Ever since I first heard about the MSC cruises coming to South Africa I always wanted to experience it. We sell a lot of cruises at Easy Gallivant and when my husband bought us cruise tickets for my birthday I could not have been happier! I was very excited to see what the big fuss was all about.
The morning of the cruise arrived and we parked our car at the long term parking provided at the harbor. R120 per day didn’t seem too bad and the process was fairly simple and quick.
We dropped off our luggage with a crew that obviously knew what they were doing and got in line for embarkation. Considering that the cruise had a little over 2300 people to get through customs and on to the cruise ship I was impressed with how efficient they were in getting everybody on board and taking photographs of everyone – which you could buy onboard (word of advise – don’t buy photo packages online before the cruise as you can negotiate the price once on board. You are issued with a cabin card that you carry with you throughout the trip. You buy drinks with it, you unlock your cabin door with it, you book shows with it… basically it is your ticket to everything.
We decided to buy a drinks package since only certain drinks are included in your cruise price. Anything and everything else is extra. We paid around $50 for 18 drinks. A little steep but hey, we are on vacation!
The moment we departed from port a huge party was held on the upper deck around the pool. Everybody was in high spirits as we set sail at 14h00. The entertainment crew did a great job of getting everybody dancing and involved in an excited atmosphere.
When you get to your cabin your luggage has been delivered to your door. Mine went missing but was recovered without too much fuss. Our cabin was clean and fresh and it was kept like this for the whole cruise as cleaning staff stop by twice a day to give you clean towels and to tidy up the place. It takes a little while to get your sea legs as your body is not quite used to the swaying motion of the ship.
Directions were not very clear as to how everything works so we spent our first night exploring the ship. The facilities are spectacular. Thick carpets floor the big lounges and the pool area has comfortable deck chairs. We missed dinner but could eat at the buffet that is always open. Unfortunately the food was rather tasteless there. The coffee is free if not ordered at a coffee bar, but is was not very good. The juice is fruit concentrate diluted with water. Ice and water are free so don’t buy bottled water.
During your first day the whole ship does a safety drill that basically requires you to put on a life vest and go to a muster station where your cabin card is scanned for attendance – make sure you attend or you will be required to do this exercise the following day with everybody watching.
By late afternoon of the first day Hubby started feeling seasick. He took a nap and felt better, but later that night the motion sickness returned. You can find complementary motion sickness tablets at reception on deck 5.
Internet on the ship is very, very expensive. There are 3 options, ranging from limited access with only one device for $14 to video streaming and audio of multiple devices at close to $50. If you have a business like I do you will need to check emails at least – which will cost you $25 for 500mb. The internet is slow but then again you are at sea with 2300 other people using the same connection. The connection and registration process is explained on your daily program or if you have difficulty getting it sorted someone at reception can help you.
Day 2 we reached Maputo where we were to spend the day. We watched in amazement as the huge ship docked with precision and started getting ready for disembarkation. On deck 5 there is a desk for shore excursions where you can book an activity if you are not comfortable traveling by yourself. The excursions cost about $35 each and are basically guided tours to the market or the square. We opted to head out on our own and had a fantastic adventure! Your cabin card is scanned and you don’t need to take your passport with you ashore.
Maputo is a bustling city with a pinch for ignoring traffic rules. We walked a few blocks and then took a tuk tuk (costing about R50 or 250 Meticals) to the market where they have fruits and fish and everything else! You can buy birds and hair extensions and African art and nuts. It is a busy place and the people are friendly and helpful. Remember to be careful of wooden art as some of it may contain termites and the ship discourages it’s guests from bringing them on board although it is not completely forbidden. Maputo mall is also close to the harbor but hitching a tuk tuk ride is worth the trip to the tourist part of town where they have rustic restaurants with spectacular food.
We headed back to the ship during the afternoon and spent some time next to the pool with cocktails. The ship’s cocktails are not bad but I expected to have drinks with umbrellas and fun names. Pieter opted for R&R’s – the famous Rum and Raspberry drink that is found everywhere in Mozambique.
Our dinner reservation was not on our cabin card so we had to register for dinner at a table in the main dining room. We were again not able to attend dinner as you are required to be dressed formally unless otherwise stated on your daily program. We ended up eating pizza – they have 3 flavors: cheese, tomato, and cheese and tomato. That is it.
Day 3 we anchored near the Portuguese islands. Again you could register for shore excursions at $35 per excursion. Some of it included snorkling and speed boat trips. We took a boat to shore where they had volleyball tournaments and soccer games while playing music on the beach. Huge buffets of food are prepared under massive thatch roof lapas. There is also a market selling local arts and crafts and t-shirts. We hung out on the deck and swam in the ocean while getting sunburned.
When we finally got some lunch we were really disappointed. The ship makes sure that they have a lot of fresh fruit, but the cooked meals are tasteless, burnt or still raw. The burgers they served had half cooked meat patty’s and the hot dogs had badly burnt sosages. Pieter was scolded by a crew member about using the wrong spoon to dish up some food and another crew member practically yelled at me when I asked for a Pepsi when he passed our table with a drinks cart. I started picking up on a very irritable mood amongst the crew in general from this point on. Some were friendly but most seemed to only want you out of their way or on with your business.
After a long day in the sun we watched a show that night in the theatre. It started out great but quickly deteriorated to the point where we got up and left. We attended dinner that night in the formal dining room on Italian night. They served Italian food and got everybody to sing a song before dessert. The food was better than the buffet but Pieter was highly disgusted when he ordered a rump steak and got something close to a minute steak instead. Dessert was pretty good – Italian Teramisu.
That night we started the journey back to Durban. The ride was bumpy and by the morning of day 4 loads of people were seasick. The whole of Day 4 was spent on the open sea. The mood on the ship was remarkably less excited and we were honestly ready to get home. The novelty had worn off. You can only walk through the ship so many times before starting feel claustrophobic and trapped in floating casino hotel. I spent most of the day reading and making friends with other passengers and getting their take on how they experienced the cruise. Most were disappointed with the food and complained about the crew being rude or irritated. There was a magic show that really impressed some of the passengers and I got to meet the magician who is a really nice guys from Cape Town. During the day they had a disembarkation information session which helped a lot the following day when we reached Durban port.
On the last night they had a huge tropical party on the pool deck (that rained out and had to be taken indoors). We hit a storm which made the boat rock even more.
On the last morning we had to be up and ready to leave by 6h00. If you wanted to disembark using self service (carrying your own luggage) you got off first. If you left your luggage outside your door by midnight you had to disembark using a color code. We opted for self service and were out of the port by 8h00. If you registered your credit card as payment option for all the fun you had during the week on board you simply had to sign a bill and be off. If you used cash or a debit card linked to your cabin card you could not leave the ship until your bill was paid or your had been reimbursed for money you did not use. The guest service was a mess that morning with confused passengers and irritated crew trying to sort things out. As you get off the ship you see the crew already gearing for the weekend cruise passengers to arrive and suddenly I felt a little sympathy for them. These people work hard and I am sure they get a thousand questions every day from clueless passengers who are expecting them to be just as happy as the holiday goers, but then again, this is the job they chose…
I think everybody should do a cruise once. And probably just a 3 day one if you are not sure that you would like the experience… I have no desire to it again, but I am glad that I did have the experience. My parents love MSC cruises and have taken a cruise every year for the past 2 years.
If you are not too adventurous and you like hotels and spa’s (the ship has a stunning spa and gym!) then this might be the trip for you. You can book it by calling Easy Gallivant at 017 634 5799 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you enjoy adventure, stick to a short trip or do an overseas boat cruise that stops at a new port every day.
May the wind be in your sails and your eyes always be on the horizon.