Encountering Poseidon's Temper in a Floating Prison of Vomit
Travelling during a global pandemic comes with its unique quirks. For example, remembering to pack your favourite travel thermometer or staying emotionally prepared to hop on a flight back to your home country at all times.
Throughout my stay in Greece, I religiously kept an eye on an incredibly useful, online colour-coded COVID-19 risk map of the country. The interactive map would provide information regarding regulations in different regions of Greece. Usually the map and was usually a colourful mix of green, yellow and red zones, indicating different risk levels using an intuitive system.
Two evenings before Cory and I were about to head towards Crete (a yellow zone), we decided to check-in with the ol' risk map only to find out that the entire country was now a blotted out shade of grey. After a quick Google search, we learned the country of Greece would be going into a three-week lockdown the day we were supposed to be leaving Santorini for Crete.
We had some decisions to make. Continue onto Crete (we had a month Airbnb so we could have technically done the lockdown), travel home to Canada and regroup or... go to Mexico. Because why not? We hastily made an uncharacteristically responsible decision to flee Greece and hop on a plane back to Canada. Our "trip" had officially been downgraded to a "vacation". Now I'm going to skip the logistics of booking travel back to Canada and get to the meat and potatoes of why I'm even bring this up, which is the boat ride.
The Calm Before the Storm
We promptly arrived at the Santorini port at 10:00am to catch our 12:25pm ferry from Santorini to Athens, only to learn the ferry had been cancelled due to "bad weather". In hindsight, that should have been the first clue that if we were getting on the water that day, it wouldn't exactly be smooth sailing through calm seas. Unfortunately that thought went right over our heads as we inquired about any other boats leaving that day. We were told there was an 4:00pm ferry that would be an eight-hour ride and they only had first class tickets available. Since this was seemingly our only option, we bought the tickets.
The trip started off better than expected. We boarded a large, cruise ship style boat with the first class tickets that we were forced to buy. Once we arrived in our section, we were greeted by dark brown leather recliners with plenty of space to curl up and sleep any potential sea sickness away. What could go wrong?
First Sign of Trouble
Fast forward to about hour three of our eight-hour journey and we were starting to feel a slight change of heart. The sun had now set and we surrounded by the empty darkness of the sea. The rhythmic and gentle rocking of the boat was now starting to feel... different. The movements were becoming less predictable... more exaggerated. Suddenly we were being jostled from left to right and with each resisting wave. We felt our stomachs flip as the nose of the boat veered up, suspending us in a nauseating frozen moment in time, only to come crashing back down.
I'm not completely familiar with the type of punishment a boat of that size can endure but in that moment, my stupid little brain thought we must have been pretty close to becoming the next buried treasure. We looked desperately to the service staff trying to ask "is this normal?" with our eyes, too nervous of the answer to voice the question out loud,. We heard the loud sound of plates, presumably in the kitchen, crashing into hundreds of jagged pieces. The noise acted almost as the gunshot that would signal the beginning of a race to the washroom for the herds of deadly ill who no longer felt obligated to hold their vomit in their mouths. A disastrous line up to the bathroom began to form.
Puking is an oddly vulnerable and intimate action. I believe you can learn a lot about a person by the way that they puke. For example, the gentleman sitting next to us handled his seasickness in an incredibly stoic manner. Every 20 minutes or so, he would calmly stumble to the bathroom, yell and cough up the contents of his stomach, then calmly return to his seat and nonchalantly scroll through his phone. The thought of trying to control his nausea or self-soothe clearly never came to mind. He was in total acceptance as he occasionally got up to make a return visit to the bathroom. What this just a regular Tuesday evening to this guy?
The young woman behind us was a crier and didn't feel the need to empty her stomach in a private setting. Through moans and weeps, we heard the sound of complimentary paper bags being filled with vomit. The ferry service staff would check on her frequently, kindly passing her empty bags and walking off with the ones she so effortlessly filled. Pale green faces with useless ligaments and the balance of a toddler continue to flock to the bathrooms over the next couple of hours.
I can't imagine what happened once inside the bathroom but we could hear the carnage from our seats. The force of the spray, the screams, the defeat. Every 15 minutes or so, a service staff member with a shop-vac would go into the bathrooms and come out with a full bag. Lather, rinse, repeat. The same cycle of people sitting in their seats, being taken over by the ocean and sent back to their communal vomit caves to share their pain with strangers.
At this point, I notice that Cory is starting to look a little pale himself. Using my peripheral vision, I kept a lookout for signs of any potential oncoming panic attacks while trying to keep my own motion sickness at bay. I glanced at the time only to learn we still had three more hours left of this queasy personal hell. With every static interruption of the intercom system we hoped for some sort of reassurance. Instead we were repeatedly told we were experiencing "bad weather conditions". No shit. I considered vlogging the experience but decided against it to respect the privacy of the deadly ill. However, I did capture a brief moment of misery for your enjoyment.
For hours we fought the urge to puke, hoping that somewhere in our Nova Scotian genes we had adapted to mentally and physically withstand the oncoming hours. Cory was more convinced that the boat itself would not survive the onslaught of Poseidon's might. Exhaustion for the continuous battle against nausea eventually tired me out enough fall asleep. Cory decided to do some breathing exercises, taking in deep breathes through his nose. Something must have worked because he also drifted off. We eventually both woke up to a calm and quiet sea about 30 minutes away from the Athens port which was filled with taxi drivers, unaware of the onslaught of distraught and depleted individuals they would be receiving. At least the seats were comfortable.