This is party and pleasure Central - that’s what we experienced on board the Sinfonia on our three-day cruise to Portuguese Island in Mozambique.

It was our first cruise and we were excited to step on board and noticed the stylish comfort. I was a bit apprehensive about the trip but once we started sailing I soon forgot I was on a ship. I felt as though I was in a five-star hotel.

So, who was on board with us? You can expect your average South African family, lots of kids and young party folk – and the mix of people makes for good fun.

There is no shortage of things to do and crew are at your service 24/7. Service is top quality, staff are efficient and fast.

What is there to do on this 12-deck ship?

First, everything is charged in dollars and depending on your shopping and party tendencies, $200 (about R2 100) is sufficient to have a good time for three days. We transferred money from our credit cards to the “cruise card”, as the ship is a cashless society. Very convenient but one needs to guard that card with one’s life.

On the first day the “Debussy” deck was swarming with people and that was the cue for the DJ to step up. At the Capri Bar we quickly made “cruise friends”. People all had the same thing in mind… have one massive party for the next three days. The deck was a mix of Ibiza-style partying, Camps Bay or top notch hotel poolside lounging. Drinks are priced reasonably and similar to what you would pay in most bars in South Africa and the cocktails are really good.

You can chill in the pool on the 11th deck where two pools are separated by an elevated deck with two Jacuzzis. There are sun loungers in abundance. The view from the 12th deck is breathtaking and it’s the tranquil part of the ship unless you find some cruisers playing at the golf simulator.

Our cabin was a spacious, neat room with a passage, little walk-in cupboard, small lounge area and lucky us, a balcony. It is quite something to wake up to the vast sea spread out in front of you. We mostly took small breaks during the day in our cabin and after every day’s festivities, the cabin was a comfortable crash place.

By the next morning, we were meant to be at Portuguese Island but at night the ship had turned around and was on its way back to Durban because of bad weather.

If your dancing skills are not up to scratch, the ship also offers ballroom and salsa dance classes. Karaoke is another crowd-puller and passengers who hit all the right notes get instant fame and attention from all cruisers for the rest of the trip.

While listening to some blues in one of the bars, we noticed a group of girls in intriguing cat costumes. We followed them to their performance in the ship’s theatre, which offers various shows including illusion artists.

The casino is another quiet spot for gaming lovers. For teens, there’s the Planet teen’s club with the usual arcade games. For toddlers, a team regularly takes care of their entertainment needs at the Pinocchio Club.

The food… was not all that great. The ship has two restaurants, La Terrazza and Il Galeone, where guests are booked for breakfast, lunch and supper. The meals were disappointing since everything else is so luxurious on the ship.

I abandoned my restaurant sittings and opted to have all my meals at the buffet, which operates from breakfast until late night. There is a constant stream of good food. Breakfasts had the full offering of bacon, sausages, eggs, cold meats, cheeses, bagels, waffles, fruit and cereals. After breakfast, there were all-day servings of pizza, burgers and chips, hot dogs, ciabatta sandwiches and other hot meals.

On the same deck as the pool is the sanctuary of the vessel, the MSC spa. It’s luxuriously decorated and quiet and offers a selection of massages, cosmetic treatments, a hairdresser and saunas. There is also a gym and the services of a personal trainer.

Free to all guests are the saunas and range of “tropical rain” or “cold fog” showers. There are also two relaxation rooms overlooking the ocean. My favourite room was the one surrounded by the saunas. This was my regular escape from the party deck, with heated, tiled loungers facing the ocean. It’s the ideal way to relax and watch the boat smoothly glide across the big sea.

To end each day, when the deck party dies down, there is the Buddha Bar for a chilled party or the Pasha Club. At the plush club, guests swop their poolside fashion for sexy numbers and dance until the early hours.

For the last night, most clubbers stayed on the dance floor until daylight, filling up their last few hours on the ship.

This was an all-round pleasurable experience that catered for everyone. It was not hard to see why cruises are becoming more popular. A three-day jol.

* These cruises are highly affordable and a group of 10 people can cruise for R2 700 per person to Mozambique. The deal includes meals and accommodation.

Cape Times