Just ?Cruisin’

2014-12-01 19:00

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Before setting off on the MSC Opera’s maiden trip in 2014, my experience of being on large bodies of water for days at a time was limited. There was yachting on Hartbeespoort Dam when I was younger and a magical few days on a houseboat on Lake Kariba last year.

I couldn’t recall any instances of sea sickness but wondered what we would do on a ship for three days. I lowered my expectations all the way down.

We arrived in Durban on Friday morning and met up with the rest of the group. My smugness at being on top of all travel admin was soon diminished when I asked for our cabin number, only to realise my tickets were languishing in the dark place that is my inbox. Shit.

Luckily, we were told this shouldn’t be a problem and we set off for the busiest port in Africa. The MSC Opera was bigger than I had anticipated. At 11 storeys high and more than 220m long, it was pretty impressive – especially after learning that the Opera is the baby of MSC’s fleet.

The biggest ship in the fleet is the Divina, which can be home to nearly 4?000 passengers and just under 1?400 crew members. The Opera had about 1?400 passengers and 700 amazingly slick crew members. The staff were relentlessly attentive, despite all the demands made on them.

Cosy cabins

The cabins are small but comfy, and you’re given the illusion of more space with floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows that look out on to the balcony, so those with claustrophobia should be fine. The balcony is also awesome and you can spend hours hanging out there, contemplating your smallness.

Because you are at sea for three nights, the Opera has everything you might need or want – there are numerous restaurants, seven bars, a small gaming arcade on the top floors, a spa, a gym and a massive deck with two pools and two Jacuzzis. And food. Lots of it. I had some of the best pizza on board the Opera I’ve had in a while.

The 70 entertainment staff make sure everyone stays captivated, so if you get tired of swimming or reading, you can attend one of the many activities, parties or shows on offer.

On the island

The real treat, of course, is the day spent on the Portuguese Islands just off the coast of Mozambique. MSC has committed about R22?million to the development of the small island and has exclusive use of it on a renewable five-year lease. There was no shortage of things to do – from snorkelling and a visit to the adjacent Inhaca Island, which is home to 6?000 people; to paddle-boarding; chilling in the beach lounge and kayaking. We opted for the snorkelling in the marine reserve of Santa Maria.

It was a fabulous three days of learning how to walk straight despite the tilting boat, falling asleep in the sun and eating like a king.

Tips for an awesome cruise

1 Pay a little extra for fast-track boarding if you can. It makes all the difference when there are a thousand or more people to board.

2 Make sure you have a credit card. Not a cheque or debit card – cheque cards (despite working like credit cards) do not work on board.

3 Pause whatever diet you are on. There is food at all times of the day. And make sure you have some of the pizza. It’s amazing!

4 Don’t be late for dinner. They won’t let you in because there are only two sittings and they must feed the first so the second can eat too.

5 Be prepared for the very expensive Wi-Fi. Or decide to just take a break from the interwebs for a few days.

Mhlungu was hosted by MSC Cruises. Visit msccruises.com to book your trip.

Flights to and from Durban were courtesy of Mango Airlines. Visit flymango.co.za to book

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