that arrives as breakfast! However, as an American, I doubt I will ever get used to the Spanish meal times. Breakfast is delivered between 8:00-8:30 which fits nicely into my schedule, however the 14:00-14:30 lunch and the 20:30-21:00 dinner time slots leave me counting down the minutes until I hear a knock at the door! These late meal times have me wishing I packed more snacks, and in more desperate moments I have resorted to scrolling through Uber Eats delivery options. Now that I’ve become more familiar with what to expect at each meal, I’ve been stowing away either a bread roll or a piece of fruit to tide me over during the 6-hour eternity between breakfast and lunch.
My daily routine (which I must confess revolves around the food deliveries) has kept me feeling productive so far. After breakfast, I place the paper bag and empty food containers in the hallway just outside my door for the cleaning staff to take away. Then I do a Nike Training Club workout followed by a yoga flow, using an extra bath towel as a makeshift mat. After showering, I work remotely from 10:00-14:00 at the desk in my room. I am incredibly unproductive from 14:00-14:30 as I spend my time straining to hear the rustle of brown paper bags in the hallways, indicating my late lunch has arrived. After scarfing down lunch, I get back to work until 18:00. As I am normally based in Scotland, I enjoy keeping the UK working hours, which also give me less time waiting around for dinner in the evening. After finishing up work for the day, I sit in my window which overlooks the roof terrace, reading one of the books I brought for entertainment. I’m currently halfway-through reading Chad Harbach’s 2011 novel ‘The Art of Fielding’ which I absolutely recommend. After dinner, I’ll either go back to my book or watch some Netflix before going to bed.
Thus far I’ve kept myself occupied in quarantine and haven’t felt too bored as I am excited about the upcoming cruise. It also helps that I have plenty of work to keep me busy until we set sail. One of the most important activities on my to-do list is testing out all the new media equipment. A marine scientist by trade, I have not been responsible for filming on board before. Both during the working day and in the evening I spend some time looking over all the kit I’ve ordered to make sure I’m familiar with their functions. I am most excited about using the GoPro HERO9 which should work nicely on the ship due to its stabilisation abilities.
My main quarantine highlight has been getting to glimpse the other cruise participants yesterday during our socially-distanced COVID tests. In addition to the standard PCR test, we were also tested for antibodies which I’ve haven’t had done before. I was happy my results showed ample antibodies, indicating I responded well to the first dose of the vaccine I received 3 weeks ago. Before embarking on the vessel, we will each have one more COVID test on our penultimate day in quarantine. Once those results come back (and are hopefully all negative) we will get to properly meet each other on board the ship. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone and setting sail to kick-off the cruise!