Sinfonia Cruise (And Our Engagement)

Sinfonia Cruise (And Our Engagement)

Warren And Sharon Boarding The Sinfonia

Firstly, let me admit to you that cruising was not my first choice of holiday. Being stuck in a floating food fest, with little space to move and the continual possibility of being made to laze by a pool, made me somewhat nervous. I love the outdoors and I want to be able to hike and fish, or at the very least move more than 200 meters in any given direction.

That said I must also admit that I absolutely loved the trip and I’ll certainly consider doing it again. It may not be one of my next few holidays (since those will certainly be spent in the mountains and bush) but sometime in the future I may well find myself on a ship again.

But on to the report…

On Monday morning my mom was kind enough to pick us up and drive us down to N Shed where the Sinfonia was docked. We stopped briefly at McDonalds to grab breakfast and a quick cup of coffee with which we swallowed a (just in case) sea sick pill. After all, I’d never been sea sick, but better safe than sorry. The plan was to see if we started feeling sick as the pill wore off, and then to take more as needed. Thankfully neither of us got sick and that was to be out one and only pill.

Our First Lunch

When we arrived at N Shed the wind was howling and the sky was blanketed in thick clouds. Thankfully it wasn’t raining as we joined the queues of people outside N Shed to check in our luggage. It was a relatively quick and painless process taking all of 15 minutes.

Having checked in our luggage we were allowed into the terminal which was basically a large and very unexciting shed, decorated with hundreds of plastic chairs. People chatted away excitedly about the upcoming cruise while I opted not to buy a ridiculously overpriced bottle of water.

It may be worth noting that while in the shed you need to declare any valuables such as cameras, iPads, laptops, etc. It’s also worth noting that there’s a small bureau de change in the shed.

While sitting on my cheap chair, surrounded by fellow passengers, I came to the sudden realisation that two types of people cruise; namely the super-hot (pool goers) and the super-hungry (buffet goers). I wondered nervously which category I fitted (fat) into.

The Sinfonia In Port
The Welcome Aboard Party

Sniffer dogs circled us looking for drugs and a man dressed as Captain Blackbeard tried to join the masses. His humour was not appreciated and he was promptly questioned by the police.

By 12am we had passed through customs and received our cruise card (which took another 15 minutes). Once on board we had around 3 hours to kill until the ship left the port. After checking out our cabin and reading the daily newsletter we began exploring the ship’s various pubs and activities.

Amazingly a long queue had already formed for the buffet lunch. It never once ceased to amaze me how some people seemed to cruise only for the food…of which there was no short supply. Sadly we eventually also joined the queue and scoffed down our first meal of burgers, chips and freshly made pizza on the deck.

The Sinfonia’s engines suddenly came to life and we began the slow trip out of the harbour. We took our spots on the port side of the ship and waved crazily at Nick as we passed his office which overlooks the harbour’s entrance.

Sharon Playing Bingo

Shortly after that, as we made our way out to sea, he was kind enough to send a message asking how were? Apparently, since the weather was so bad, the ship appeared to be at a 45 degree angle. I can’t say we hadn’t noticed.

Out at sea it was time for the fun to begin. We ordered our first cocktails (around $4 each) and watch the welcoming party take place on the pool deck. The ship was rocking viciously but nobody seemed to care. The fun had started!

After the “Welcome Aboard” party certain formalities needed to take place; we all gathered in the theatre for a welcome briefing which was followed by an emergency drill involving life jackets and gathering at our lifeboats. Whilst listening to the welcoming briefing I was amazed to see the curtains on the stage swinging to 45 degrees in each direction. Clearly we were rocking nicely in the rough seas surrounding us.

Emergency Drills On The Sinfonia
The Sinfonia Theater
Teaser Burlesque Show On The Sinfonia
Warren Enjoying Ice Cream On Deck

With the formalities out the way we finally got to relax. For us that meant running around the ship taking part in any activity that would have us. The ship was still rocking ferociously so most of the deck games had sadly been cancelled. Amidst all the exploring Sharon quickly found the perfume shop while I immediately spotted the cheap Captain Morgan conveniently stocked in litre bottles. Satisfied with our finds we took the opportunity to sit in the Manhattan bar and enjoy a foreign beer before heading back to our cabin for the first awkward shower in a rocking, cramped cubical.

By this stage the drizzle had stared and the sea was covered with white horses. Sadly, although we’d requested the first seating for dinner, we’d been given the second seating. This meant dinner was served at around 9pm which was far too late for us. Instead we gathered on the pool deck, sat outside and under cover, and enjoyed a buffet dinner as we passed the twinkling lights of Richards Bay.

Our first real activity on the ship was bingo as 8pm. Confused by the pricing and layout of the cards we accidentally bought far too many. On the plus side this meant more chances to win. In fact we came within 2 numbers of winning and being upgraded to a cabin with a deck. Things were clearly off to a good start.

After the bingo we remained in our chairs and watched the Burlesque show. This was definitely a show for the men with a lot of flesh and very tight buts. That said they did include a few acts for the ladies including an amazing gymnast from Russia and an Austin Powers lookalike with a few impressive acts.

Evenings on the ship are never dull moments and we rushed straight from the show to one of the bars where they were holding Miss Sinfonia and the Shippendales. Sadly we arrived a little late and didn’t get the greatest seats. That said it was still enjoyable and our cocktails kept us well entertained.

After the show, when the crowds had dissipated, we took to the dance floor where we tried to cha-cha and rhumba. This was however somewhat difficult thanks to the rough seas and the ships non-stop rocking. It was still great fun though and a lot of people seemed impressed that us youngsters could dance without throwing our arms around in the air.

Warren And Sharon On The Sinfonia

We had one more drink and then headed off to our cabin to try and get some sleep. Neither of us slept much that night with our bed side-on to the motion of the ship. It’s somewhat difficult to sleep when your head and your feet seem to be swapping ends continuously.

When we “woke up” the next morning we really were in the holiday mood. Things started with breakfast of course, and a fantastic buffet breakfast it was. From there we headed to a presentation called Scam’d which was a fantastic talk about con artists through the ages and how they’ve preyed on us innocent bystanders.

Feeling somewhat more informed we once again began exploring the ship. This consisted of a fair amount of bird watch from the stern of the ship, mostly unsuccessfully, as the birds seemed reluctant to come close enough for us to ID them. The sun then peaked through the clouds and we quickly found a recliner by the pool where were enjoyed a Death by Chocolate ice cream and had a quick swim.

Anyone who tells you a cruise is relaxing is lying. There’s a long list of activities with something permanently on the go; and Sharon and I were determined to do it all. So after some “relaxing” time by the pool we grabbed a quick lunch and then headed for the casino. As seems to be the tradition Sharon almost instantly doubled her money whilst I lost mine in about 2 seconds. The rest of my time was spent watching her bounce from machine to machine winning bonus after bonus. Sadly her strategy seemed to be, “lose it all”, so we only left somewhat later when she too had lost all of her money.

The Sinfonia At Sea
Sharon Snorkeling Of The Bazaruto Archipelago

Sharon and I then headed back to our cabin where we got ready for the Captains Cocktails. It was a bit touch and go since I’d neglected to pack a jacket and tie for the evening, but thankfully they let me in in my far more casual suit.

After everyone had had a photo with the Captain we gathered in the theatre where Sharon and I got front row seats. The Captain gave a brief speech (while we enjoyed the free cocktails) before choosing one of the many guests to dance with. Amazingly the second in command chose Sharon and I was left sitting in my seat while she danced and chatted away to the “vice-captain”.

From the cocktail party we enjoyed a cocktail in one of the many bars before trying to do a little dancing of our own. The older people once again seemed engrossed by our rhumba and cha-cha while we stumbled around trying to keep rhythm amidst the still heavily rocking ship. Eventually we headed back to our cabin where we were finally tired enough to get a good night’s sleep.

Wednesday was the day I’d been looking forward to as this was the day we landed on Bazaruto Island. Amazingly (thankfully) the sun was shining for the first time on the trip.

The Beach We Landed On

We enjoyed a huge breakfast on board (as no lunch or food would be available on the island) and a wrapped up a few muffins for padkos. We then collected our tickets for the zodiacs and were lucky enough to get onto one of the first heading for the island.

At 9:35 we climbed aboard the speedboat and flew across the ocean to the island. We landed in a small bay where MSC had set up long lines of gazebos for shade. The beach was beautifully white and the water crystal clear. There were some rock ledges to the south and large flats to the north.

My plan was to propose at the deserted light house and I was nervously carrying the ring in my baggies pocket so that Sharon would not accidentally find it (In fact, it had been on my body for most of the trip just in case she’d decided to get anything out of my bag). Thus I was a little concerned when I jumped off the zodiac and into waist deep water, leaving the ring somewhat below the water line and me hoping that the pocket was properly sealed.

Sharon At The Sight Of My Proposal

With very little wind Sharon and I decided to snorkel before hiking to the lighthouse. I placed our bags on the rock ledges and helped Sharon into the water. This allowed me to go back to the bags on my own and to slip the ring into a safer place while I snorkelled.

Sharon in the meantime seemed incredibly impressed that I’d helped her into the water without rushing in myself as I would normally do. What a gentleman.

With both of us in the water we snorkelled for around an hour enjoying the many tropical fish surrounding us. Sharon was fun to watch as she’d follow a school of fish out to sea, look up and suddenly realise how far from the shore she was, and then swim back as rapidly as she could. This process was repeated consistently much to my amazement.

After taking a few underwater shots we headed for the shore where we found the most amazing scene; while we’d been snorkelling the tide had risen and had flooded the ledges where our bag (and the ring) had been left. Amazingly I’d put the bag onto a rock where it was thankfully perched, safe and dry.

With our snorkel conquered it was time to walk to the lighthouse. We went to the information tent where we asked about the best route. While being told that there were no paths two men walked up to us, red and sweaty, and told us the walk had been scorching hot and had taken over three hours.

None the less my plan was set and, after leaving our bags in the shade, Sharon and I began the walk along the flats to the lighthouse. On the route we passed a beautiful resort which certainly looked worthy of a visit sometime in the future. After passing it we turned inland and began the climb up the dunes to the lighthouse.

The Proposal Ring

At this point another couple passed us coming down the dune. It turned out that the sand was so hot that, despite them having slops on, they’d given up on the lighthouse and were returning home.

Sharon looked at me nervously but I pushed on up the huge dune, feet burning as the sand poured over the edges of my slops. And then, half way up the dune, one of my slops broke and I was forced to carry on barefoot. Bear Grylls would’ve been impressed.

Again Sharon looked at me strangely as I ran from shadow to shadow hoping on my one remaining slop. But somehow she knew not to question me and we continued onwards.

By the time we summited the dune we were both sweating profusely and my foot was on fire. It was at this point that I chose to stand on the broken glass from the old lighthouse element and started oozing blood. FANTASTIC! Was this a sign?

View From My Proposal Site

After taking in the beautiful outside of the deserted lighthouse we climbed through a broken window and took photos of us inside the magnificent structure. Far off in the distance, and well below us, we could see the Sinfonia floating in the blue ocean. It was perfect.

Having taken enough photos we climbed out of the lighthouse window and started getting ready to descend back down the dune. It was now or never! I made up an excuse that I had to find some string to repair my slop and headed off behind the lighthouse. Carefully I pulled out the ring and cunningly palmed it in my hand as a magician would do. I then walked out from behind the lighthouse and approached Sharon.

“I’ve got something to ask you”, I said as I walked up to Sharon. This was met with the unexpected reaction of Sharon turning and backing off while yelling, “You’re going to throw a spider at me!” Ok, minor setback. None the less I got down on one knee and popped the question.

There were lots of statements like, “You’re joking”, “You’re lying” and my personal favourite, “You found this behind the lighthouse”. The last one did hurt a little after all the effort Chris and I had put into designing the ring.

Eventually I managed to convince her that this was real by showing her our names were engraved inside the ring. The answer was of course “yes”.

Relaxing On The Sinfonia Deck Post Proposal
Sharon Enjoying A Cocktail

We spent the next half an hour celebrating and taking photos of the ring before tying my slop together with a piece of string and heading back down the dune.

Ironically my second slop broke near the bottom of the dune but by this stage we were on the beach and for some reason the sand was much cooler. We walked merrily back towards the crowds next to the now underwater flats. What an incredible moment!

Back at the beach we frolicked in the small waves….um, I mean, swam…*manly grunt*. We then joined the queues to head back to the Sinfonia and 15 minutes later were back on board the ship. By this stage it was around 3pm and the hunger really had kicked in. My lunch muffins had not been eaten and looked like a mushy pulp in the bottom of our diving bag.

We headed for the pool where we rinsed off the salt water from our day on the beach. This was followed by some fantastic pizza to fill the hole and a virgin cocktail to try and get the fluid levels back up to a passable human level.

Party On Deck

It had been a long (and incredible) day in the sun but it couldn’t end too early…there were after all things to celebrate. Sharon and I had a quick shower, pulled on our brightest clothes (my radiating yellow Savannah shirt), and joined the rest of the crowds on the pool deck for an island style party.

For me the most exciting part of this particular party was the cocktails served in pineapples. I quickly joined the queue and ordered a couple for Sharon and I. I was highly disappointed when the barman reached behind him and pulled the two smallest pineapples off of the shelf. I did try requesting larger ones but was told that they were for display purposes only. Grrrr!!

None the less we gulped down the 15 millilitres of cocktail in the semi hollowed out pineapples before ordering a real, man sized cocktail. The party continued with dancing girls and salsa lessons on the deck. I had to laugh at one girl who was absolutely pickled and for some reason thought she was teaching people when in fact she was not even close.

Sinfonia Entertainment

Sharon, brimming with excitement as she’d been unable to tell anyone we were engaged due to the lack of cell phone reception, finally managed to blurt out the news to Maximo (from Honduras) who seemed hugely excited. In truth this may have been due to his lack of English skills, but hey, at least he seemed excited.

Eventually, at 11:30pm, we headed back to our cabin and fell fast asleep. I really was hoping to make the midnight feast which was accompanied by ice sculptures and more food, but we just didn’t have the energy. It certainly was a day never to be forgotten.

The next morning saw the start of our last full (and real) day on the ship. The weather had deteriorated once again and it was drizzling when we climbed out of bed and headed for breakfast.

Breakfast was followed by a disembarkation briefing and we then attended a virtual tour of the ship. This particular presentation was somewhat disappointing. Essentially, due to security reasons, they were no longer allowed to take people into the engine rooms, something which all men want to do. They therefore gave a virtual tour of the ship but it was far less exciting than I’d imagined. There were some interesting facts given about the amount of food consumed and how much water was desalinated a day. They also gave us the history of cruising and showed us all of the ships in their fleet; again interesting. But there was no real virtual tour of the ship and engine room, bar perhaps one small pixelated image.

Sinfonia Strong Men

Sharon and I then headed to the shopping district to pick up a few gifts and a lot of cheap booze. We’d left this for the end since anything you bought was kept aside and only available on the last day anyway. This turned out to be a mistake on our part since a lot of the good items were sold out. I did however manage to get a couple of 1 litre bottles of Captain Morgan, some chocolates and some perfume for Sharon.

Being our last day we then decided to make use of the seated lunch instead of the buffet. We’d been avoiding it since we’re not really food people and it involved sitting with 8 other people we didn’t know and didn’t necessarily feel like conversing with. That said the people we ended up sitting with were very pleasant and we had a decent meal in a restaurant rather than on the deck.

The seated food was definitely better, but not so much better that I’d do it for every meal. I far preferred chilling on the deck eating pizza than feeling confined in a smarter restaurant where I had to wear shoes.

With the weather being miserable we decided to attend the afternoon show by the Dream Team. It was entitled the “Talentless Show” and that’s exactly what it was. The crew (not the entertainment staff) put on a show for the crowds and it didn’t disappoint. It really was fantastic and had me in stitches for the entire show.

From there we headed to the casino where it was my turn to win while Sharon took on my role of losing quickly. Once I was up though we headed for the big boy machines hoping for a big win. Clearly this was a bad idea since I quickly lost it all, but hey, it’s all about the fun.

By now it was dinner time and we opted to head back to the buffet and relish in the smell and sights of the sea while enjoying our last few slices of pizza and other buffet selections.

Our evening then started off with a game of Bingo. After the first night’s excitement we had high hopes, sadly these were misplaced and we’d barely touched our card when the winner yelled “Bingo!”

Bingo was followed by our last show, “Las Vegas”, which was a combination of some tight-arsed dancing girls and some incredible acts such as strong men, rope dancers, a guy doing tricks with hula hoops and some other performers. From there we headed to the “Best Couple” game which had already begun. The participants had some fun acting like mating animals, sewing buttons onto their partners pants blindfolded, dancing, and more. All in all a very entertaining performance while we finished off our last few drinks of the cruise. And amazingly the winning couple had been married for 36 years. Respect!

Rainbow Over Durban Harbour

With our cruise fast winding down we headed back to the shops to collect our booze and then tried to take a final few photos on the deck. The wind was howling and the rain was belting down so I didn’t manage too many. We did finally get a look at the disco though, albeit for all of 2 minutes, but hey, at least we can say we went to it.

Back in our cabin we packed everything we wouldn’t need the following morning and left our bags outside our door to be collected. We then climbed into bed for the final time of our cruise.

At around 2am my cell phone starting beeping like crazy as we approached the South African coastline and were back in phone range. FAIL! Thankfully I managed to doze back off for the final few hours of the night.

Sharon and I climbed out of bed well before 6am, packed our last few things into our shoulder bag and headed up to the deck for breakfast. We were cruising along the Durban coastline very close to home. As we approached Durban a rainbow was visible over the city and I managed to snap off a few shots, as well as a few of the pilot being lowered onto the Sinfonia.

Our ship cruised into the harbour at around 7am and Sharon and I relaxed in the Buddha bar until it was our turn to disembark. What an exceptional experience it had been. We left the vessel slowly and hunted through the piles of bags for ours. From there we passed through customs where our cameras were checked (thankfully we’d filed in the necessary forms on the first day) and then we were released back into the real world.

My mom was waiting for us in the car park and was overjoyed by the news of our engagement. This did however mean an overly excited drive home as well as a lot of engagement party planning. Little did I know the admin had only just begun…

Goodbye On The Sinfonia