A South African Holiday aboard the Crystal Symphony

A South African Holiday aboard the Crystal Symphony

South Africa’s allure transports one to a world that is new and raw with its wilderness, sky and space.  Choosing to spend our Christmas holidays off the beaten track on board the world’s most awarded luxury liner, the Crystal Cruise, our South African holiday was a dream come true for a wanderlust Sagittarian like myself. I consider taking a cruise a mantra of never ending discoveries, with unrivalled exploration and non-stop adventures.

We began in Cape Town, South Africa.  Sir Francis Drake in 1580 declared it “the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth”.  A creation so bewitching is the famed Table Mountain with its unforgettable views, as we relished the simple pleasures with chilled white wine from Stellenbosh. A visit to Cape Town isn’t complete without seeing Bo Kaap, a picturesque and colourful neighbourhood; the bright colors of their homes was their way of celebrating their culture.  In Maputo, Mozambique, we passed broad boulevards lined with jacaranda trees and caught a glimpse of the Fort of Nossa Senhora de Conceiao, Praca de Independencia. At the Faima market, we stopped by to pick up a few traditional wax print and woven fabrics, woodcarvings, and stylish batik cloths.

Christmastime aboard the ship stirred a chord in my heart upon hearing Captain Nenad Willheim, the officers and staff wishing the ‘Crystal Family’ a very Merry Christmas, as eggnog was passed around.  The lavish Christmas gala buffet was the culinary creation of Executive Chef Peter Degner.

Richard’s Bay, Kwa Zulu-Natal is considered South Africa’s premier wildlife destination, home to some of the finest game reserves and wildlife parks in the country.  We were filled with excitement and ready for a safari at the Zulu Nyala Private Game Reserve Sunset Safari. We transferred to a four wheel drive open vehicle to have a closer view of the Big Five; namely, the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and Cape buffalo. There too were different species of birds, giraffes, elephants and hippopotamus.

Durban ranks among the world’s stellar resorts, action-packed with surfing, sailing and fishing. We took a leisurely stroll at the Ushaka Marine World complex where everything, from exotic spices to silk was available.  South African wineries have been successfully operating for over 300 years and bottles more than 2,000 different wines. The “Cape Wine” called Pinotage, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaul.

In the middle of the vast ocean, Crystal Symphony welcomed the New Year in style with full entertainment by the Crystal Showband, and everyone looking spiffy in their long gowns and black ties.  The balloon drop at the stroke of twelve was led by cruise director Paul MacFarland, followed by dancing and partying.

A rewarding and one-of-a-kind experience was at Walvis Bay, Namibia, known as an Oasis in the Place of No People. It was surreal to drive through the beach with the mountain-high barren desert to our immediate left and the ocean waves to our right.  Being arid for 55 million years, nowhere in the world can one find “welwitschia mirabilis” – a shrub-like plant with 2 long leaves still growing to this day. With our Lagoon 4×4 Adventure, globe-trotter David Lim and I boarded a Land Rover with an expert driver/guide who expounded on the bird-filled Walvis Bay. The air reeked with the smell of salt pans and we spotted a variety of seabirds, flamingos, pelicans, cormorants and gulls. Unmindful of the super bumpy roads and tough terrain, it left me breathless to see the gemsbok, caracal lynx, chameleon, adder and gecko.  We were then dropped at the base of a dune and it was with chilling apprehension that I was to climb the towering sand dune, reputedly the highest in the world.  Struggling with the sinking sand, I was in a state of near panic, as I inched my way to the top.  Getting there, it was a sight to behold. I marvelled at its elegant tranquillity and exquisite natural beauty of the spectacular sands, resplendent in warm hues of apricot, orange and red.  En route, we traversed the rolling sand dunes like a roller coaster ride in our Land Rover, amidst screams and shreiks.  Hurdling the over 200-foot Roaring Dune is part of Namibia’s exciting landscape. Our exciting vacation drew to a close, but not before a visit to the historical town of Luderitz, with its German style buildings characterized with domes, gables and turrets.  Never wanting this journey to end, it provided me with a treasure trove of exceptional vistas to last a lifetime.  (All photographs by Rupert Jacinto, Tina Jacinto and David Lim).

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