I am not going to lie: when the invitation for a cruise to Pomene - Mozambique’s hidden treasure - arrived, I was keen. Four days on the open seas and the chance to enjoy the sunshine from a cosy deck chair by the pool area of the MSC Sinfonia, needed no arm-twisting. Honestly, what more could a workaholic ask from a travel assignment?
And so, last Monday, there I was checking into the MSC Cruises N-Shed Passenger Terminal with my sexagenarian mum, who was a few days shy of celebrating her 64th birthday. She bubbled over with excitement like a six-year-old in a candy store. Of course, it was perfectly justified, this being her first cruise. And after casually glancing at the families, couples and groups also on the trip, she fitted right in.
Boarding was an effortless process. Following a quick media briefing at Pasha Club Disco, facilitated by the super-efficient organiser on the trip, Ingrid Roding, we went to check out our balcony cabin, which was made available at 1pm. It was a cosy enough room with an en-suite bathroom and shower. There was a satellite TV, mini bar fridge (for which I was grateful as my mum needed somewhere cool in which to store her insulin), a thermostat-controlled air-conditioner, a small dressing table section, where you can get glammed up, and a full-length mirror for that final look of approval.
With plenty of closet space and drawers, we unpacked our suitcases before the 2.30pm mandatory fire drill. It was only later when we made our way to the deck area that it dawned on me that the “party” had already started. Children were happily splashing around in the pool while the adults worked on their tans while showing off their toned bodies. Suffice it to say, the bar was a hive of activity. Everyone sipped on their cocktails, mocktails, soft drinks and beers, while we watched the dock getting smaller as the captain steered the ship towards the ocean.
Feeling ravenous from all the excitement, we grabbed a slice (maybe two) of pizza to quell the hunger pangs until dinner; we were booked for the first seating, which is at 6pm, at Il Covo on the Mozart deck on level 6. It’s a more intimate option to the Il Galeone, located on the Beethoven deck on level 5. With some time to kill, we explored the ship’s offerings, starting with the duty-free shops. Then we made our way to the Manhattan and Buddha Bar, Teatro San Carlo, Sanremo Casino, Fitness Centre, MSC Aurea Spa and the oh-so-exclusive Solarium, found on deck 13. Personal tour over, we got ready for dinner, which was an indulgent three-course affair. We had two menu options: a more regular choice to suit every palate and Indian, for those with a proclivity for spicy cuisine. And if you felt like pigging out on more than one starter, main or dessert, you could. There was free-flowing red and white wine, too.
Stuffed and unable to make the Back to the Musicals show I had booked earlier, we retired to our cabin for an early night. But not before I filled out our room service form for a continental breakfast in the morning. This is a must-do if you go on the cruise. Enjoying the freshly baked croissants, muffins, hot toast and decadent hot chocolate while soaking up the panoramic view of the glistening ocean was an unforgettable experience. I also loved the detailed programme left on our beds every night.
Everyone gets to plan the activities for the next day, from participating in quizzes, singing karaoke, a game of mega bingo, enjoying a glitzy show or a bit of razzmatazz at the club, to catching a movie. For the days that we were at sea, we pretty much feasted in between lazing by the pool and afternoon siestas.