Cruising the South Africa coast is the fastest growing holiday excursion for South African residents and I was invited aboard the MSC Sinfonia for the 4-night return trip from Durban to Bazaruto Island off the coast of Mozambique. There was a whole media contingent and we all got to bring our partners and were accommodated in balcony cabins on the 11th floor (which I advise you to book above all other cabins since they are so roomy with king bed and walk-in wardrobe, bath and shower)! My grateful thanks to MSC for such sterling hospitality and to Mango Airlines for flying me around.
MSC is an Italian owned shipping company and all the officers on board have that chic Italian look; all dressed in white uniform with fancy shoulder pips. The rest of the staff come from 30 different countries with their name badges identifying exactly where; Bali, Madagascar, Tibet, Spain, Thailand, etc. Hence the ship has a very international feel and a multitude of mother tongues to work around.
This sums up life on board; an abundance of food, cocktails, Las Vegas style glitzy entertainment, more food, pool games, casino, beach excursion, nightlife, bingo, coffee bars, pub, fabulous spa and did I mention food? How’s this for a shopping list for four nights: 12,000 eggs, 3,100kg beef, 2,200kg chicken, 1,400 kg lamb, 2,600 kg fresh fruit and 300kg sugar!
It’s basically a day and night party should you wish to make it that and at minimum you’ll probably want to see the nightly show run by Entertainment Director Stephen Cloete, who happens to be extremely good at his job. You can tone the noise and glitz down by having a massage followed by quiet time in the thermal room with sauna, steam chambers and ocean-view mosaic hot chairs.
One couple on their third SA cruise said they love to people watch and boy do you get some eyefuls of people – mainly way too much on one body. South Africans are fat! I have never seen so many obese people. But we are friendly – according to the officers – who say that compared to Europeans, South Africans hardly complain. They love working the SA routes because we make their life easier. There are even some cruises to nowhere because South Africans come to “live the ship” and enjoy cruising for the sake of it, not necessarily to get anywhere. This is contrary to the Europeans whose main focus are the shore excursions.
MSC have two ships in SA waters; Melody and Sinfonia both of which cruise the Mediterranean in the European summer, so staff have ample opportunity to compare nations and South Africans come out tops for friendliness, consumption of cocktails, the most amount of eggs for breakfast, the purchase of duty free Johnny Walker Red Label, watches and perfume.
These ships are not big enough to warrant separate First Class facilities, even though the Sinfonia carries 2,000 passengers, but if that’s what you are after, you’ll have to get on one of their larger ships cruising Europe or the Americas. But such is the popularity of the South African cruises leaving from the ports of Cape Town and Durban, that the ships are about 98% full and bursting with energetic people intent on having a good time and that’s exactly what I had.
There are various routes, usually stopping at one or two places, like the tropical Mozambican Islands of Bazaruto or Portuguese Island and even Madagascar. Prices are ridiculously low with specials like kids under 18 go free sharing with two adults and the earlier you book the more discount you get – up to 30%. I had heard that some cabins were going at around half price just a couple of days before departure. It’s brilliant fun, great value and a good blast. www.starlightcruises.co.za
While you may see whales and dolphins while you are running the treadmill or sitting on your balcony, this is not an animal safari, unless you consider the party goers who’ve had one too many cocktails animals! Actually everybody is very well behaved but who knows what goes on below decks!