Cape Town, with its multitude of tourist activities, is a regular destination on world cruises. That, combined with the regular MSC Cruises, provides a plethora of choices. If you're booking a large group, be sure to ask for a group special.
Starlight Cruises used to offer cruises from Cape Town on the MSC Rhapsody, MSC Melody and MSC Sinfonia cruise ships; before they were merged into MSC Cruises' South African operation. At the moment it is just the MSC Sinfonia which is cruising South Africa's water.
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One of the most popular cruises is the one between Cape Town and Durban. If you're from Gauteng, it means you can combine it with a holiday in both cities. If you're from Durban or Cape Town; it means you only have to book a 1-way flight and can combine it with a holiday in your non-resident city (think uShaka Marine World in Durban and views from the top of Table Mountain). This is usually a 3 night cruise, and often includes a stop in Port Elizabeth.
Some unscrupulous travel agents exclude insurance and port charges from their quoted fees. Be sure to check whether these fees are included. Also check whether there are mandatory services charges and whether these are included.
Do you prefer a longer cruise? Check with your agent whether there are repositioning cruises between Cape Town and Italy.
This usually has stops at Walvis Bay, Dakar, Tenerife, Funchal, Malaga, Civitavecchia and Genoa.
Cape Town to Walvis Bay is typically a 4 night cruise, with 2 full days at sea, one day at Walvis Bay (and 2 partial days in Cape Town). Note that this cruise sometimes encounters rougher weather and waves.
The Cape Town Cruise Terminal is a rather drab building, and a plan is in place to rebuild it.
Here's a wider angle look,so we can see the Cape Town Cruise Terminal in relation to the V&A Waterfront - those buildings under construction are in the Old Grain Silo area:
2 Jan 2017. A nice part of booking with Comair/Kulula, is that they sms a reminder a couple of hours before the flight, which helped get me off my backside and finalise the packing... Kulula kindly delayed the flight by an hour, giving us more time to pack. We boarded our Kulula flight to Durban, with our 4 littles ones in tow (aged 9, 6, 4 and 1) - we had almost the whole of row 3 (seat A to E), and when our youngest turns 2 we'll have to book the entire row! The flight was pleasant - my main complaint is that my 17" laptop doesn't fit so well on the tray table - the space available would only really work with an ipad (which my daughter was using). Nevertheless, I did manage to type this paragraph whilst on board.
In Durban we hired a Hyundai H1 from Budget Rent a Car - which basically means Avis, as the two companies are linked these days. If you're wondering how to find them, it's quite easy - here's the view of them as you exit King Shaka International Airport.
Our Hyundai H1:
And, if you've got the money, then you could hire one of Avis's luxury vehicles - here's their BMW i8 with eDrive:
If you are flying in on the morning of your cruise, an option is to take an MSC Cruises shuttle through from the airport to the harbour - ask your travel agent:
The traffic in Durban was crazy, with many people wanting to visit the beach. Eventually we got through the madness and arrived at The Waterfront Hotel & Spa, which is a very basic hotel (e.g. no fridge or bath in the room, no pool on the property), but has the considerable advantage of being close to uShaka Marine World (our kids absolutely love it there). There was free wi-fi, albeit slow (but not slow enough to make me switch to my mobile phone's hotspot), and whilst they offer a laundry facility, it's far from efficient. (After handing in dirty laundry one morning, in the evening of the following day, we discovered that it had been forgotten at reception).
Around the parking lot of The Waterfront Hotel are some old walls which I understand have some historical significance, and so may not be knocked down. Durban's Waterfront reminds one of how Cape Town's V&A Waterfront was in the early 1990s.
Unfortunately one of us got ill, but after phoning around we found a tiny medical centre at 24 Joseph Nduli Avenue. We travelled by Uber, which worked fine. On the plus side, uShaka Marine World was once again an absolute blast - it's a world class venue and a must-visit for anybody with kids.
Tip: Board the ship as early as possible, so that you can enjoy the ship for longer (the price is the same, no matter whether you come earlier or not). The check-in times are on your ticket.
Embarking on the MSC Sinfonia was a process:
Check in baggage using E-ticket and Embarkation form
Check in desks with passport and embarkation form.
Immigration, photos & getting on board.
Collect registration forms for the kids clubs (you could do it at the club as well, but I find it better to get the queuing out of the way first), if you haven't pre-populated them online beforehand, as well as collect identification bands for every child.
Cruise cards are received in the cabin by 1pm (we were there by 12h30, and our cabin was already open with cruise cards waiting). Before 23h00 on the day of embarkation, you must activate your cruise card, using a credit card at a "Cruise Card Activation Point", which are located on decks 5 and 6. They accept American Express, Discovery cards, Diners, JCB, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. It is also possible to use a debit card or to make a cash deposit on your Cruise Card at Guest Services. Note that your kids will be able to use their cards for purchases. You are given an advanced credit on your on-board account, which you can spend before activating your card. The amount varies depending on the length of the cruise.
If you bought "Easy On-board" tickets then you can jump a number of the above queues (but not step 1, checking in the baggage, which tends to be the longest queue). You're provided with your Easy On-board sticker at the check in desks.
As mentioned, it's most convenient to complete the registration forms for the kids clubs before boarding, but it can also be done later at the clubs themselves. There are 3 clubs that require a parent to sign the child in and out:
The Baby Club is for children under 3 years old. There is the option of Baby Care, where you drop off your toddler (aged between 1 year old and under 3 years old) for up to two hours. You are provided with a pager for the carer to be able to contact you if there are any problems. There is also Baby Time for all under 3's, where you can play with your little one in the Club. There are plenty of great Chicco toys available. Check the program to see what times the two options are being offered. There are also strollers, bouncers, bottle warmers and more, available for use during your cruise.
The Mini Club is for ages 3 to 6 years. Kids must be fully toilet trained and self-sufficient. Kids must be dropped off and picked up by an authorised adult.
The Junior Club is for ages 7 to 11 years. If the parent gives consent, kids are free to sign themselves in and out of the Junior Club, and have access to the adult swimming pools. If you prefer knowing where they are at all times, then you can opt to sign them in and out of the club.
There are two more clubs for those over 12, but still under 18. The Young Club for ages 12 to 14 and the Teens Club for ages 15 to 17. Children over 12 do not need to wear an identification band and you do not need to register them for these clubs. There are programs available on-board detailing the activities for the day and the kids can rock up for any of these events, if they wish.
Note that your kids will be photographed and videotaped, perhaps for promotional purposes on the ship.
For the first few years of cruising we enjoyed inside cabins (no window), then we treated ourselves and booked ocean view cabins, then we upgraded to balcony cabins, and now finally we've made it to the top level - the luxury & roominess of a suite (well, 2 suites actually, to fit all the kids in). The main differences between a suite and a balcony cabin are that the suite has a lounge area and a bath, rather than just a shower; whilst both have a balcony. On shorter cruises you won't spend as much time in your cabin, so it doesn't matter too much, but on the longer cruises it makes a big difference (e.g. the 20 night repositioning cruise between Cape Town and Italy).
Here's a photo of a suite:
And here's a photo of the suite next to ours (used by our kids), with the curtains drawn (I'd like to praise the kids for keeping the room tidy, but credit goes to the ship's wonderful cleaners):
And here's the majestic view which greeted me when I woke up on the last day of the cruise, and we had arrived in Cape Town. There wasn't an opportunity to watch the ship enter the port, as this occurred at 2am, with the officers concerned about potentially strong winds closing the port. You'll notice the furniture on the deck - from a safety perspective it is possible for a toddler to push the chairs against the glass and climb over, so exercise caution before letting kids wander about unsupervised.
And when you get out on the balcony the view just keeps getting better:
Note that you can also book 2 balcony cabins which are inter-leading rooms.
15h00 register the kids at the kids club
At 15h30 there was an MSC Cruise Guide presentation
The compulsory emergency drill was at 16h45
Departure was at 17h30. As the ship departed, there was a sail-away party; which I usually rate as being the best party on the cruise. However, as it was raining, the party was moved indoors to the Manhattan Lounge - there was nothing which could be done, but an indoor sail-away party is a shadow of the fun of an outdoor party on the ship's deck.
20h00 Merengue Dance lesson at the Sinfonia Lounge. Even if you're not going for the lesson, one can sit and enjoy a drink whilst watching.
10h00 Our daughter played sport with the Junior Club on deck 14 (right at the top of the ship)
13h00 Casino gaming lessons (with free $10 match play coupon for everybody who takes part)
15h15 Roelof's Musical Challenge
19h15 & 21h00 Song & Dance at the Teatro San Carlo
20h00 Family Disco
22h30 Stuart Lightbody's Impossible Wonders - magic show (not suitable for young children)
Tank tops, swimsuits, bathrobes and bare feet are not permitted either in the restaurants or the Buffet.
Every evening there was live karaoke, at the Manhattan Bar, from 21h30 to 23h00.
On the 12th deck you're allowed to practice jogging or power walking. There isn't a well demarcated track, and I only saw one person jogging around it during our cruise. (However my wife went for an early morning walk at 6:30am with the kids and she mentioned that there were a number of people jogging and walking on the deck) Because it's not well demarcated, one needs to jog around where people have positioned themselves.
There are 2 main pools, which are each divided by a net into a very shallow end for the kids and a deep end. It's great fun to swim in the waves in the pool, created by the ship moving about. Be warned, however, that there's usually a lifeguard (?) there, who will blow his whistle should he see anything risky going on (e.g. kids climbing up the nets).
There are 2 jacuzzis, which tend to get dominated by kids. There are rules that the kids must be accompanied by an adult; a maximum of 6 people per pool; and a maximum of 10 minutes. The jacuzzis tended to be in high demand, with about a 20 minute queue.
A new feature on the Sinfonia (new, since the ship got revamped & extended), is the DoReMi Spray Park for kids.
Here's a picture from a different angle of the spray park:
To get the most out of your cruise, watch every sunset and sunrise (and take photos to remember it by).
Take a decent enough camera along with you on your cruise - I merely use the camera built into my Samsung Note 5. The in-house photos are high quality but also expensive, so you'll want to pose and take a bunch of photos yourself.
There are 3 restaurants on the Sinfonia:
Buffet La Terrazza & Caffe del Mare on the 11th Deck
Il Galeone (the only restaurant which was open for served breakfast - I strongly recommend opting for the seated & served restaurant).
Il Covo (this is where we had supper)
Pizza delivery to your cabin is possible, but charges apply. Other room service is available.
Some of the meal deals cost money, for example here's a steak and wine special:
The MSC Voyagers Club members enjoy a range of benefits. Depending on your status, these may include:
discounts off cruise prices
discounts off wi-fi packages
discounted spa treatments
discounts on selected logo shop items
discounts on perfume sales
discount on minibar sales
We also had a free fruit basket delivered to our room at the beginning of the cruise.
Here's a free 1 hour session in the thermal area, which I was given:
Here's a view from the aft end of the ship:
Finally, after arriving in Cape Town, it's time to pick up the luggage. It's well organised, but still a surprise that more luggage doesn't go "missing".