25-03-97 to 28-03-97. Cape Town-Durban
My second voyage on the Symphony happened the day after I had sailed to Cape Town on the Oriana. I had been fortunate enough to be able to book Symphony for my trip back to Durban. When we arrived at the “passenger terminal” where she lay it was midday and as usual, the wind was howling in Cape Town. There was no real wait either and I was able to board almost immediately. The ship quickly started to fill up and I see that they had managed to speed the embarkation up considerably and within 90 minutes all passengers were on board.
The ship was looking much better than when I had last seen her, but there were a few structural changes which in my opinion didn’t enhance her looks at all. She was also wearing the funnel colours of MSC instead of StarLauro like she had when I had first seen her when I did a short trip to nowhere on her in March of 1995, and I was curious to see what she looked on the inside again.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. She was clean, her decks shone and she was looking better than ever. Granted, she was not Oriana, but she is comfortable. I had a 4 berth cabin midships on B deck, almost directly under my old cabin from 1995. There were only 3 of us in the cabin so it was not too crowded. We sailed at 15H00 amidst much streamers and noise. The sea was force 3 and Symphony proved yet again that she is a great sea boat, rolling gently and effortlessly.
Surprisingly we held lifeboat drill two hours later and by the time that was finished, the first entertainment was underway. At night there is always something on the go, whether it is a cabaret, movie, quiz or just music in the lounge, things happened all the time. My one cabin mate turned in just after supper and spent most of the next two days sleeping! The food had improved considerably since we had last been on board and our table steward was really one of the old school. The next day was cold and most passengers congregated indoors. There was a mixed bunch on board, with a group from a pharmaceutical company making a lot of noise. The usual honeymoon couples were on board and they were really made a fuss of. The ship was full and there were crowds all over, finding a spot at the cabaret was a real problem as well.
The time passed quickly on board, the days spent relaxing and enjoying the voyage, unfortunately cruises always leave me in need of a holiday and this one was a recovery trip from the hectic days on Oriana. When I looked it was all over, we were alongside once again. I took my leave of the ship and came back to a wet dismal Johannesburg. It was like leaving an old friend. Unlike the Achille which was tatty and dated, Symphony is beautiful. She is well maintained, comfortable and good looking too. Unfortunately they spoiled her looks somewhat by removing her kingposts and adding a hance to her foredeck. The spike on the tip of her bow looks odd and the winged funnel is not as nice as the original. Yet she has a loyal following and was booked in South Africa for an extended season, the closest thing to a full time cruise liner since the death of cruising in South Africa all those years ago.
It is now 2004 and many years have passed since my last cruise, the Symphony is but a memory. Her career after her South African sojourn was not a happy one and she was eventually arrested at Dover and taken out of service as being “unseaworthy” and sold at auction. She arrived at Alang for breaking up in October 2001. Symphony was perfect for what we wanted in our waters, big enough to handle our weather, professionally run with brilliant entertainment, good food and reasonable service, its just a pity she never saw out her days here. http://www.tynebuiltships.co.uk has images of her as built and in her last iterations as well as a history of the ship.
DRW. © 1992-2021. Last updated 03 Aug 2004. Edited 01 June 2012, Moved to blog 08/12/2013, moved to Musings 28/02/2021, tagged 14/11/2021