Aboard the MSC Orchestra cruise ship travelling from Durban, out to sea and then to Mozambique, I find sublime views and the energy to party.
During the five days of the cruise, I observe the sun set and rise with hues of orange and pink on the canvas of the night sky above the swelling beast that is the ocean.
It is a sublime affair, not a pretty one, and inspiring to witness.
Sublimity and prettiness are separated by so great a distance, says AC Bradley, that our sudden attempt to unite them has a comical effect.
The endless and mesmerising beauty of the sea is truly sublime, one of the highest forms of beauty assumed by nature.
And I can’t think of a better way to savour one of nature’s most powerful elements than being awakened by the warm and golden glow of the morning light on my face.
The sun rises above the horizon while I lie in a bed of fresh, comfortable cotton sheets and yawn restfully aboard the MSC Orchestra.
The Orchestra is one of 17 ships owned by the Mediterranean Shipping Company, and it leaves the Durban harbour on a Monday, arriving at Pomene in Mozambique on the Wednesday, then returns to Durban on the Friday.
With more than 3 000 guests and 1 000 crew members, you would expect it to be an administrative nightmare of long and unmoving queues, but it is not.
With amenities such as a photo library, spa and relaxation area, gym and children’s area; a total of eight bars; three restaurants; and luxury stores, there is everything for everyone to do.
Dinner is divided into two sittings, during which the waiters generously offer delicious bread as a preamble to the three-course meal.
I abandon my inland diets and indulge in their late-night pizza and burgers after a night of clubbing. It feels like being in a floating city.
You’re required to dress up for the occasion, which might have felt like an imposition, but instead creates a jovial mood that I had missed.
If that’s not your thing, head over to the buffet area, where you can easily moderate your portions ... or not.
On one night I dine at the buffet, and on another I have my meal in my suite and later learn that I could’ve just ordered room service.
There is an option to have a cold breakfast with coffee delivered to your room, but only if you remember to fill in the breakfast form before heading to bed.
The queues for food are reminiscent of those at weddings, except faster and with more varied options, such as fried banana, olives and coconut shavings.
It’s a black affair. Elderly women singing and dancing.
Dancing circles and mob dances erupting every now and then.
Strangers trying to out-dance each other to old school jams.
Some are lounging high above the crowd, looking down at the festivities and glancing at the sea as the sun sets.
The variety of music makes everyone all the merrier.
From Brenda Fassie and Rihanna to Sho Madjozi and Makhadzi, the music is mostly a lovely mix of older and more contemporary hits.
It feels like one big black family party.
From big and small families to women’s support groups and bridal gangs, the experience has such a familial touch that I wish I had brought my aunt and grandmother with me.
The ship’s team is efficient in managing the flow of food and drinks between people.
It never feels too overwhelming for the number of people on board, and they have a big staff contingent dedicated to various aspects of managing so many guests.
They are quite rigorous with safety and temperature screenings, detecting fever possibly caused by Covid-19, and have hand sanitiser and signs everywhere encouraging people to wash their hands, which has me feeling at ease.
The suites have balconies with ocean views, chic interior decor and comfortable sheets.
There’s a convenient garden theatre where you will find a dance production every night, the Calabranca Pool that’s ideal for a day swim and the Palm Beach Casino for those who are so inclined.
I was hosted by MSC Cruises and was treated to a delicious sushi tasting at one of their restaurants, Shanghai.
After two nights and three days at sea, we arrive in Pomene. Ferries transport us from the ship to the peninsula on a 10-minute ride that easily gets choppy with the wind, offering a subsequent speedboat experience along the way.
The process of disembarking is faster than I expected. In about 30 minutes, my feet are on the mushy Mozambican beach in Pomene.
We arrive to stalls selling colourful hats and bags with various prints of cloth and beautiful hand-made artifacts produced by local artists in Mozambique.
I spend some time ambling through the market before heading for a swim in the humid heat, with hat, sunscreen and the MSC Orchestra’s orange towel in hand. I bask in the sun and swim in the lovely Indian Ocean before basking some more.
There are drinks and lunch is served.
As we head back to the ship, we leave the towels with security and our temperatures are scanned – only to arrive to clean towels in our suites.
The remaining days are spent aboard the ship, heading back to Durban.
“I don’t want to go back to land,” I overhear one woman in a food queue as Friday draws closer.
I can relate and, for a second, the idea of being quarantined at sea doesn’t seem too awful. It is sad and unbelievable.
But I go back to land rejuvenated by the sea, where water spans as far and wide as the eye can see.
- Prices range from R3 588 per person for two nights off the coast of Durban, and R7 745 for five nights (on special) from Durban to Mozambique and back.
- Drinks range from R50 to R80, with packages of all-inclusive drinks ranging from R550 to R1 200 per day for unlimited drinks.
- The cruises cover the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Asia, north Europe, South America, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar and southern Africa.