I am often asked to write (or make after-dinner speeches) about cruising – the fastest growing segment of international travel, but it’s sometimes difficult to find a “peg” on which to hang this interesting subject.
Travel with Dusty Miller
As I was mulling it over, while glancing at my archive of cruise photographs on Wednesday . . .hey presto . . . into my inbox popped the latest details on cruises available from Cape Town: the Mother City of Africa.
A draw-back here is that flights within southern and central Africa must be among some of the world’s dearest, air-mile for air-mile, so getting from Zimbabwe to Kaapstad and back is another major cost centre to configure into the overall budget for some often reasonably priced cruises.
They vary from a couple of night excursions “to nowhere” to almost three-week long voyages — a holiday of a lifetime for many – repositioning cruises when the MSC ships return to their home port of historic Genoa, for the northern hemisphere summer.
You can get further and better particulars from your favourite travel agent, or pursue the subject on line but if you’re ready to go on November 20, for instance there’s a lovely Indian Ocean sailing from Cape Town to Durban from R4 350.
(As I type this — before leaving for the Kariba International Tiger Fishing Tournament – the rand is in free fall against the Greenback, probably due to ongoing industrial unrest, these prices may change as the situation clarifies).
All prices quoted in this article were, at the time of writing, accurate and refer to one person’s cost of an inside double cabin, including port, service and insurance charges.
Cruising is all about exploring different ports, cities or countries or seeing them again from a different perspective; about great fun-loving company on long, hot, sunny, fun-filled days and nights; wonderful food (included in the cost of the cruise) and often too much to drink!
That’s another draw-back of cruising. You can’t take your own grog on board. You are a (willing) prisoner of the cruise line for two to 21 nights and their bars often charge like wounded rhinos!
I have often been hit up to $7 for a draught beer.
Granted a large one and international brand at that, but eye-brow lifting, jaw-dropping expensive when used to sundowners in Harare’s sports clubs at around $1,50 a bottle! Ships operating out of Cape Town by MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Company) are the MSC Opera and MSC Sinfonia.
I sailed on the Sinfonia from Durban to the Portuguese Islands off Maputo, Mozambique, fairly recently, a delightful journey made more interesting by a ship-to-shore rescue of a heart attack passenger by Richard’s Bay Port pilot’s helicopter!
Next two cruises are to Namibia to Walvis Bay and Luderitz, November 28-December 3 and Walvis Bay only December 3-7.
These must be wonderful voyages for ornithologists (or just your friendly neighbourhood bird-spotter or twitcher!) Costs are R7 820 and R7 500 respectively.
Even better for birders would be a sailing from Cape Town to Walvis Bay and then on to rocky St Helena, rich in birdlife and steeped in the history of the exiled Napoleon, who died there.
That’s from January 14-25, but the fare zooms up to R16 354.
Two north bound repositioning cruises leave for Europe.
One on March 5 takes you from Cape Town to Walvis Bay, Namibia, then on to Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands, a former Portuguese possession (remember those horrible re-fuelling stops on South African Airlines at nearby Isla de Sal?); then Las Palmas on the Spanish Canary Islands; Lisbon in Metropolitan Portugal; Valencia (where the oranges come from) in southern Spain; then through the Mediterranean on to Genoa in north-west Italy. A ticket costs from R18 480. The second cruise is between April 15 and May 3 (the weather will be better in Europe): Cape Town, Walvis Bay, Dakar in Senegal (once the jewel of French West Africa); Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands (did you know they’re not named after canaries: the birds, but dogs…from their Latin name!), Funchal on the lovely Portuguese island of Madeira; Malaga (next to ghastly Torremolinos) on Spain’s Costa del Sol; Civitavecchia (the port of Rome) and Genoa (where Christopher Columbus was born).
This cruise costs from R19 420.
There are always excursions available to explore the various ports-of-call. Many travellers take them. Others don’t leave the cruise ship bars, casinos, card-rooms or swimming pools!
MSC ships now use the Atlantic west Africa route to and from Italy after their last Indian Ocean-route cruise ship MSC Melody (with me on board!) was attacked by heavily-armed Somali pirates a few hours out of Victoria, The Seychelles, en route to Jordan, Egypt and via the Suez Canal to Naples, Pompeii and Genoa . . . about a third of the way through a three week cruise!