Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY SARAH BROWN­ING DE VIL­LIERS

Thought cruises were for old peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing re­tire­ment? Think again! The COSMO team boarded the MSC Sin­fo­nia from Dur­ban to Mozam­bique’s Por­tuguese Is­land – and we had a jol. Here’s what we learnt…

1 You get to is­land -hop with­out has­sle In­stead of spend­ing hours on the In­ter­net try­ing to plan your back­pack­ing, hitch­hik­ing trip to the var­i­ous out­ly­ing is­lands, let your cruise han­dle it for you. Ex­cur­sions to is­lands are the norm: most cruises dock daily along their jour­ney, with one or two days at sea in be­tween. These stop-os also pro­vide a host of ac­tiv­i­ties you can book once you’re on board (or prior to the cruise on­line). Want to snorkel or kayak? Just book at re­cep­tion – they’ll sort it all for you, in­clud­ing get­ting you there and back. Want to just laze on the beach? Hop onto one of the smaller boats fer­ry­ing pas­sen­gers to and from the is­lands dur­ing the day, and kick back and en­joy. The boat ser­vice to visit is­lands is in­cluded in your fare; book­ing speci…ic ac­tiv­i­ties is charged ad­di­tion­ally. 2 It’s a bar­gain With the rand crash­ing and climb­ing like a roller coaster, trav­el­ling over­seas can be tricky – a …light to Europe dur­ing their sum­mer sea­son can be R8 000 or more. Ugh. That’s where cruises de­part­ing from either Dur­ban or Cape Town oer im­pres­sive value for money. How about a four-day, three-night cruise from Dur­ban to Mozam­bique from R4 935pp, in­clud­ing your ac­com­mo­da­tion and all meals? Yep, we thought so: sold. 3 There’s an all-you­can-eat buf­fet every day. Re­peat: every day! On the MSC cruise we took, break­fast and lunch were served buet-style – with zero lim­i­ta­tions on how much you can eat or how many times you go back for more. Even bet­ter: through­out the day the kitchen has an ar­ray of food on oer if you get peck­ish, with­out charg­ing you ex­tra. There was even a help-your­self soft-serve sta­tion. Din­ner was a seated, restau­rant-style aair; again, food on the menu was in­cluded in our pack­age. Nights were themed: one night was Ital­ian, the next In­dian or Chi­nese (though there were also ‘clas­sic’ items on oer for the less-ad­ven­tur­ous). The only thing we had to fork out ex­tra for? Drinks. These were on the pricey side – but hey, when the pasta is free, who cares, right? Keep booze costs down by book­ing drinks pack­ages on­line at least 48 hours be­fore you board to en­joy a de­cent dis­count. 4 Sin­gle? Be ready to min­gle! The bril­liant thing about be­ing on a huge boat that houses about 2 500 pas­sen­gers is that you’re sur­rounded by plenty of other peo­ple also in hol­i­day mode. That means lots of new peo­ple to meet – and kiss. In case you’re wor­ried about ap­proach­ing a po­ten­tial bae at the buet (awks), cruises pro­vide many less-in­tim­i­dat­ing ways to make con­nec­tions. For starters, the MSC Sin­fo­nia has six bars, from an Ir­ish-themed pub to a cock­tail lounge. That’s to say noth­ing of the nightly en­ter­tain­ment, from quizzes and bingo (yup – we went to bingo and loved it) to theatre shows (you have to pre-book, but it’s nor­mally in­cluded in your fare) and club-style par­ties. Just a tip from one girl­friend to an­other: you will bump into last night’s hook-up in the buet queue the next day.

5 You don’t have to move off the boat if you don’t want to Plenty of pas­sen­gers spend their days sun­bathing by the pool on the top deck, tak­ing in the 360-de­gree views, en­joy­ing the on-board spa treat­ments or catch­ing up with friends over co ee or cocktails. There’s zero obli­ga­tion to head o to the is­lands. If the most you want to do on hol­i­day is move from your cabin to the pool to the bar to your cabin, a cruise is right up your street. 6 You can cre­ate a pack­age that suits you Book­ing on­line is easy; it’s even eas­ier to tai­lor your trip. Want Wi-Fi ac­cess and a free pass to en­joy as many cocktails as you can drink? Add these to your pack­age af­ter you’ve made your book­ing. Ac­cess to the gym and pool are al­ready in­cluded in the fare – and if you have kids, all-day child­care in the form of a kids’ club is also in­cluded. 7 The ac­tiv­ity list is end­less If you’re head­ing to Por­tuguese Is­land, like we did, ex­pect ac­tiv­ity o er­ings such as snorkelling (from R420pp for two hours), vis­it­ing lo­cal vil­lages (trans­fers to ad­di­tional is­lands are typ­i­cally about R230pp), walk­ing tours (R350pp, in­clud­ing trans­fers), sea kayak­ing (from R180pp for 30 min­utes) and dol­phin watch­ing (from R480pp for two hours). You de’initely won’t be bored! Mean­while, on all the is­lands you dock at dur­ing the day, MSC sets up a ded­i­cated beach bar and restau­rant area where you can en­joy a com­pli­men­tary lunch bu et while you sun­bathe. Get­ting from the cruise ship to the main is­lands is in­cluded in your fare. 8 You never have to worry about drunk driv­ing Drunk el­e­va­tor trips, how­ever, are fairly likely… The bliss of be­ing on a cruise liner is that you can walk ev­ery­where – even if that’s from a bar to your bed at 2am. 9 It’s en­tirely cash­less Many cruise lin­ers – in­clud­ing the MSC Sin­fo­nia – use a to­ken sys­tem on board. Pre-booked drinks or Wi-Fi pack­ages, for ex­am­ple, are re­deemed via to­kens you get with your ticket or once you board. You can buy ad­di­tional to­kens at des­ig­nated points on the ship us­ing your credit card – but no cash is ac­cepted at any ser­vice points such as the bars. The plus side is you don’t have to worry about tip­ping (we didn’t), or walk around with cash or do cur­rency con­ver­sions in your head. Handy, since our cruise charged for on-board ser­vices in US dol­lars. 10 There’s a spa and a gym – so some­thing for every­one, re­ally If you’re a ded­i­cated gym bunny who fears miss­ing a morn­ing work­out, don’t panic: there’s a kit­ted-out ’it­ness area on board. Pre­fer to spend your down­time face down on a mas­sage bed? You can book var­i­ous spa ses­sions – from a mani/pedi to wrin­kle and der­mal ’illers – with the cruise liner’s pros. If you want to make the most of your pamper time, ac­cess your pro’ile af­ter com­plet­ing your book­ing to add a Well­ness Pack­age in ad­vance – it’s gen­er­ally cheaper than book­ing spa treat­ments when you’re al­ready on board. ■

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