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-os 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 oer 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 buet-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 oer if you get peckish, without charging you extra. There was even a help-yourself soft-serve station. Dinner was a seated, restaurant-style aair; 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 oer 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 buet (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 buet 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 deinitely 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 proile 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. ■