By Myrtle Ryan

Durban - New cruise itineraries are planned for the MSC Sinfonia and MSC Opera. Current options are three- and four-night cruises to the Mozambican islands. Now a series of seven-night itineraries – visiting Portuguese Island, the beautiful fishing village of Anakao and Fort Dauphin in Madagascar – are planned.

A 14-night Island Discovery Cruise will also be introduced, in which MSC Sinfonia will visit Mauritius, Reunion, Ile St Marie and the picturesque beaches of Fort Dauphin in Madagascar.

For those who long to lounge in a deck chair and join one of the popular Cape cruises, the good news is that these will start later in the season to make the most of calmer weather.

A settled stomach will make those meals of abundance more inviting.

A big drawcard is always the on-board entertainment, so the Sunday Tribune went behind the stage curtains to learn more.

Cruise director Derrick van Wyk says dancers rehearse for a new show between midnight and 3am, after having already put in two high-paced shows and a mini-show on the pool deck.

Derrick of Jeffreys Bay is fluent in English and Afrikaans and his Italian, to my untrained ear, sounds impeccable too.

He’s the perfect host for young and old. His rendition of the Duke of Iron’s Calypso song about The Big Bamboo is a fun ice-breaker, not that it’s much of a requirement when everyone on board is already chilled and determined to have fun.

He said 62 people serve on the entertainment team: musicians in the various lounges, the Dream Team who create the party spirit on the pool deck at night, the 12 performing artists who form part of the stage revue, singers, and six female and three male dancers.

When we were on board, the stars of the show were undoubtedly the two-man balancing act, which requires huge strength and discipline.

There are seven different shows in the repertoire, and each night there is a show at 9pm and at 11pm.

Derrick said the dancers had a minimum of 30 seconds, and a maximum of two minutes, in which to change their costumes, while for some shows they could find themselves wiggling in and out of sequinned outfits as much as 13 times.

Shows are often geared to the culture of the country in which the ship happens to be sailing.

It’s not just the young who command centre stage.

According to Derrick, one of their oldest dancers, until he joined another line, had been a 47-year-old Russian who could more than hold his own, having trained with the Royal Ballet School in Russia.

A female singer of 53 proves there is still hope for oldies.

Derrick studied tourism management and hospitality at the University of Port Elizabeth, with drama training in his spare time.

A lover of the sea and surfing, for him everything fell into place when he was offered a position on board the MSC Melody in 2006.

He is the father figure (they get younger all the time) to whom the entertainment team turns when feeling blue, especially when far from their families over Christmas and New Year.

So pack your costume, sarong, glad rags, sun hat and party spirit. - Sunday Tribune