I’ve always wanted to go on a cruise – mostly because whenever you see people going on cruises in the movies or on TV they look like they’re having the best time ever. In my mind a cruise holiday was the ultimate luxury holiday – I mean, where else can you spend a few days free from distractions while people wait on you hand and foot? But after spending 3 nights on-board the MSC Opera on a cruise from Durban to Portuguese Island in Mozambique I realised that cruise holidays aren’t for everyone – if you’ve always wondered; “to cruise or not to cruise?” then you’ll want to read all about my trip with MSC so you can figure out if the cruise life is for you.
The boyfriend and I boarded the MSC Opera on a rather warm Thursday afternoon. We were gearing up for 3 nights on-board the luxury cruise ship. Boarding and checking in was a bit hectic (there were almost 2000 people waiting to board the ship that morning) but once we reached the front of the long queue it was smooth sailing from there on out. We stepped onto the ship and were immediately greeted by the rather regal, two-story entrance hall and reception area of the ship. Gazing at the marble and gold staircase leading up to the ship’s entertainment area and bar my excitement level soared and I quickly ushered the boyfriend to our room so we could explore the rest of the ship.
Our room was small but cosy and I loved that we had a balcony with a little table and chairs outside. If you hate small spaces then I suggest you spring for a room with a balcony. The other rooms we saw didn’t have a window to the outside world and I don’t think I would be able to survive 3 nights sleeping in what looked to me like a cupboard. Having said that, you don’t spend too much time in your room anyway so if you’re not too fussed about space then get whichever room best suits your pocket. Once were done checking out our room we decided to explore our playground for the weekend.
On-board we found 8 bars (each with its own theme), a 713-seater theater, a disco, a video game room and kid’s playroom, a casino, a 9-hole mini golf course, 2 pools (found on the top level pool deck), a jacuzzi, a gym, a spa, a duty-free shopping hall and a library. We also found two main restaurants (La Caravella and L’Approdo) and an outdoor restaurant (Il Patio) by the pool. We settled down at the ship’s outdoor restaurant for a bite to eat and a drink – the ship was serving a welcome buffet lunch for the guests and I loved that we could help ourselves to as much as we wanted. We were also on the ‘All-inclusive beverage package’ which allowed us mineral water and free soft drinks throughout the day as well as wine and beers during dinner at night so we ordered a Coke each and grabbed a nearby table to enjoy our lunch.
If you’re a thirsty person I would recommend you spring for the beverage package as drinks can be quite pricey on board. Everything is priced in Dollars and guests are given a card to charge everything to. Things can really add up when you’re using the card, as you only settle your bill at the end of the cruise so make sure you watch your spending or invest in an all inclusive package. If you know you will be Jonesing for more alcoholic beverages during the cruise then you can top-up your basic drinks package with cocktail and other drinks and food packages before you leave. These are a great way to save on drinks as you’re buying them in ‘bulk’. Click here for a list of pre-paid packages.
We’d barely made it back to our room after lunch (and a rather lengthy safety training session) for a quick sit down before we realised that it was time to get ready for dinner. We were dining during the first sitting (there are two dinner sittings each night; one at 18:30 and another at 20:30). So, we had a shower and headed through to our assigned restauarnt, L’Approdo where we were seated next the ship’s over-sized windows overlooking the ocean. We found the first seating to be quite rushed and our waiter seemed quite agitated when we hadn’t what we wanted to order after 5 minutes. Our drinks bill was also closed very quickly after our first drinks order on the first night so we didn’t get the chance to take advantage of the free beers and wines. If you hate being rushed during dinner then choose the later seating and make sure you order all your drinks at once so you can have a second one during your meal. The first sitting did however work in our favour as we were able to catch the theater show while the rest of the guests were at dinner.
We had a three-course set dinner each night and were given the opportunity to choose from three options for each course. The food at dinner was lovely and I especially loved Italian night where we were treated to some delicious Italian cuisine. I also loved that the pool deck restaurant, Il Patio was open at all of hours of the day and night serving up fresh pizza and burgers for guests to munch on. There was never a shortage of snacks for us to tuck into – although it would have been even more amazing if they switched it up while a little more and offered some other snack items. Sadly, the breakfasts we had on-board were not up to the same standards as the rest of the food. We had breakfast at Il Patio each morning and found that the bacon was always too over-done, the tea and coffee was watery and the rest of the offerings were a little bit tasteless. I can’t speak for the other restaurants on-board but another guest did tell us that breakfast at the other restaurants downstairs offered a sit down menu and much better offerings for breakfast.
After dinner it was time to check out the entertainment. Each afternoon an entertainment schedule for the evening and the next day is delivered to your cabin. We managed to catch a few theater shows (which were quite entertaining and well put together) a quiz night (which was a bit disappointing and not very well put together) and take part in a super festive party on the upper deck. From dance parties to shows and more there is loads for guests to do on-board. Parents will especially love the cruises as their little ones cruise for free and there is something for them to do every minute of the day. If you are super concerned about your kids being safe while you’re on holiday then a cruise is the perfect choice.
The highlight of the cruise for me was definitely disembarking to Portuguese Island for the day. Here we frolicked on the beach, enjoyed a buffet lunch prepared by the crew and enjoyed a few beers from the local vendors. I did find that there wasn’t much else to do on the island besides sunbath as most of the activities provided by MSC came with a heft price tag. But, if you’re planning on splashing out a little then you can book all sorts of activities like snorkling sessions, boat rides and more before disembarking. There is also a rather impressive beach club and bar on the island which was built for MSC guests to enjoy while on the island – we spent most of the day hanging out there and soaking up the sun on the beach.
So now that you know what we got up to lets chat about whether or not a cruise holiday is for you. The boyfriend and I found the MSC Opera to be very family friendly (it’s a great place for parents to let their hair down and it’s good value for money) and a great party vibe at night. If you’re looking for 3 nights of an absolute party with friends over a long weekend then this is definitely the holiday for you. As far as a romantic getaway is concerned I would say you’re better off doing something else.
If you’re keen to try out an MSC cruise with friends or your family then make sure you book now as the November/ December period for 2015 is already 70 percent booked. Sadly, the MSC Opera has already said it’s final goodbye to South African guests to make way for the return of an old favourite for a new cruise season in November 2015. The newly revamped, MSC Sinfonia will takes its place after undergoing a major renovation and refit. The refit saw the ship get a 24 metre pre-constructed extension to her midsection containing an extra 193 cabins, more shops, bars, lounges and special features designed specifically for the South African market. The new ship will offer families new purpose-built areas for children created in partnership with Chicco® and LEGO®, and a new Baby Club, Mini Club, Young Club and Teens Club. The new Spray Park on deck 13 will also entice any water lover with a series of playful water features and jets.
Early booking incentives up to 50% are still available for the 2015/16 season so visit the MSC website or Facebook page for information on the new season and destinations now. Booking are currently advertised starting from R6080 per person sharing.