Sydney Quarantine: Day 0 (Travel to Sydney, settling into the hotel)
I can confidently say I never expected to actually be at this point. I had an incredible experience with the Aces in 2019/20 and looked forward to being back when I was offered a job for another season, but obviously I couldn’t anticipate things unfolding the way they did.
In a matter of days, I went from preparing to move to Fort Myers, Florida, to pumping the breaks. I spent over eight months (March to mid-November) at home with my parents in California, waiting for something to happen.
Returning to Australia seemed far-fetched with the restrictions in place. But sure enough, thanks to the Aces front office, I was approved for a Visa, then the travel exemption. Next thing I knew, the team had booked my flight and I was going to be headed back to Melbourne!
Just a quick note before I begin... This blog entry is about 2,700 words and contains 36 pictures. I can promise not all of my posts will be like this. In fact, this will likely be the longest and most thrilling post I write while in quarantine.
On to my 36-hour travel day...
Sunday, November 15 – 3:00am PST (Heading to SFO)
It was a long day of travel to say the least. My itinerary (along with that of five of our import players) had us flying out of San Francisco at 6am for a 10:20pm flight to Sydney from Los Angeles, leaving us with a 15-plus hour layover.
I woke up around 3am after just a couple hours of sleep. My dad drove me to the airport, I checked my bags around 4:30am. It was when I checked my bags that I discovered that the flight to Los Angeles was not a connection. We were all going to have to leave the gate area and collect our checked bags after landing.
About a halfway through the flight, I saw a stunning sunrise out the window that an iPhone simply cannot properly capture. Alas, I did my best to capture the moment.
Sunday, November 15 – 7:30am PST (Landing at LAX)
The flight to LAX was quick, I just listened to a podcast and slept for most of it. One highlight of the flight was getting to see Dodgers Stadium outside my window as we were descending.
When we arrived in Los Angeles, we de-planed and headed to baggage claim to collect our bags. I can’t help but feel for a pair of our players, who actually were from the Los Angeles area. But for some reason, they had to fly up to San Francisco from Southern California, spend the night in a hotel and fly back down, just to wait 15 hours to fly to Sydney. Both promptly headed home after getting their bags, leaving four of us to check in for the next flight.
When we tried to check in, we were informed it’d be a three to four hour wait, as the airline had to make a call to Australia as a part of the check-in process. Australia is limiting the number of incoming international travelers each day, so the airline has to confirm that passengers will actually be on the flight before checking them in. And when we tried to check in, around 8:30am, it was only 3am in Sydney, so of course they wouldn’t be answering the phone or confirming passengers.
From there, the four of us sat down on a concrete bench and waited… and waited some more. After 30 or 45 minutes, two players left to go meet up with some friends in the area, leaving just me and one more player.
Sunday, November 15 – 12:00pm PST (Finally checking in)
After over three hours, close to four, of waiting, we decided to try again to check in. And when I say waiting, it was laying on that uncomfortable concrete bench. I did get a little bit of a nap in though… I was sore after, very sore. It was an arduous process to check in, as those we had spoken to before were gone so we had to explain our situation again. Yes, we actually are allowed to travel to Australia even though we’re U.S. citizens. Yes, we have Visas. Yes, we have travel exemptions. No, we don’t have them with us. Yes, there is baseball in Australia.After more waiting, more phone calls and more stress, we were eventually confirmed as passengers on the flight from the wonderful person on the phone in Australia. We checked in, checked out bags and were good to go.
From there, we headed to American Airlines’ lounge, the Admirals Club. And again, it was listening to music, talking with family and lots of naps. But this time, they were naps in more comfortable chairs.
I had never experienced an airport lounge prior to coming to Australia. However the Aces would secure lounge passes for their players and staff on all trips and I was able to join the team to Perth for the final road trip of last season. This mean experiencing a lounge for the first (and second) time in my life.
This experience was a bit different. With safety regulations in place, they were not serving food and we had to each outside the lounge. But there was plenty of water, coffee, soda and alcohol available, along with limited snacks. It wasn't perfect, but it was objectively better than sitting in the terminal at a gate for hours upon hours.
For lunch, I grabbed a bacon cheeseburger at a surprisingly good burger stand called 8 oz. Burger Bar. Dinner – my last meal in the United States until February – was Panda Express… Because it was the only thing open and not a long walk away.
Sunday, November 15 – 9:30pm PST (Time to head to Sydney!)
After almost nine hours in the lounge, we headed down to our gate to board the flight. There were only about 30 or so people in the boarding area, and that many people on the flight. It was really weird, super empty.
I got a group photo of our guys and we proceeded to board the plane, with Business Class seats waiting for us for the 15-hour journey across the Pacific Ocean. With the number of travelers to Australia limited on a daily basis, airlines are limited with the number of passengers they can bring. So logically, airlines will only sell their most expensive seats to try and recoup as much money as possible and minimize losses. This all meant that the only seats that could be booked were the nice business class seats that lay flat.
Here's an overview of the Business Class section. Like I said, more empty than you'd normally expect! The cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, so every seat as aisle access.
Excuse the awkward wide-angle photos, but here's what I was looking at with my seat and a little bit of an idea of what the seat looks like, in the seat in front of me. I was Seat 9A, so I had a window and aisle seat, all in one!
Right off the bat, I was incredibly impressed with how high the walls were. When sitting down, the walls went above my head, so even though it was a fairly empty flight, I did feel like I had a good amount of privacy and certainly would on a full flight.
From here, I'll give into the specifics of American's Business Class on the Boeing-777. Here's the menu I was given for the flight, more on the food in a bit.
Each seat came with a set of sleep-related things, from the Casper mattress company. Included was a mattress pad/topper. It wrapped around the seat like a mattress pad would, but had a cushioning like a mattress topper, made the bed/seat really comfortable! That is pictured left below, while on the right is the TV that pulls out from the wall with the push of a button.
Some more photos of the seat area and amenities:
(Left) The control panel for the seat had a remote for the TV, along with a reading light, controls for the seat and audio/USB/power outlets. I was impressed with the seat controls. While you could choose to sit upright or lay it completely flat, there was control over the seat bottom, as well as the back and the leg rests. Next to it, in the right of the frame, was a storage compartment where I kept my wallet, keys and headphones, along with the provided headphones and amenities kit.
(Second from left) Between the aisle and my seat, above the arm rest was a little cabinet with a sliding door. I suppose it's simply extra in-seat storage, I used it to stow my shoes. Just above the cabinet, you'll notice a grey button. Pushing that raises the armrest, which was neat.
(Second from right) Below my seat and to the left was another storage space, this one open, to allow for easy access. I kept my spare cables and charges there, along with my water bottle and the complimentary slippers.
(Right) This was the end of my seat area. The grey padded top is the foot of the bed, while the navy carpet is where your feet can rest with your legs fully stretched out while sitting.
As mentioned above, they provided headphones to use. While I did bring (and use) my own, I had to check out the airline's pair, which were surprisingly comfortable and noise-canceling. They were not mine to keep though...
Additionally, there was an amenities/toiletry kit that I did use (and was allowed to keep). I might have missed something, but it included: a pair of socks, an eye shade, lip balm, ear plugs, tissues, lotion, mouthwash, a pen, toothpaste and a travel tooth brush.
You'll notice those photos were taken on the tray table, which folded in and out of the storage space to my left.
A couple hours into the flight, they served dinner at what was close to dinner time in Sydney. I chose the Grilled Beef Filet, which came with hollandaise sauce, truffled mash potatoes, asparagus and maitake mushroom. Additionally, I received a roll, a piece of cheesecake and a salad.
After dinner, I watched a couple more hours of Netflix before turning in for the night. I laid down the mattress pad and opened up the pillow and blanket, all of which was provided by Casper. I threw on the eye shades and went to bed.I believe there was a set of Casper pajamas as well, it might have been another blanket. I'm not entirely sure but I didn't notice it until I was leaving the plane, so I did not get a close look unfortunately.
Sleeping with a mask on was... weird? Not normal? But I slept an impressive nine hours anyway, so I'll take that.
Shortly after waking up, breakfast was served. First, they brought a peaches and cream smoothie, which was a nice surprise. Then, came what they call the "Traditional American Breakfast," which was scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, roasted potatoes and herbed tomato, with a few slices of fruit, a croissant and yogurt.
Tuesday, November 17 – 9:00am AEST (Arrival in Sydney)
Just over 15 hours after taking off from LAX, we landed in Sydney. Ahead of us was four hours of standing around, intake questions and plenty of social distancing.
As we neared the end of our descent, we passed the Sydney Harbor, with the bridge and opera house in sight. While they were fairly off in the distance, I still had to snap a picture.
I can’t recall exactly how long it was, but we waited on the plane for probably 10-15 minutes for a Border Protection officer to board the plane and explain the procedure.
More or less, we were guided by a woman in scrubs from the gate to a large space where we waited for direction, while passengers were allotted time to use the restroom if needed. We were then led to another waiting space, followed my another.
Eventually, we were led to a line where we had our temperatures taken via the ear, then we were directed to an officer who gave us a rundown of what to expect in quarantine. When we’d be tested, what we could and couldn’t do, that there were doctors on site 24/7. And of course, a rundown of symptoms to make sure I didn’t have any. After a check on my customs declaration form, it was off to customs.
Again, it was more waiting, more standing in lines and waiting for the baggage carousel area to clear out from the last flight. Once the area was clear, we went through customs and collected our bags.
Then, it was more standing in line. Eventually, we were directed down a series of hallways that led to another customs checkpoint, where they checked passports and directed us to another table. There, we checked in with a group of police officers, who assigned us to one of the busses sitting outside of the airport. Bus 1 was for most of those on the flight, Bus 2 was for families and athletes (and that broadcaster guy).
Once the busses were loaded, we were transported to our hotel. Actually, one of the families was sent to a different hotel, then we were taken to ours. I chatted with our players and another player in the league, one Manny Ramirez. Manny signed to play with Sydney and just so happened to be on our flight, which meant he was at the same hotel as us, which meant he was on our bus. I really enjoyed chatting with Manny, he’s a funny guy, as nice as can be.
After a few more minutes of driving, we made it to our hotel. We were given a form to fill out and one-by-one, we were taken off the bus and into the hotel lobby. There, we were checked in by the hotel manager and given a bag of toiletries and other necessities for our two weeks. She reminded us of the rules and what to expect, all the information we needed. After a little wait in the lobby, we were each checked in by a pair of police offers, I’d imagine entered into the government database of quarantining travelers.
The hotel was patrolled by both police and military officers, in order to make sure quarantine is followed completely. After a few more chats with Manny and my intake with the police officers, I was escorted by a member of the Australian Air Force up to my room on the 11th floor of the hotel.
Tuesday, November 17 – 1:30pm AEST (Settling into the hotel)
Finally, at 1:30 in the afternoon, roughly 36 hours after boarding my Los Angeles-bound plane in San Francisco, I settled into my hotel room. And… wow!
I had heard the hotels were nice, but I was truly blown away. I had a kitchen, a living room and a king-sized bed, in addition to a full bathroom AND laundry closet. I mean it’s not even a hotel room it’s really an apartment?
Here's the bedroom I'm working with:
And the views outside of my main living area (left) and bedroom (right):
As mentioned, it comes with a full laundry setup (left) and a good sized bathroom (right):
While I began to edit my behind-the-scenes video of the travel day, there was a knock at the door around 2pm, which I soon discovered was my lunch delivered. It came in a brown paper bag and consisted of a ham/cheese/tomato sandwich, a fruit cup, a bottle of water and a liter of what I believe is whole milk.
I also received a liter box of whole milk with my hotel welcome bag… I can’t say I am a fan of whole milk, so I don’t plan to consume any of that in the near future.
After eating, more editing, a shower and some unpacking, I heard a knock on my door at 4:45pm, which was my dinner delivery. It was cold so I had to microwave it, but much more food (and better food) than lunch.
The top left was a container of beef, corn and potatoes. The top right was labeled as "cauliflower & roaster pepper frittata, tomato pickle, beef & thyme chipolata, roasted tomato, sauteed mushrooms."
Bottom left was a slice of red velvet cake and two piece of bread. Bottom left was some carrots.
I'll mention this also came with a liter of whole milk, so I'm up to three in my fridge...
The food wasn't bad, frankly it was better than I expected. But still nothing special, quite ordinary I'd reckon.
After finishing the video and posting it to social media, I ate dinner while on FaceTime with my parents. Once I finished up, I fired up my PlayStation to play some Road to the Show in MLB The Show 20, then sat down to write this blog.
Looking back at the day, it was filled with a lot of mediocre-at-best food, uncomfortable sleeping and plenty of good people. I must admit, I'm surprised I was able to wear a mask for that long, with the exceptions of eating and drinking. Probably about 33 or 34 hours with a mask on!
As I finish, it’s about 9:30pm. My goal is to write one of these each day. None will be as close to as exciting or long as this one was, but I do want to document what a strict quarantine is like, when I’m tested and what the food is like. Anticipate plenty of Uber Eats orders in the future… Until next time, take care!