4 Years after our first cruise on the MSC Sinfonia (we spent 3 very stormy nights at sea from Cape Town to Durban) once again my husband and I boarded the MSC Sinfonia - this time in Durban for a 5 day cruise to Mozambique.
When we arrived at Durban airport we were directed to make our way to the Mugg and Bean where MSC had set up desks and were arranging shuttle buses to the harbour. After a short drive through Durban to the port we joined the other 1200 passengers who were planning to board the MSC Sinfonia.
We had organised a Priority Boarding pass to get fast tracked through the boarding system - and at only R250 per cabin, I highly recommend this - especially if you are travelling with kids.
The benefits include:
Once you have proceeded through the normal check-in and have presented your on-board luggage for loading – you will proceed to an embarkation channel inside the terminal sterile area reserved exclusively for Easy Onboard voucher holders.
A separate Immigration channel is reserved for Easy Onboard Passengers, fast-tracking the process through immigration and on to the ship.
MSC Cruise card
The first thing we did when boarding is to load the MSC cruise card - it is a cashless cruise so each passenger is given a card in order to make all their on-board purchases (all in US$) without the need for carrying cash. You link it to your credit card via one of the activation machines on board and once you’ve loaded your specified amount (the minimum recommended amount is $200) you can use it in any of the shops on board, in the casino, to book shows and excursions.
This time round we had booked a balcony suite and it was fabulous - way more spacious than our previous inside cabin had been, with a walk-in cupboard, plenty of packing space, a desk, a lounge area, queen sized bed and the bathroom included a bath as well as a shower!
Food and Drinks 24 hours a day
There is never a moment when you cannot get food and drinks onboard. The chefs cater for the South African market and include Indian dishes. My special indulgence was the fresh Italian pizzas - available daily from 12 noon until 11pm - everything, including the flour is from Italy. Hamburgers and hotdogs, a selection of teas, coffee and water are also on offer from 11.30 - 6pm all included in the price of the cruise. This ensures that kids (and adults) can snack throughout the day. On the main deck there is a genuine artisanal Italian Ice cream bar, nutella pancake bar and a smoothie bar on board if you feel like something sweet during the day.
For breakfast, lunch and dinner we had various options - including a 6am outside breakfast on the deck, choice of buffet or a la carte dining for lunch and dinner in one the restaurants, or for those times when we just wanted to be alone - complimentary room service was available.
We chose the early dinner sitting in Il Covo Restaurant from 6 – 8 before heading to the Teatro for the evening shown- each night there was a different cabaret show which was great fun. We generally headed back to our cabin at around 10pm - however - there was plenty of entertainment until early hours - including midnight snacks, 7 bars, a nightclub, and deck parties.
Breakfast in your cabin
We opted to enjoy breakfast on our private balcony. The evening before a breakfast form is left in the cabin which you complete and leave hanging on the door handle. The next morning, at the specified time, our continental breakfast would arrive with coffee or tea - at no additional cost.
Kids under 18 cruise for free
Cruising is the perfect holiday for families - in fact the average profile of cruisers in South Africa is 41 years old with 2 kids. Kids under 18 travelling with 2 adults cruise for FREE - that includes their accommodation, food and entertainment on board.. Besides the water park on the main deck there are 5 kids areas for varying age groups from babies to teens - all with qualified childminders overseeing the programmes. We didn’t take our kids with us on this trip but I am already planning on taking them on their first cruise next year when the MSC Musica replaces the MSC Sinfonia in our waters. Apparently it is much larger and has loads of activities for the kids.
The following day we reached Portuguese Island - which has no permanent residents or structures - only long white pristine beaches and a wooden structure that MSC has built for their guests (think paradise). Every time the ship stops there they bring everything with them (food, drinks, cutlery and crockery etc) and each time they leave they take everything with them - quite an operation! The temperature reached the mid 30’s and we spent an hour frolicking in the warm Indian Ocean - definitely a highlight of the trip. Portuguese Island is paradise. After a gin and tonic on the deck we decided to catch a ferry to Inhanca Island
The boat trip from Portuguese Island to Inhaca Island took about about 10 minutes. Locals have set up stores selling various items on the way to the village. Inhaca village is one main stretch of white sand, lined by a few derelict buildings and surrounded by palm trees. For 6 months of the year tourists from MSC descend on their island every few days to enjoy excursions to the island. After a walk around the village we returned to Portuguese Island for lunch and a few more G&T’s.
If you want to escape the crowds on the main deck, for a small fee, located in the front of the ship - Top 13 is an exclusive adults only deck with loungers, where waiters serve snacks and drinks throughout the day.
The Thermal Spa
On our final day at sea I opted to enjoy some time in the thermal suite at the spa - which was another highlight for me - to lie back on a heated mosaic lounger after spending time detoxing between the sauna, steam room and experience showers, watching the horizon float by is definitely therapy for the soul.
Different types of cruises
No under 18s - which is pretty much 24 hours of partying with DJ’s and plenty of alcohol.
Family - relaxed fun for all ages.
Themed cruises - where an organisation or entertainer takes a block booking of cabins catering for their clients or fans (on our first cruise we had the unfortunate experience of joining a Kurt Darren cruise with his fans).
After 5 days I arrived home completely relaxed and eager to book my cruise for 2018/2019 - this time with my children to introduce them to cruising.