I hop on a flight from Cape Town to Durban to experience the MSC Orchestra for one night only. At the launch event, I realise that I’ve probably never attended such a well-organised media event. MSC runs a very tight ship.
This vessel plays host to 3 225 passengers, so they kind of have to. Doing 39 cruises in Southern African waters over the next six months - travelling to destinations such as Pomene, Cape Town, Portuguese Island, Mauritius and Walvis Bay - it has 5 restaurants, 8 bars, a theatre, 2 pools, a gym and a spa.
Trust me, you’re going to need the gym. But probably won’t use it.
I spend most of my 24 hours by the pool, sipping on Aperol Spritz cocktails, taking in the views. All aboard for 24h indulgence? I was ready.
The morning after my comfy snooze in my cabin, I go for breakfast. I sit down at a big round table in a very pink restaurant. I love the deco, and believe Wes Anderson would also approve.
Across the table from me is an elderly British couple having their coffee. I find out they were invited to the launch as loyalty members. They cruise, a lot.
“Why do you love cruising?” I ask them from a complete cruising virgin’s perspective.
“You only have to unpack once,” says the lady. “Yet, you see so much,” she adds.
We fall deep into conversation about their previous cruising experiences. From two weeks to three months, they’ve cruised the world. And they’re not stopping any time soon. Except on destination stopovers that is.
“We love getting off at the stops. We hop into a local taxi and off we go for the day,” the gentleman says.
They don’t tend to go along with the excursions offered by the cruise liner as they say they like to break away when reaching shore.
Now, I was by no means a loyalty member, and had nothing on Joe and Jean* (I didn’t catch their names), but I could see the appeal. From buffet to fine dining, to the beautiful bars with deep, dark wood finishes, you can spend your days restaurant and bar hopping – no Uber ride home required! Or swim, jacuzzi and sun yourself silly on the deck, drifting steadily away on a cloud of relaxation, all the way to your next destination on this floating resort.
And even though you might think 3000+ people on one ship is a lot to handle, you never feel overwhelmed or cramped.
24 hours wasn’t enough, though. The disembark was bittersweet, as I got taste the starter, but couldn't indulge in the full 3-course meal.