My wonderful MSC Sinfonia Cruise from Durban to Mozambique Island is now published in the Air Namibia in-flight magazine, Flamingo.
The helicopter hovers overhead as the MSC Sinfonia pulls out of Durban’s port, the deck filled with passengers, eyes stretched to catch the action overhead. I’m on my cabin’s balcony hanging too far over the edge, deep blue waters below, as I try to get a shot of the exact moment the Captain is lowered onto the ship, waving as he ducks the wind and steps down to take up his position at the helm. And this is how our journey to the open sea begins.
Joining a four-day MSC Cruise from Durban to the Portuguese Islands off Mozambique, it was my first cruise off the African coast. The weather was warm and slightly humid, with a welcome breeze off the ocean as we took in the last look as Durban fell into the distance. Everything about boarding the ship had been thrilling for my Mom and me who were travelling together to celebrate her 80th birthday. I’d recommend arranging a priority pass to make embarkation easier, which we had done.
The MSC Sinfonia is a beautiful commanding ship with a capacity of just on 2200. The 2015 refurbishment has meant impressive new features and a fresh look throughout. The crew is always on hand to offer you a drink, answer your questions and direct you to the dining room, pool or anywhere else you’re headed, as well as guide you towards the best offshore excursions, making it easy for you to simply relax and enjoy the varied offerings, which now include Shelagh’s House, an Irish pub, as well as a Golf Simulator and the San Remo casino. But for me, the basketball net high up on the top level of the stern appealed and I walked past it each day.
There are four restaurants onboard featuring delicious cuisines from all over the world. The Caffe del Mare with its’ outdoor seating, the Il Galeone and Il Covo for a more refined atmosphere and the La Terrazza Buffet and 24-hour pizza station, are both good options to top up the energy levels should the need arise; especially if you’re planning on dancing the night away at the Pasha Club Disco.
The newly done cabins with balconies offer excellent views across the ocean and I was so pleased to be staying in one, hopping straight out of bed and out of my balcony each morning, taking in all the ocean happiness that I could muster. We opted to order breakfast in our room, something offered at no extra cost, allowing a slower start to our days as we sipped on strong coffee and enjoyed pain au chocolat and freshly baked croissants, orange juice, yoghurt and fruit. This is a lovely indulgent touch.
Each evening we opted for an early dinner and then headed to the San Carlo Theatre for the show. This does need to be booked in advance, and you’d do well to pick up a glass of Prosecco or a cocktail to take in with you as you settle in for the marvels of song, dance and world-class entertainment. After that, a walk around the deck and an early night or some reading are how we spent our time at sea.
On our cruise to Mozambique’s Portuguese Island, we had two consecutive days to visit the uninhabited nature reserve with its white beaches, warm water and small patches of mangroves. MSC Cruises has made upgrades on the island that include an excursion centre, wooded dining room and a VIP section where for a nominal fee you get a deck chair, umbrella and hands-on bar service as you soak up the sun.
You may opt to just stay on the beach each day, but I’d recommend a walk around the island, or that you book a trip across to Inhaca Island to visit the lighthouse, go snorkelling at Santa Maria, or try your hand at sea kayaking or stand up paddling. There’s a local restaurant on Ithaca if you’d like the freedom of transferring across for a cold Manica beer and indulgent seafood platter.
One of MSC’s most popular cruises is from Cape Town up the West Coast to Namibia’s Walvis Bay where you arrive to eat homegrown Walvis Bay oysters with excursions on offer to see whales, flamingos and pelicans, explore the Atlantic harbour town of Swakopmund, go quad-biking or sandboarding on one of the sand dunes. You can even take a full day trip into the surrounds of the desert landscapes and see plant species such as the ancient protected welwitschia.
I really understand why cruises are so popular, as you find on them exactly what you are looking for. If that is peace and quiet, head to the loungers at the back of the boat and get an idea of the speed you’re travelling at, but if you’d like to dance the night away and try your luck at the casino, even take dancing lessons or go to the movies, that is easily found too. There was an exciting buzz about and groups of friends occupying tables on the deck as they relaxed into laughter. There is a gym and spa, with the option of time in the beautiful thermal suite with giant windows toward the sea.
A question that often arises regarding cruise liners is the impact that they have on the oceans. You’ll be pleased to learn that each of the MSC ships has an environmental officer onboard who ensures the careful use of resources such as water and energy as well as recycling and disposal of garbage. Nothing goes overboard. This seems right for the largest privately-owned cruise company in the world with its 300-year-old history of seafaring that started in Sorrento Italy and is now bringing passengers to the world.
Cruising is a children’s paradise. Besides the great water play area on the top deck, there are also five children’s areas all targeted to various age groups with qualified childminders overseeing the entertainment program and activities. Freeing up the parents to do other things.
The service onboard was exceptional with 740 crew members from 39 countries looking after us. That makes for a maximum of 3 passengers per crew member. There is something to be said for foreign accents and the romance of life on board too, and we had many chats with fellow South Africans, Italians and Russians, not to mention the incredible Cuban Hairdresser that I went to for a cut one afternoon. I’m pleased to report that he has excellent sea legs and did a fine job as he shared accounts of the places he’d been and seen.
If you enjoy the endless blue ocean vistas meeting the distant horizon, then you may even consider taking a cruise to nowhere and have a few days of relaxing and enjoying the activities and spoils of the Sinfonia before returning to shore. There is no cell reception, except for pockets when near the coastline, and even though Wi-Fi is available, this is a perfect opportunity to take yourself off the grid.
I met numerous travellers who opt for weeks onboard at a time, some of the lucky ones have been as far as Mauritius and Reunion Island on the Sinfonia, swearing by the service, relaxation and fact that you literally have nothing to worry about, your every whim and wish is cared for. Also as much as the routine may be defined, each cruise is different as it depends on the number of people you’re sharing it with, the theme and the makeup of honeymooners, families and groups of friends, which always changes. It is, like most things, what you make of it.
The MSC Sinfonia experience has left us with memories of relaxed sun-kissed days and I would love to see her again and let her take me on another adventure.
Ship navigation made easy
If you’re wondering if it’s a boat or a ship here’s the thing to remember. You put a boat on a ship but you don’t put a ship on a boat.
- Bowfront part of the ship
- Hull – main body of the ship
- Helm – the steering wheel
- Stern – the back part of the ship
- Lido Deck – Italian for beach and where the pools, bars and fun is to be found
- Quarterdeck – the part of the ship set aside by the Captain for functions, you’ll want to join one of them.
- A cabin or a stateroom – your room on a cruise ship
In the News
MSC Cruises has announced that a new ship is headed for South African shores for the 2018 cruise season. Named Musica, and able to accommodate over 2500 guests with a wider range of restaurants, more swimming pools, grander entertainment facilities and more lounges, it is something to look forward to. But for me, the Sinfonia feels like the perfect size, so don’t miss a chance to cruise with her.
The Essential Details and Recommendations
To learn more about the different cruises offered by MSC Cruises go to their website. My recommendation is the 5 days and 4 nights Cape Town to Walvis Bay tour. Also, do keep an eye out for the incredible cruise deals and themed journeys. This is one of the most affordable, relaxed and fun ways to holiday, with all the international flair and passports required. The 3-5-7 night packages are most popular, whether you’re going somewhere, or nowhere. The kids will love it too. Travel light as you won’t need much and it makes embarkation much easier.
This is the video captured during our cruise, in case you missed it.
My Mom and I travelled as guests of MSC Cruises by invitation of Shed Marketing and the gorgeous Ingrid N Roding.