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Sailing to happiness in style

Travel
I was just 17 when I had my first holiday on a cruise ship. My dad had planned the ultimate family holiday.

After unleashing my inner kid at Disney World in Orlando in the US, my family and I flew to Miami, where we were to board the luxurious “Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas” cruise liner.

None of us had ever been on a sea cruise. It was a special moment. Exciting, and scary. We had all watched the movie Titanic. But the nerves would disappear shortly after boarding the luxury cruise liner.

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Our balcony cabin room.Yours truly on the top deck of the MSC Sinfonia.The view from the top deck of the ship overlooking one of the swimming pools.

The next week cruising through exotic islands such as the Bahamas, Jamaica and Labadee, would turn out to be the best holiday my family and I had ever experienced.

I had been obsessing over another cruise holiday ever since. Thirteen years had passed and I had yet to step on to another cruise liner.

But things would change. As I was getting ready to wind down after a busy 2016, I was contacted by Italian cruise line company MSC, inviting me and a partner for a four-night cruise on their Sinfonia cruise ship.

It would be embarking from Durban and travelling to the Portuguese Islands.

READ:Hubs eyed for large cruise ships

There was no way I would be turning down the opportunity. The last time I had been on a cruise ship it had been one crazy party, so there was only one person I would be inviting - my partner in crime, my brother Raees. He was as thrilled as me to be going on his second cruise.

After a short but pleasant flight on Mango from Joburg to Durban, we landed at King Shaka International Airport. There, we would take a shuttle to Durban harbour to board the MSC Sinfonia.

As I jumped out of the shuttle I couldn’t help but stop and stare at the enormous cruise ship that I was about to board. The Sinfonia was beautiful. So elegant.

After completing all the formalities in under half an hour, we were finally ready to step aboard.

Our first stop: the balcony cabin that we would be sleeping in for the next four nights.

This, though small, was adequate for two people. A queen bed, a small bathroom with a shower and a basin, a few cupboards, and a TV. What else do you really need, right?

But what makes this room so special is the fact that you are able to relax on your own balcony and enjoy the most magnificent ocean view.

After a 30-minute security drill with the rest of the passengers, we were ready to leave Durban harbour.

There is an endless list of activities. After much consideration we decided to spend our first afternoon soaking up the sun at the swimming pools.

The MSC Sinfonia has two outdoor pools and two jacuzzis, surrounded by endless bars.

The ship is also child-friendly with plenty of activities for the young ones. The colourful Spray Park provides a fantastic outdoor play area with water sprays.

It’s important to note that the ship runs a cashless society. Everything is charged in dollars, and we had to transfer money on to our “cruise card” for drinks and other expenses.

Before we knew it, it was dinner time. Guests can dine in any of the three restaurants on board. We were booked at Il Covo, the fanciest dining area.

The restaurant is beautifully designed and has windows throughout so guests can admire the ocean view. The menu changes daily.

On the first night I tucked in to seafood and a heavenly chocolate mousse.

After eating up a storm it was time to see some nightlife. The options are endless. Aside from the many bars, there is a nightclub, a theatre and live music performances throughout the enormous ship.

We first decided to challenge ourselves to some general knowledge at a pub quiz. It was fun, even though we finished last.

We spent the rest of the night at the Pasha Club Disco, dancing off the excess kilos we had put on at dinner. The music was so good it was 4am before we headed back to our room to get some rest before another exciting day.

When we opened our eyes the next day we had already arrived at the Portuguese Islands.

After breakfast on our balcony, one of the highlights of the trip, we jumped on a tiny boat and headed to the Islands. There we swam all day and enjoyed a braai with hundreds of other passengers before returning at sunset.

We began our next day bright and early. After breakfast at one of the restaurants, we headed to the MSC Aurea Spa, 831m² of wellness heaven. We settled on full body massages, the perfect way to start the day.

A few doors down from the spa is a state-of-the-art gym, equipped with everything you need to keep in shape.

Aside from the tempting equipment, there is no way you won’t feel inspired to work out with the stunning ocean view on offer.

After building a sweat for an hour, we popped in at the health bar to enjoy a fruity smoothie.

Having by then developed a serious appetite at the gym, we headed to lunch at La Terazza. Here the kitchen is open 24 hours a day, and customers can indulge in pizzas and pasta, burgers, fries, and salads, all day. How awesome is that? Being able to get pizza at any time was a winner for me.

After a hearty lunch at La Terraza, we spent our afternoon playing football and tennis on the built-in court on the top deck .

The MSC Sinfonia offers sports activities such as mini golf, shuffleboard, table tennis, tennis volleyball, squash and football.

The ship also has a power walking track and a running track, as well as an exclusive Solarium (a relaxation area on the top deck)

We had built up quite an appetite from the sporting activities of the day. Dinner couldn’t come soon enough.

Tonight was Italian night - one of my favourite cuisines. Every passenger on the MSC Sinfonia would experience Italian night.

At dinner I tucked into a delicious pasta and followed it with the best tiramisu I had eaten in my life. I am what you would call a fussy eater, so I was thrilled that the food had been good so far.

After dinner we just had to check out the Teatre San Carlo, which is a 600-seater, state-of-the-art entertainment hub. You cannot believe that a theatre this big could be on a ship.

Here there are different shows that play each night, so if you aren’t interested in spending time at the bars or at the nightclub, you can sit back and enjoy a number of productions in fine style.

The MSC Sinfonia also includes the San Remo Casino, which is spread over 400m², offering its guests the chance of casino gaming and Galaxy Video Games.

We tried our hand at some roulette and bingo, and walked away poorer than when we started. But when you take care not to risk more than you can afford to lose, it’s all in good fun.

The ship also has a mini shopping mall where guests can buy anything from ship merchandise to branded clothing.

READ:One year anniversary of the world’s longest A380 non-stop route

To wind down after a busy night, we enjoyed live music at one of the bars, before heading back to get some well-needed rest. The sea air is quite something.

On our final day on the MSC Sinfonia, we decided to test our singing skills by challenging other guests to karaoke at one of the bars.

For those whose dancing skills are not up to scratch, the ship also offers ballroom and salsa dance classes.

On the final night, my brother and I attended the famous tropical theme party - a party that is held on every cruise on the MSC Sinfonia on the final night.

We partied the night away under the stars in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

It was the perfect way to spend our last night on the stylish MSC Sinfonia.

For those looking for a great holiday that is affordable, you won’t go wrong by cruising with the MSC Sinfonia.

We had absorbed enough memories to last me us a lifetime.

Visit www.msccruises.co.za to get more information on the cruise, as well as to view detailed price lists for upcoming cruises.

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