Roller Coaster Ride at Sea

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February 19th 2022
Published: February 19th 2022
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Apologies for the delay in getting another post up with updates about Maggie's trip, but it has been a bumpy ride the last couple of weeks. We've added photos to the last post about Croatia, and pictures in this post are from Malta, so be sure to check those out.

The ship made it to Malta, and Maggie spent some time bike riding around the city as well as taking a ride with a large group of SAS voyagers on a catamaran. She took advantage of free wifi at a local cafe to download some audiobooks and videos the last day, since her phone has essentially been without data since leaving Greece (something she hopes to rectify when she finally gets to Spain). That proved to be fortuitous on her part, as once they left Malta, things deteriorated quickly.

COVID testing of all passengers after leaving Malta revealed the highest number of cases yet - close to 50 people with positive test results. As that far exceeded the threshold that Spain had for cruise ships being allowed into port, the ship staff placed everyone on lockdown and essentially confined all voyagers to their cabins for 5 straight days. They also postponed their arrival to Spain, meaning Maggie and her friends would miss the Barcelona/Naples soccer game they had purchased tickets to see. Without going into all the gory details, it was rough sailing for several days. Some highlights of the issues included: the ship email accounts have not worked the entire voyage; the wifi stopped working as well; voyagers were called for meals in groups, resulting in spending 20-30 minutes in line and only having 10 minutes to eat before being kicked out of the dining hall back to their cabins; all classes and in-person activities were canceled, with no real plan for the professors to move to virtual/remote instruction; Maggie's cabin mates, while friendly with her, are close friends, leaving her feeling like the third wheel and excluded much of the time.

On top of the draconian restrictions, they also informed the voyagers that due to some visa issues, 2 voyagers had been kicked off the ship in Malta (one of whom was Maggie's friend), with a 50/50 chance that they would be detained by authorities for illegally being in the Schengen Region, which apparently most of the EU belongs to and has a limit of 90 days. (It turned out those students had been warned that this might be an issue and SAS had encouraged them to get extended visas because they had been studying abroad in Denmark the semester prior to the voyage, but the students had not done so.) Additionally, they "learned" that their days at sea actually counted toward the 90 day limit, which meant that other voyagers may be at risk of hitting that maximum limit while still on the trip. That also meant that Maggie, who had planned to travel around Europe after disembarking in Germany, would now only have about 12 days before she hit the limit. And no one from SAS had communicated anything about this Schengen Region visa or 90-day limit prior to the voyage starting.

Needless to say, this along with some other growing frustration around how the ship was being managed, made things start to look pretty dire. We started talking with Maggie about disembarking from the ship early so she could at least travel around Europe and use more days on the visa to see sights rather than stay cooped up in her cabin with girls she wasn't really friends with anyway. Maggie was not the only voyager contemplating this course of action, as more and more students started exploring their options for bailing on the SAS voyage prematurely. We were definitely all feeling pretty low about the entire experience just not living up to what our hopes had been.

But Maggie is amazing. And, Todd and I connected with an SAS staff person in Colorado who was extremely responsive and supportive. It was not an easy week, to be sure. But the ship staff finally started communicating more transparently and frequently with both the voyagers and parents. Maggie persevered, talked with us every day, and worked hard to stay focused on the long-term gains as well as the friends she does have on ship, even though they may not be in her cabin.

We talked with her this morning, and she had nothing but good news. They were released this morning from lockdown, and everyone is reconnecting and moving about the ship in high spirits. We also just received word that they have been cleared to arrive in Barcelona tomorrow, and have adjusted their schedule to be able to stay 6 days, until 2/26. At that point, they will go to a previously unscheduled port and spend a day in Gibraltar before heading to Lisbon, Portugal. Maggie and her friends are already making plans to get to the Pyrenees, along with other sight-seeing options in and around Barcelona. She also has a required field program for her World Theatre class - they'll see a Spanish puppet show on Wednesday.

She is also starting to make plans for travel post-voyage. Everything is very up in the air, and options range from flying to Asia to renting an RV in California and driving to Alaska! But the important thing is that she has found a group of people interested in traveling after the SAS voyage, and she is thrilled to be making plans with people her own age for after this experience ends. And we are thrilled for her.

So, we don't know what the next year will look like for Maggie, or where she'll be when (except here at home to see her brothers graduate in June!), but we do know that no matter what life throws at her, she will persevere, adapt and land on her feet. Hopefully the rest of the voyage will be smoother sailing and they've made it through the lowest point. We'll be sure to post about all her adventures in Spain as we hear about them. Let's all just say a prayer that this damn pandemic comes under control and stops interfering so drastically with the lives of this current generation of young adults.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. Viva la EspaƱa!

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