Cape Town - Summertime means time to hit cruise-control and enjoy the fine pleasures the season has to offer - sunshine, seascapes, nature, people and all-round festivities.
This is precisely what some fortunate travellers are getting up to on board the luxurious Queen Mary 2 which docked at Cape Town Harbour on Friday, 26 January.
ALSO SEE: Whirlwind tour of the Queen Mary 2 in Cape Town
In addition to boasting 15 restaurants, 5 swimming pools, and entertainment including a casino, ballroom, theatre and the first planetarium at sea, there are also unique experiences such as dedicated floral art classes for guests, a harpist on board, and now you can even bring along your furry four-legged friends on the cruise.
A kennel master cares for the pets - walking, feeding and playing with them. Owners can visit, but cannot take them to their cabins.
SEE: PICS: Furry friends now have special digs on board QM2
According to news.com.au, Queen Mary 2 is the "biggest and most expensive ocean liner ever built".
If you're in Cape Town, then head down to the harbour to check out the magnitude of this beauty, which is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, built to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Here's what Capetonians shared on Instagram:
All-inclusive holiday on-board cruise ships
All-inclusive holidays are popular among budget-conscious South African travellers. Knowing that you will get to see multiple destinations on one trip, and the convenience of having all meals and many activities included, makes cruising a value-for-money option.
“Cruise lines are vying for the attention of South African travellers, extending value-for-money packages that include drinks packages, for example, so that they know upfront what their holiday is going to cost them, and there are no nasty surprises later on,” says Jane Davidson, director at Development Promotions.
MUST-SEE: New MSC island cruise for SA + Affordable summer cruise ideas
In addition to all meals included and sailing between ports, cruise lines are also equipping their ships with entertainment, activities and restaurants so that cruisers of all ages and interests are catered for throughout their journey.
“The activities on board are so diverse, it’s no surprise that passengers sometimes don’t even bother leaving the ship once it’s docked,” adds Davidson.
For South Africans, there are a number of ocean cruises to take pleasure in that will fulfill your summertime desires - including cruises that depart direct from SA shores and some adventures that require a short expedition to or from exotic locations across the globe.
SEE: All aboard MSC’s new cruise ship + brand new island cruise offering for SA
For first-time travellers there are some important factors that should be considered to ensure you get the best value and cruise to suit your needs.
“Do your research and rely on an expert to help you make the right choice, especially since there are so many options, destinations, ships and deals out there,” says Davidson.
With a growing number of ship cruises available - from packages for millennials to sailing across the world, and even a more risque cruise option to 'Sex Island' - choosing the perfect cruise can get tough.
Here are some route options and tips to help get you cruising.
2018 Cruise routes
Popular Sinfonia cruises
South Africans have grown quite fond of MSC cruises taking place around our shores during summer, with the Sinfonia cruises set to return for the 2017/18 season with almost 50 local cruises. Here are the popular cruise routes for 2017/2018:
Cruise: South Africa to Mozambique - MSC SINFONIA
Cruise: Portuguese Island - MSC SINFONIA
Cruise: Reunion, Mauritius - MSC SINFONIA
New cruise to Pomene Bay
In addition to the annual cruises to Africa’s warm east coast, the luxury cruise liner has announced a new cruise to Pomene Bay in Mozambique.
Just 605km north of Maputo, Pomene Bay is praised as one of Mozambique’s hidden jewels. “On one side, the smooth-as-glass Indian Ocean laps onto the powdery white sand of its palm-lined beaches, while the other side is framed by the clear waters of a spectacular mangrove estuary,” says MSC Cruises.
SEE: All aboard MSC’s new cruise ship + brand new island cruise offering for SA
This picturesque destination is added to MSC Cruises’ itinerary for the 2017/18 season from October. There will be 18 departures visiting Pomene Bay or a combination of both Pomene Bay and Portuguese Island. Click here for more details.
MSC World Cruise
For those who love life at sea, MSC Magnifica is offering a unique itinerary aboard a brand-new 116 night world cruise - that’s almost four months of setting sail across the world!
With more than 40 destinations spanning 23 countries - including Peru, Papua New Guinea, Bali and India - the 2020 MSC World Cruise promises “more exotic and aspirational destinations than ever before”.
If you can’t wait to hop on board, secure your stay by booking your room asap. Sales are currently open for MSC Voyagers Club members and anyone who is not a member can start booking from 23 November 2017. Click here for more information.
River cruises for millennials
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection has launched a new river cruise brand offering "immersive, fun and adventurous travel for 21-45-year-olds".
Aimed at the millennial age group, the river cruise, according to the company, will feature "vessels with a more contemporary look and feel, fewer inclusions and longer stays in each destination".
SEE: Uniworld launches river cruises for millennials
The first-ever cruise brand of its kind, U by Uniworld debuted its first ship in Paris, France and it is said that it will transform the travel industry with a fresh approach to experiential travel, introducing a whole new audience to cruising, on some of the most interesting rivers of Europe.
Celebrity Cruises new ship, Edge will feature a viewing desk on the side of the ship, that converts into a restaurant - nice!
According to Celebrity Cruises, this is the "world’s first cantilevered, floating platform that reaches heights of 13 stories above sea level, so you can soar over the open ocean".
Ponant will be adding new itineraries to its Australia cruises, featuring the Kimberley.
G Adventures launched Sri Lanka Sailing for 2018. Discover the culture and natural beauty of Sri Lanka by sailing along its southern coast.
4 Things first time cruisers need to know
Match your voyage to your interests
When selecting a cruise, the first departure point is normally the destinations you wish to see. A cruise holiday allows you to visit multiple destinations on one trip without having to unpack more than once.
"In addition to your selected destinations, think about your specific interests and your preferred style of holiday. Travelling with a family or going on honeymoon? The two are not mutually inclusive so the cruising experience will be different,” says Jane Davidson, director at Development Promotions.
Do you prefer action-packed holidays or would you simply like to chill? Asking these questions will help inform what cruise line you select and which itinerary. With the myriad of choices available, it’s much easier speaking to a travel agent or cruising company so that they can match your specific requirements with a suitable cruising experience.
Of course, it’s easier when you have a very specific interest, for example, seeing the Northern Lights. Then you know your best bet is Hurtigruten which offers expedition cruises to the Arctic and better still, a Northern Lights Promise, which means that if you are unlucky enough not to see the Aurora Borealis during your voyage, you’ll receive another five-night cruise for free, says Davidson.
Check what is included and what’s not
There’s a lot that is included on a cruise, but the biggest misconception is that absolutely everything is included, advises Davidson.
You need to check the inclusions before you book and pay specific attention to the “extras” like drinks, speciality dinners, on-shore excursions and even WiFi.
Again, a travel agent or cruise specialist can help you to discern which add-on packages to buy when you book.
Quite often, although it seems expensive booking these aspects upfront, it works out cheaper in the long run.
Think about who you’ll be cruising with
Contemporary cruising brands like Costa Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean offer great facilities for kids, from youth programmes, special entertainment and even meals. This is why they are a popular choice among families.
Holland America and Celebrity Cruises offer a sophisticated cruising experience with upscale dining, impressive entertainment and art collections.
Ponant focuses on luxury yacht style cruising and to destinations that larger ships may not necessarily be able to cruise to, while Le Boat on the opposite scale offers a budget self-boating experience that allows travellers to navigate Europe’s canals at their own pace.
Davidson says that before you book your cruise, ask for and carefully consider your chosen cruise lines’ cancellation protection plans.
For example, Holland America offers protection for your holiday against unexpected illness, family matters, and even unforeseen work events, allowing you to cancel your plans if need be and receive a partial refund.
We recommend taking out cancellation and curtailment insurance from a reputable travel insurance company so that you’re covered in the unexpected event that you have to cancel or cut short your cruise.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- New MSC island cruise for SA + Affordable summer cruise ideas
- Uniworld launches river cruises for millennials
- The Best Cruises in the World for everything your heart desires in 2017