Sunday, 22 January 2012

On the cruise ship of life, which way is your deck chair facing...

It all began over a year ago, when we were chatting about the cruising industry and my Uncle's Mother-in-law mentioned that it was something that she always wanted to do but that she never had the chance. Two months later she had a stroke and while recovering, I promised her that the minute she was well enough, we would book a place on one of MSC's ships.

But from there on, it snowballed. My siblings were a part of the package but the MIL insisted that she wanted Mother to tag along. And mother invited her sister who left her karaoke mic at home. And one of their mutual (and absolutely crazy) friends tagged along, as well as one of my cousins etc. etc. Before we knew it, we were reading about the catastrophe that was the Concordia, and receiving several reports of potential cyclones and gale force winds on the east coast of Africa.

And one would think that all the bad news would make us reconsider setting sail off Durban's coastline into the unknown. But no, because we're women living on the edge. And if the worst possible outcome was death then I was prepared to die a happy woman because there are only five things that I really really love in this world, the ocean and sailing being two of them. And I was really looking forward to seeing this:
This was my third cruise... having already been to Barra Lodge in Mozambique 5 years ago and then to the Portuguese & Inhaca Islands a couple of years later... I was looking forward to visiting both Bazaruto and Benguera Islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago just off the coast of Mozambique.

But this trip was to be unlike any other. What I expected from it was completely different from the actual outcome. For one, our previous trips had been all about dancing and partying and I expected much of the same on this one. But alas, as it turned out, most of it revolved around introspection, reflection and men (more on that later).

Secondly, I barely saw the MIL, mother, my aunt, their friend etc. except at dinner time. They were quite content without us and I felt slightly relieved at not having to be completely responsible for them. And so began an epic journey...
In many ways - without anticipating it at all - the trip has changed a large part of me forever. I can't explain it, and I have trouble pinning it down myself, but something has definitely altered because the person I was when I left and the person I am now is significantly different. I had many little apostrophes and epiphanies and generally learnt more about the world and myself along the way...

1. Seeing that the flight is only 55 minutes long, I realised that it takes longer to drive to the bloody airport and to wait for the flight then it takes to actually get to Durban:
2. I learnt that it doesn't help to be reminded of impending doom. SA's Beeld newspaper headlines "SA couple swim for their lives" with a huge photo of the Costa Concordia that ran aground is displayed at the terminal exit, before boarding the plane:
3. I learnt that a solid 80% of the most dangerous people in the world are probably hungry people. After what felt like forever standing in queues and waiting, we finally boarded the ship in time for lunch:
4. I realised that beauty exists where we least expect it. This time overlooking Durban from one of the decks of the ship:
5. I learnt that people's definition of partying differs from individual to individual, but that all definitions includes hordes of people. Whether you're the life of the party or a wall flower, the more the merrier:
6. I realised that humans can adapt to (and eventually enjoy) anything... even hot, unbearably humid tropical weather and the constant swaying from side to side on the ship:
7. I learnt that I become completely enthralled and exhilarated by the wind and I thrive in the eye of the storm, even when everyone else is bunkering down in their cabins, seasick, and puking their guts out:
8. I learnt that it is quite possible to fall asleep during a Burlesque show, despite how good you may think the dancers are:
9. I realised that I'm no longer 23 years old and that even though I love dancing, clubbing is no longer my scene and I'll most likely be found snoozing in the corner by 12am:
10. I learnt that substance trumps style but that it never hurts to look good:
11. I realised the importance of starting with the salad - which was absolutely delicious for some reason:
12. I learnt that if you say 'no' to dessert, you won't know what you're missing out on:
13. I learnt that it's worth sitting out on deck even on the (hot) rainy, miserable days:
14. I learnt that on a cruise ship, the party never really ends, it's just transferred:
And then we had a solid day of howling winds, rough seas and rain, but that didn't really put a damper on the festivities or our spirits. If anything, we continued as usual. But then the next day, even though the weather was back to normal we weren't allowed to disembark the ship to go to the islands due to the ongoing rough waters and an anticipated storm that was approaching. So I never got to see this:
Or this:
Which left me very disappointed, especially since it was one of the main reasons for the voyage in the first place. The Captain cited passenger safety as their main priority, especially after the Concordia debacle and the global spotlight on safety in the cruising industry. I was like look, I'm willing to die, just take me to shore...
But this was the closest I got:
 And this:
So damn close, yet so far. I seriously contemplated jumping into the ocean because I figured one of two things would happen: 
a) I'd make it to shore and frolick on the beach to my heart's content while someone would be dispatched to come fetch me and haul my ass back to the ship or, 
b) Beautiful Rodrigo would come and save me and the beach would disappear into a distant memory as I gazed into his eyes.

See, win-win situation. But alas, Mother was on board which meant that (being the ex-pro swimmer she is) she would have in all likelihood jumped in too trying to save me, and I couldn't risk having my Mother:
a) in danger (although I doubt it) or,
b) ruin it for me.

15. And that's when I realised that sometimes, there are things in life that we can't control and we just have to accept it for what it is. It's not like we can go and fight with God for giving us bad weather now can we... best to just sit back, relax and be thankful for safety and comfort:
Besides, most of the time there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and life, as well as the party, always goes on:
To be continued...


  1. Went on a cruise for the first time with the family last year as well.

    Too bad you didn't get to go to the islands but from the pics it still looks like you had a lot of fun. Look forward to part 2!

  2. I really hope the cruise industry isn't damaged by the Italian disaster because it's one of the jewels of the tourism industry. Maybe your next job should be working in the PR department of one of the major operators.

  3. Very brave of you to go on a cruise right after those nasty headlines about the disaster in Italy.

    Such a beautiful post! It is always so nice to step away from reality to get a better view of yourself.

  4. Excellent story. I can tell from the way you write you're so young while yours truly... well, I need a cruise is what it is. You 'thrive in the eye of the storm'... boy, if I were that poetic, I'd be on that ship today, learning a thing or 15 while pondering my life. Too bad your Mom was there, too, for poor Rodrigo is still waiting for you and your beautiful eyes.

    P.S. What do you suppose Colin means when he says, 'Hmmm'?

  5. Colin
    I do wonder what that means... :)

    How did you find your cruising experience? Mine is always wonderful! If only I didn't have to leave :)

    Maybe you could chat to one of your many contacts so that I can get that illustrious PR job Mr GB. Or perhaps you could accompany me on one of those cruises - maybe they'll let me on for free if I present them with a talking ape :)

    Sometimes the results or "findings" in an unscheduled unsolicited episode of self-discovery is quite shocking - even to oneself. As was the case for me ;)

    I'm not that young. My mind is at least 45. Or maybe I shouldn't that aloud ;P
    And Rodrigo is taken - engaged. I'm not complaining though. I've had a revelation of sorts on that subject lol

  6. No! Rodrigo is taken? Engaged even? Big mistake, buddy. He should go and stand in a corner right now.
    It's funny you should mention you're 45 years old, mentally that is. I'm 41 but I'm a kid at heart and still inclined to believe anyone who tells me I look younger. Would you believe me if I told you last year two female colleagues of mine knocked on my door (class room door, not where I live) because they simply wanted to know how old (read: young) I was? Very strange. I thought maybe they wanted to know the difference between a transitive and an intransitive verb. But, no, 'How old are you, Randy?'

    You will find your cowboy, Azra. One day.

  7. 1. Cruising "alone" is only OK if it's a singles cruise.

    2. Cruising with elderly relatives is only OK if you have the love of your life with you to help you get through the cruise with elderly relatives.

    3. It's better than being at work.

    4. If you're involved in a disaster, it's something you can talk about for years. However, it's likely more dangerous driving to the port than sailing on the cruise ship.

    5. Better to travel to those vacation spots and enjoy being there with close friends, etc. than with a thousand other tourists frothing up the water.

    I'm glad that you survived, but don't know how you were able to deny yourself CHOCOLATE.

  8. I love your optimism...and your hilarious family always makes me chuckle. :)

    Ooooh, working on a cruise ship this summer might just be a good idea.

  9. RCB
    I hope that "one day" is sooner rather than later.

    We should do a blogger cruise. Get a group of bloggers to go sailing and then blog about their experiences with each other! lol

    I would jump at the opportunity to work on that cruise ship in a heartbeat. I would have minor concerns about longevity though. And I'd never come back.