Day 44 - Durban
|Wednesday, November 22, 2023: After breakfast, we heard the sound of a helicopter approaching the ship from aft and we rushed out onto our balcony in time to see the pilot stepping out of the side door of the helicopter attached to a cable.
|The pilot dangled there as the helicopter came in from aft, ...
|... and dropped him off on the Sea View Pool deck.
|Courtesy of photos from another passenger, we were able to see what it looked like from the sports deck. They lowered the pilot on the cable, ...
|... and dropped him off at the back corner where he unclipped and walked off like, well, like he does this every day. It was all over in a few minutes, and then the helicopter was flying off toward Durban Harbor.
|That's Durban over there. On the left of the photo is a stadium. Let's zoom in.
|This is Moses Mabhiba Stadium, one of the host stadiums for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
|Just after 10:00 AM, we passed the breakwater of Durban Harbor, ...
|... and entered the sheltered channel.
|When the captain told us about the helicopter yesterday, he also said that the President of South Africa would be in town today to inaugurate the brand new Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal building.
|That's the new terminal building right there.
|There was a sculpture on the side of the building that looked like a big propeller.
|All along one side of the channel was a coal mining operation. It reminded Debbie of Elton John's Durban Deep song.
|We spent some time on our balcony checking out the harbor as we sailed in.
|There were a few Maersk containers in the port, but mostly it was a mix of a lot of different companies.
|At 11:00 AM, we went up to the Lido to grab lunch. South African immigration officials had come on board the ship once we were tied up alongside, and were scheduled to start in-person passport inspections at 11:30 AM. We wanted to have eaten before we went down to stand in line to have our passports stamped.
|Our ship must have been quite a spectacle because small boats had been bringing their passengers by to see us ever since we entered the harbor. This one seemed to have parents on the bow and school-age kids in the back.
|Our minifigs were prepared to go shopping today. LEGO Debbie was very excited to go to a LEGO Store, as was real Debbie. LEGO Tom was excited to go to McDonald's.
|As Neptune Suite passengers, we were allowed to go through immigration whenever we wanted, but since we weren't in any hurry, we waited until they called our deck. That happened around 12:30 PM, and we proceeded to the main dining room on deck three. They had everyone use the midships or forward stairs and elevators so that we could form a line along the hallways back to the dining room.
|They had eleven immigration stations going, and we walked straight into the dining room, waited for about fifteen seconds, and then went to an official who took our entry forms, stamped our passports, and welcomed us to South Africa. It had taken eight minutes from when they called our deck until we were through immigration. Ten minutes after that, we were off the ship, ...
|... had negotiated taxi fare, and were leaving the port.
|Maersk! We drove through the central business district, or CBD as our taxi driver called it, ...
|... and past the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Center Complex, more often referred to as Durban ICC Arena.
|We drove north out of town, headed for the Gateway Theater of Shopping, a large mall in Umhlanga, ...
|... with our driver, Dees, pointing out the landmarks and sights.
|We drove right by Moses Mabhida Stadium that we'd seen during sail in.
|We reached the outskirts of Umhlanga where the big bosses live, ...
|... and started seeing suburban goodness. We drove right past this McDonald's, ...
|... and Ocean Basket, a seafood restaurant that we would eat at later in the day.
|Our driver dropped us off by the Christmas tree, ...
|... and we walked past the adorable shark-themed playset, ...
|... and into the mall. We were here for the LEGO Store, of course, one of only four in Africa.
|Debbie is one happy woman!
|They had a plastic case with a large custom build in it. Wait. Is that Whalebone Pier? We had originally considered walking there from the mall, so this made us feel like we were there.
|Check out this cute panda dressed for Christmas made out of both LEGO and Duplo pieces, ...
|... and this police car that kids can stand in and drive. Awww. Debbie loved the detail of the LEGO logo on the oversized red bricks inside.
|There was a large floral display with a sign asking people not to touch, or water, the flowers.
|Debbie thought the Pick & Build wall was well done, with lots of useful basic pieces such as plates and bricks in neutral colors rather than bins of specialty pieces.
|We also picked out a LEGO Creator set to donate to a school in Namibia, ...
|... and picked up a brown LEGO Passport from South Africa! Debbie got it stamped and also got a stamp in her regular LEGO Passport.
|Debbie is 170 cm tall.
|Our next stop was at the Rip Curl store. We had last shopped at one of these stores in New Zealand and Tom still loves the shoes that he bought there. We found some sandals for him that became his official "walking on the balcony" sandals for the duration of the cruise.
|There were Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us stores on the second level. These are stores we haven't seen for years in the US.
|Our next stop was McDonald's, ...
|... where we looked over the menu for something that was unique to South Africa, ...
|... and settled on a passion fruit McFizz, a lemon lychee McFizz, and a strawberry shortcake McFlurry. Yum! We were impressed with the McFlurry cardboard container.
|The tilework was beautiful on this store front.
|We stopped at the restrooms on our way to the other end of the mall, and they were beautiful. Notice the G for Gateway in the light fixtures.
|As we got to the middle, we reached an area that was undergoing renovation. They were adding wood accents to the support columns. Beautiful.
|The glass in the elevator bank was gorgeous as well.
|Woolworths still exists here, like Toys-R-Us. We were going to shop here, but instead we went ...
|... to Panda Stores, which looked very interesting. We bought a dustpan and broom set, a squeegee, and a new razor for Debbie all for three dollars.
|Right outside that store was a liquor store where we found a treasure trove of tiny Amarula bottles. We bought eight of them to take home with us.
|Next up was a supermarket, Checkers Hyper. One of our favorite things is going to the grocery in foreign countries and seeing what they have. This was going to be fun!
|One of the first things we saw were these brightly-colored, cream-filled sponge cakes. They were Tinkies, though, not Twinkies. Clearly there was no "W" and they were completely different products. We got a variety pack so that we could do more research later.
|We came around the corner and saw this Krispy Kreme display. There was no "Hot Now" neon light, so we moved on.
|The butter in the refrigerated section were brands we'd never heard of: Springbok unsalted butter and Mooi River salted choice butter.
|Look at all of that caffeine free, no sugar Coca Cola. Interestingly, it isn't branded as Coke Zero, just No Sugar Coca Cola. Two of these went into our cart.
|The canned diced tomatoes came in Mexican, Indian, Mediterranean, and Braai flavor.
|We really enjoyed the African design on these giant boxes of Corn Flakes.
|Hmmm. What interesting and different flavors shall we take with us? Fruit chutney? Yes. Sizzling meat lovers pizza? Sure. Chilli tangy prawn? Absolutely.
|We thought about getting some of these interesting flavored bags of Lay's as well, but then realized that they would be crushed to powder by the time we got back to the ship.
|We had hoped to find biltong here. It is South African dried beef, similar to beef jerky. A small bag of droëwors went into our cart.
|Despite our earlier worries that the supermarket literally went on forever, we discovered that it was finite and that there was a pharmacy at the far end. We picked up sunscreen, reading glasses for Tom, and some SPF lip balm, ...
|... and then headed to the checkout. We'd made a list earlier of the things that wanted to buy, and we'd managed to get everything on that list.
|Just outside the mall, we walked to Ocean Basket to get some lunch.
|From their small plates menu, we ordered crunchy fish bites and fried calamari, along with two Coca Cola Lights.
|Tom was beat from all of the walking and carrying stuff, but the table was directly under an air conditioning vent and it was bringing him back to life.
|When they brought out the Diet Cokes, they brought two sourdough rolls and a selection of dips. The pale one was onion, the white one was tartar sauce, and the green one was chopped jalapeño.
|After a few more minutes, they brought out our food and another small container of chilli sauce. We shared both items, and everything was very delicious.
|A little before 4:00 PM, we left the restaurant and requested an Uber to get back to the ship, ...
|... and less than five minutes later we were headed away from the mall.
|Yep, we did that.
|This landscaping truck had "I'm sexy and I mow it" written on the back.
|We loved the artwork on this People Mover bus.
|As we got into the port area, we realized that we didn't really know where we were going. We had used the address specified for the ship from today's daily program, but realized that it was taking us to the new Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal, which was not where our ship was.
|There was lots of security and police around, and we had our driver, Reggie, just drop us off here since we didn't really know where else for him to take us.
|The president would be speaking here in 38 minutes. Was he here already?
|We knew there was a shuttle bus from the ship around here somewhere, we just had to find it. While we were formulating a plan, one of the policemen in the area asked where we were going, and when we told him, he just suggested that we be careful and keep a close eye on our stuff as we headed back the other way. That's not very encouraging. All of the windows on the nearby buildings were to abandoned rooms without back walls. That's not very encouraging either. We were suddenly very happy that the President of South Africa was here today. Who knows what this area would be like if there wasn't all of the extra security services around?
|We passed this cool seaman's hotel that we'd seen from the Uber, ...
|... and noticed that corner stone was originally laid down in 1890.
|After walking for about ten minutes, Tom spotted a bus that was turning up a side street that had a piece of paper taped to the front window and looked like one of the Holland America tour buses. We ran after it in the hopes that it was the shuttle bus. Sure enough, outside the entrance to uShaka Marine World, we found it.
|We took two seats near the back, and took much comfort from the fact that we weren't going to be stranded in Durban.
|The shuttle passed some of the security for the president's visit, ...
|... and some cool old artwork, ...
|... and cool newer artwork before we arrived back at the ship.
|A little after 5:00 PM, we had dropped off our stuff in our cabin and were having dinner up in the Lido Market. The helicopter that dropped off the harbor pilot this morning was on the roof of the building next to us.
|Back in the cabin, we went through our loot from today. That's Debbie's new LEGO passport on the left and her previous one on the right.
|Here's everything that we'd gotten from the supermarket. We were quite surprised that we were allowed to bring it all back to our cabin and that none of it was confiscated when we came back on board.
|Here's the inside of the Tinkies assortment box. There are two of each flavor.
|We went out on our balcony to check out what was going on at the new terminal building.
|Debbie used her camera to zoom in for a better view. The MSC Splendida was tied up alongside for the festivities.
|Let's zoom in some more. My, what a big gun that fellow has. That probably answers the question about whether the president is still there.
|This South African Navy harbor patrol boat was hovering around as well, looming just a little too near that area of the harbor to be anything other than a security detail.
|There were lots of small sailboats in the harbor, likely out for a sunset cruise.
|The helicopter had apparently flown away since we saw it earlier because we saw it come back, flying right next to the ship and landing back on the roof of the building next door.
|There was a huge parking lot off the starboard bow that was full of new cars waiting to be shipped elsewhere.
|The map display on the TV was very satisfying, showing five ports in one view. On the right side, in gray was port number 15, Maputo, where we'd been yesterday. In bright blue was port number 16, Durban, where we were right now. In orange was our next port, number 17, Cape Town. Numbers 18 and 19 are two different stops in Namibia.
|As the sun went down, lights came on all around the port.
|As we were making preparations to leave, this car carrier came into the harbor escorted by two tugboats and moored right in front of the parking lot full of new cars.
|A little after 8:00 PM, we had pulled in our mooring lines, ...
|... and a few minutes later, we were headed out of the harbor, ...
|... past the coal carriers, ...
|... and the MSC Splendida.
|We could see through the glass of the bridge wing overhanging the pier and noticed that there were ship's officers gathered there.
|The street on the right side of the photo is where our Uber had dropped us off earlier in the day.
|We had somehow missed the helicopter coming in to pick our pilot back up, but we were out on the balcony in time to see the thunderstorm that was happening just to the south of us. Debbie managed to get this great photo of lightning just as it struck. Beautiful.
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy