Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Oh Ship!

This past weekend, after months of planning, and five years' hesitation on my part, we embarked (no pun intended) on our first cruise.

To give you some history: Andel and I considered doing this a number of times earlier in our relationship/marriage, and always, my predisposition for motion sickness left me feeling, well, too sick to consider it. So I'm not sure what changed my mind. It may have been that many people tried it, really enjoyed themselves, and for the most part, weren't that sick. In any case, late last year, I decided to just bite the bullet and book.

Of course it wasn't all as carefree as that: I booked a cabin on a local (Durban to Cape Town) short cruise (3 nights/4 days) in the middle of the MSC Opera (where there is the least amount of movement) with plenty of anti-motion sickness meds! Given that this company has really great deals for under 18s travelling with adults, we decided to take Zac (actually, leaving Zac was never really an option) and Andel's niece, Steffi (thinking it wouldn't hurt to have an older, responsible, potential babysitter) along with us.

Ready to Roll

Andel reading to Zac to pass some time

Our journey began on Thursday, when we met at the airport where Zac and Steffi checked into their first ever flight. Seeing as though we had to be there early (to avoid traffic and other complications), we took full advantage of our local bank's Slow Lounge perks where we enjoyed drinks and snacks on tap.

Stocking up on some snacks before the flight

My big boy, wanting to do everything himself

 All aboard

We then took a largely uneventful flight to Durban. Zac was an absolute champ: sitting still on my lap during take off, and napping nearly the entire flight. The only signs of discomfort were upon landing when he stuck a chubby finger into his ear and shouted "Ow Mama" before being distracted by all the planes on the ground.

My fantastic flyer

Safe and sound in Durban

A family friend picked us up from the airport and transferred us to our hotel on Durban's coast. We got there quite late, and it was already dark so there wasn't much to see, but boy did the next morning make up for that! We had such a beautiful view from our room, Steffi even started planning a road trip with her friends to return.

Saying farewell to the world of connectivity *wink wink*

Zac's new fascination with the toilet

On a whim, I packed in this puzzle - I was so glad I did!

 Steffi taking a much needed lie-in morning

The beautiful sunrise over Durban's South Beach

The view from our hotel room

We decided to take a slow morning. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and took our time checking out as the ship was only leaving later the afternoon, and we had until 15h00 to embark. Again we were collected from the hotel and taken to the harbour where we were met by the majestic sight of the MSC Opera.

The MSC Opera docked in Durban Harbour

Embarkation went smoothly, and we immediately had access to our cabin so we got settled in before heading onto the upper decks in search of some lunch. We were not disappointed. There is more food on a ship than anywhere I have ever been before! We ate and explored until the compulsory safety drill (our muster station was in the casino!) where we were shown how to put on our life-jackets, where to meet in the event of an emergency, and how to access our designated life boat. Soon after that, the ship set sail.

Settling into our cabin

Exploring the upper decks

Zac at our cabin window, in search of Nemo

Going through the safety drill

It's difficult to document what happened after that. I guess we did everything and nothing at the same time. It's much like being at a hotel on land, with plenty of activities and entertainment offerings, as well as the comfort of 'home' in the cabin. There was a gym, a theatre, a mini-golf course, two swimming pools and jacuzzis, dance areas, lounges, live music, bars, a casino - enough to satisfy almost every different type of traveler.

Having our first buffet breakfast

The games and sun-tanning deck

One of two swimming pools on the Opera

The Dream Team facilitating passenger activities on deck

The real Italian ice-cream parlour

Never mind signal, all we need are songs!

Exploring our deck - La Traviata 

On board activities make us so tired...

We had the late dinner seating so only ate at 20h30

Live music in the lounge before dinner

My cutie with his favourite drink - milk

Andel posing on the top deck

At the Teatro Dell'Opera on our final evening

The view from our seats in the 713-seat theatre

Family Portrait

My klein Kaptein

Somewhat dressed up for our final dinner at La Caravella

With Gede our Balinese waiter who served us every day

No day is complete without some mischief

Ready to disembark in Cape Town Harbour

For the most part, we did not feel ill at all (only Zac got sick on the last day - and it appears that was more milk than motion related), and only felt significant motion when exploring the ends of the ship. To me the movement felt a lot like being in flight - there's enough movement to notice, but not enough to really throw you off balance. But then perhaps I was just lucky this time? Even when we disembarked on Monday morning, we felt relatively normal (of course, as Murphy would have it, today, when I'm back at work, I feel a little more lightheaded).

All in all, we had a really good time. Cruising seems to be the most affordable, value-for-money, family friendly option available right now, and honestly, I would probably do it again.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Celebrating Family Day

In celebration of Family Day, local radio station Heart 104.9 and international take out KFC, sponsored a surprise for Kim while doing her mid morning show.

The family representatives (there were too many of us, and we had to do a lucky draw to select who would go - I kid you not!) were bundled together and collected by cab from Papu and Yaya's house. We were taken to the station and hidden (if it's even possible to do that with seven adults) until such time that the surprise would happen.

First we waited in the general foyer...

Papu reading to pass the time

Annie adding the event to her social network feed

Clever Dom packed in a book - for Yaya!

... then we waited in a back office...

How many Hendricks' can you hide in a corner?

... then we waited just outside the studio...

Annie giving her 'live' Heart 104.9 update on the day

Kim was shocked to see us. You know it's good when you surprise someone and they're simultaneously emotional, speechless and generally disorientated. As part of the KFC #familyday promotion we chatted about family and other things, before digging into some finger lickin' goodness.

Annie, ever the dramatic entertainer!

Getting ready to go on air

At this point Kim was probably calling for help

Like I mentioned Annie entertained us - ALL day!

Papu checking out Kim's real job

Ash preparing for her radio debut

Waiting for the cab to take us back home

But it didn't end there. Once we were transported back home, where Andel was looking after the kids, we decided to do our final braai of the season - because having a braai is what our family does best!

Family is like branches on a tree. We all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one...