So we did!!
First a bit of background before I get to the actual cruising part (with pictures). We applied for and received our passports - strangely painless procedure. Then it was the booking of the cruise - not so easy. I looked on MSC Cruises website, I phoned their offices - strike out. You see we had a very strict budget. We had to pay for the cruise, have spending money on-board and pay for the animals to go to the kennels. I could not find a cabin for the four of us together - the pay for two adults kids travel free option. The best MSC Cruises person at the office could come up with was interleading rooms and we would have to pay half price for the kids - no good as BUDGET! So I decided to visit a travel agent. I knew there were places at Hillcrest Corner so one day after fetching the kids from school I went to take a look. The first place was Flight Centre - obviously not what I needed. Then up a level was Pentravel - yes this would do. A lovely young lady (Melissa Wilson) was available to chat to us and she was able to perform a miracle. A cruise leaving on the 04 December to Portuguese Islands, 3 nights, 4 days, one room and kids stay free. She was also surprised to discover that our cabin had a porthole. The only catch was that the cruise left on school break-up day. I sent a BBM to hubby and the return message was "BOOK IT!" So Melissa with a few deft strokes on the keyboard booked the cruise. I must state how incredibly impressed I was with Melissa and Pentravel. She organised everything, was in constant contact and answered all my questions. She even called me the day before we left to check if everything was okay and I received an email this morning welcoming us back. Pentravel supplied us with the tickets, passport cover and luggage labels to. On one of my forays onto the MSC Cruises site I saw mention of an Ice Cream and Soda package for R144, so Melissa organised two for us. When you go on a cruise get a few of these booklets as they save a lot of money.
I organised parking at N-Shed at the harbour and the cost thereof was charged to our on-board account. Boarding was said to be 11am and we reached the harbour at about 10:20am - should have got there earlier. It was a lllooooonnnnnggggg wait. First we waited in the line to give our tickets. Giving tickets, having photos taken, activating on-board account with credit card, getting access cards and giving luggage was quick. Then we moved into the terminal and ground to a halt. Wait, wait, wait, wait etc Move through security check. Wait, wait, wait, wait etc If you are travelling with anything over R5000 declare it at customs. We certainly weren't travelling with anything expensive so we bypassed this. Then picture taken as a family with a backdrop of the Sinfonia. Wait, wait, wait etc Then give our passports at immigration. Finally wait to board ship and then go through ship security. I think it took about two hours from when we arrived to finally board the Sinfonia.
|The only picture we bought (19 dollars)|
We checked out our cabin, it was rather small but we were only planning to sleep there. Then it was off to see this huge ship. Neil took the map along so we could find where everything was. We found the restaurant where we had to go to for supper - first seating at 6:30pm (Il Covo). After the long wait we were starving so we didn't look around too long as we wanted to eat. Wow wow wow!! La Terrazza Buffet - full carvery with vegies, salads, rolls and pudding. Caffe del Mare with chips, hot dogs, burgers and fresh pizza. Fabulous!! So as I mentioned earlier about the ice cream & soda package. When you use a ticket you buy a soda or an ice cream straight. If you just buy on your card you also pay a 15% service fee. Everything is also in Dollars. I wish we had bought more of the package.
|At the back of the ship still in harbour|
|Our cabin with Laura sitting in our porthole|
|Picture taken from the highest deck|
After our delicious meal we went exploring again. While we were on the upper deck an announcement was made for the emergency drill. Oh yes, when we received our access cards we also received red emergency ones as well. These cards were to be given to a crew member at the emergency drill. Quickly back to our cabin and grabbed our lifejackets and went to our station. Put on the lifejackets and the drill was explained to us and then we were told we could leave. The ship is really big so make sure you have comfortable shoes. They have quite a few lifts but you can wait quite a while for them. We 98% of the time took the stairs, we also needed to walk off all the food we were consuming. It is really really good food.
At 6:30pm we went to the restaurant Il Covo which is quite fancy. We were given a set table to sit at and we could choose a starter, mains and pudding from the menu. Every night was different. We didn't have a very late night our first night there are we were so tired from the excitement. We were due to anchor off the Portuguese Islands the following morning and then go by small boat onto the beach.
Unfortunately we experienced rain and strong wind so they had to cancel our trip to the island. We stopped for about 45 minutes and then turned and headed back to Durban at a snails pace. The cruise director Stephen Cloete was very quick to pull out the back up plans and the entertainment got going immediately. There were games and much laughter. On deck there are two swimming pools and two Jacuzzis. Every morning after breakfast we would go for a soak in the Jacuzzi. It was cold and drizzly and the water was so warm.
|Raining and wet|
Can you believe it! On our very last day the sun came out and it got very hot. We still don't know where all these people were hiding as now the top deck was full. All deck loungers taken and swimming pools full. It was a beautiful day and we got burnt. That night we went to watch a show and it was amazing.
|Enjoying our non-alcoholic cocktails|
On our last day we went to the theatre so that we could hear an explanation about disembarking procedures and then we stayed to watch a video about behind the scenes on the MSC ships.
There is so much to see and do on-board and we really enjoyed ourselves (especially the food).
So the Meyer's finally went on a cruise.