Date: 29th March – 13th April 2013
Where: Santos – Búzios – Salvador – Recife – Arrecife – Cádiz – A Coruña – Dover
Distance: 8371 to 8404 miles
29th March 2013…the day we’d dreamed of since booking the cruise in Bolivia had arrived at last…we opened the last calendar door, checked out of a South American hostal for the last time, and safely reached the port without punctures. Eventually we found where to leave our bikes and boarded the ship, quickly finding the unlimited buffet of scrumptious food! Despite the Police being called, our bikes eventually boarded the boat, and after helping with x-ray, we were then able to push them up to our room via the lift. Now there was nothing left to do but sit back and enjoy the ride aboard the MSC Magnifica, with her two swimming pools, six jacuzzis, library, card room and multitude of bars and sun loungers. Being scroungers, the whole experience was a little odd, but retrospectively it was definitely the best way to return home. No jet-lag, time to contemplate, and the added bonus of actually visiting some places on the way.
The first of these was the St.Tropez of Brazil: Buzios. A trendy fishing village with clear waters and a long boulevard of boutique shops. We quickly adopted a disembarkation routine: get up late, get off ship, stroll through nice streets, drink beer looking at ship, totter back to ship appreciating occasional colonial buildings with loud oohs and ahhss. The routine also worked a treat in the old colonial capital of Salvador and the many-sky-scrapered City of Recife. All too soon though, we left South America for the last time and embarked on the open sea leg which would take us back across the Atlantic to Europe.
Life at sea was a completely different kettle of fish, armed with little more than a twin pack of cards and a set of 21 beer tokens, the outlook was bleak. In the end we survived easily enough though, even having some fun on the way. Each night we enjoyed the company of Paul and Andrew on our table, but the runaway highlight was the quiz which was strung out over three days. Our predominantly young team was great fun and we were allocated the country Norway. This became a home from home and we found ourselves wandering round the ship shouting “Norway” at anyone we thought would listen. Our mix of countries and age meant we actually knew quite a few answers and we ended up coming second to Jamaica. Loaded with MSC goodies we staggered out to the bar and drank two bottles of free bubbly. That was definitely the highlight.
(The astute amongst you will have noticed our mile count drift a little higher during the cruise to 8404miles…the bikes in the gym commanded a wonderful view out over the sea and we managed to persuade our bodies to add a few more miles to the count.)
After 5 days of nothingness except the occasional ghost ship, we see the mainland…Spain, we’ve reached Europe! The City of Cadiz was lovely and time passed more quickly now, so that when we staggered up to breakfast three days later we were greeted by a misty morning view of the White Cliffs of Dover. Emotions welling up, we tried not to choke on our fruit salad and cereal, before disembarking with the bikes.
After 16months away (18months for Sarah) we trod on English soil again. As agreed beforehand Geoff’s family were there to meet us, and with that we started the home leg of the bicycle joyride!
Notes for other cyclists thinking about choosing a cruise:
- Our boat was the same price as flying, the bikes traveled for free and didn’t need to be disassembled, and we had no jet-lag…pretty damn cool really.
- There are tips to pay additional to your ticket, but these are paid as a lump sum at the end of the cruise, and the amount you pay can sometimes be negotiated.
- If you buy the ticket in the country of destination (UK for us), the price would have been even cheaper…get friends and family to look.
- All food and water on board was free (although water could only be got from the 13th deck).
- Boarding was a little stressful, but trust them and offer to help put the bags through x-ray on the boat.
- Disembarking at destination was easy, pushing the bikes downstairs and then letting the bikes be unloaded when fully loaded by the ship’s staff.
- We kept our bikes in our room (lots of space), but the ship’s staff also offered to keep them in a luggage room below deck if we had wanted.
- You can disembark at ports along the way with your bike easily enough, but remember if you aren’t back in time, the ship will leave without you!
- People were very interested in our travels and would have gladly watched a presentation of our travels. We didn’t want to, but if you feel capable of doing this contact the cruise company directly and offer…you may get a discount!