For South Africans, a local cruise is one of the best ways to completely unwind, with all your accommodation, entertainment and dining needs met in one place. It’s a great option for first-time cruisers, and because kids travel free, it’s an awesome choice for a family mini-break.
Seasoned cruiser and Pentravel Store Manager at Galleria, Lydia Harper, gives us the inside scoop on local cruises…
Describe your best local cruise experience
My best local cruise experience was with my friends when we cruised to the Portuguese Island in February 2017. We cruised aboard the newly renovated MSC Sinfonia and stayed in ocean-view cabins. The ship had a waterpark (that I definitely took advantage of) and that “new ship smell” that always makes me want to come back for another cruise.
We also experienced the streamlined embarkation procedure that made everything so easy. From finding our parking bay, to the helpful staff in the cruise terminal and getting our pictures taken for our ship ID’s (remember, you have to look fabulous dahling), it was easy peasy.
What is your least favourite thing about a local cruise?
I dislike the repetitiveness of the local cruise itineraries. I do understand that it can’t be helped as South Africa does not have many ports to visit during a cruise. I also don’t like the fact that I don’t have enough money to splurge in the jewellery shops and fine bag shops onboard. There is still a certain Furla bag I have my eye on.
What are the advantages of local cruises for South Africans?
The advantage of local cruises is the fact that we can cruise from Durban or Cape Town. The cruises literally depart from our doorsteps, and if you live inland, it is a quick flight away. This also increases the tourism opportunities to said cities and adds a much-needed boost to their economies.
We don’t require a visa to visit Mozambique and the other countries on the longer itineraries.
The entertainment team is multinational, but there will also be a significant complement of South Africans working onboard. The weekend cruises are also a big plus in my book as they provide a quick escape and a chance to create some fabulous memories.
Children under 18 cruise for free, provided that they share with 2 adults in the cabin. MSC also offers various discounts, e.g. senior, honeymoon, single parent, youth and families with 3 children; as well as drinks packages that you can prepay in Rands, making buying drinks on board more affordable.
What are the disadvantages of local cruises for South Africans?
The major disadvantage for South Africans would be the fact that the currency onboard is the USD. When the Rand isn’t doing so well, it makes the cruise experience very expensive. This is why we recommend taking out a drinks package prior to departure so you can budget accordingly.
What is a typical day on board a local cruise?
A typical day onboard a local cruise sort of goes like this…
You are awakened to the sound of the Cruise Director’s morning announcements. Your feet are still throbbing from dancing the night away at the disco, where the DJ was dropping all the club bangers.
After a quick shower and consulting the Daily Program, you head off to the restaurant for breakfast and a much-needed cappuccino. The Daily Program informs you that the entertainment team has a movie trivia quiz on the pool deck, which must not be missed. You win, of course, as no-one can best your mad movie knowledge.
Lunch is served at the buffet. There is so much choice, with anything and everything under the sun. You pile your plate high with delicacies. Afterwards, you decide to spoil yourself with a massage at the spa. The Balinese massage therapists really do have fingers like angels that take away all the kinks.
You manage to roll yourself back to your room to get ready for the evening’s festivities. These include music in all the lounges, as well as a cabaret show in the theatre. The show blows your socks off! It has singing, dancing and mind-boggling circus acts that are second to none. There is a lull in the evening before dinner, in which you choose to visit the various wares on offer. You remember the Armani watch that caught your eye on the first day of the cruise. We all need a little sparkle to brighten up our day.
The dining experience in the restaurant is another spectacle that sets your taste buds tingling. Your waiter ensures that all your needs are met while regaling you with stories from his homeland. Bali is definitely your next travel destination.
The nightly entertainment is in top form, and you dance the night away in the disco.
You watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean before making your way to the cabin and fall fast asleep…only to start it all again tomorrow.
What are some inside tips you’d give your clients about local cruises?
- Pack flip-flops (as the deck becomes as hot as the surface of the sun), sunblock and a hat.
- Pack clothes that you don’t need to iron as there aren’t any in the cabin, due to the fire hazard they pose.
- If you are prone to seasickness, the medical centre will issue one free motion sickness tablet per person, per day. My best tip for that is to pack crackers, drink ginger ale or flat cola and stay on the deck. Being cooped up in your cabin will just make you sicker.
- The cabins are numbered with all the evens on one side of the ship and the odds on the other. Just remember which side you are.
When is the best time to go on a local cruise?
February or March…the cruises are more affordable over that period.
Which local cruise would suit someone who has never cruised before?
I believe that a weekend cruise is the best way to rock the boat. It is a quick escape from the daily grind, and you will experience all the fun of the Portuguese Island.