Tuesday, 15 November 2016

My MSC cruise to Mozambique

Welcome readers,

One month until the end of the year!
 And that means the inevitable burn out and the insane rush to finish all that was planned for this year.  I am usually extremely busy this time of the year, and find that by the time December comes around my body signals time for an extended break, and the gradual slow down ensues.

So for some holiday planning and ideas, I have finally put together a post on my Durban break and MSC cruise to Mocambique earlier this year.

Durban

We travelled during the Easter school holidays, so the weather was still relatively good and promised to be pleasant. Once we had booked our cruise, we thought it would be good to spend a few days showing the kids around Durban. We stayed along South Beach, mainly for the proximity to the harbour and for ease of embarkation, and chose to explore this less advertised area of Durban. 
After the 2 hour pre-dawn flight, we collected our rental car and headed to the hotel, luckily we were able to obtain an early check-in to relax and grab some breakfast. The Garden Court staff were friendly and accommodating, and the hotel was functional enough to cater to our family needs.

We spent 4 days exploring Durban, visiting the popular tourist areas- UShaka Marine World, Moses Mabhida Stadium, Umhlanga- walked along the promenade and did some beach combing.
A vacation is not complete without some mall hopping, namely Gateway and La Lucia and of course indulging in some spicy bunny chows. Since my youngest would be celebrating his 12th birthday on the cruise, we indulged him in some birthday shopping and Durban was a goldmine of soccer paraphernalia and kits. Just up his alley, he was over the moon indeed!
The time spent in Durban prior to the cruise was just what we needed to get ready for our cruise.

The Friday morning we were packed, returned our rental and ready to set sail. What I hadn't realised was that we could have opted for a fast track embarkation, without which we stood around queueing for more than an hour to embark, while the fast track passengers slipped by us through immigration. So if you're not up to queueing (in the Durban heat) enquire about the fast track embarkation process.
Since the cruise would be stopping off at international shores, we needed to pass through immigration, so unabridged birth certificates were required for all kids- remember this when booking the Mocambique cruise option.

MSC Cruise

When we finally arrived on the ship, administration bits such as buying drink booklets, excursion options and charging the deposit to the card (or depositing cash) for any expenses (drinks being the main one) one would incur whilst on the cruise. While the luggage was being dropped off at the cabins, a buffet lunch was served and the party atmosphere kicked in. The pool deck was alive with music booming and people milling about. Everyone gathered at the rails to watch the liner depart from the harbour, with waves and shouts from passengers. We settled into our cabins after the emergency drill and took in the tranquil views from the balcony.
I chose balcony cabins as I really enjoy being able to see outdoors, and watching the horizon sail by. Important note: Ensure that you're stocked up on anti motion sickness pills, my entire family started taking medication two days prior to embarkation, although it still took some getting used to the constant swaying.

The evening was spent exploring the retail shops, wandering about the various decks, the sit-down dinner and signing Ihsaan up for the youth club. The teens decided to join us for dinner, and explore on their own, making a note of the time the disco and parties started on the upper decks.

When we woke up on day 2, we were approaching the Bazaruto Island, a stretch of undisturbed white sandy beaches with the MSC banners waving in the breeze. There were several excursions which passengers had to pre-book for, snorkelling, Turtle Island exploration, shopping excursion with lunch at a beach bar/restaurant, or just enjoying the stark white sand and moderately warm, still sea.
We chose the Turtle Beach excursion, which involved a 'tour' (bumpy ride on the back of a bakkie or 4x4) through the dense vegetation, with a pitsop to meet the Inhaca King/ Chief, who is a highly respected elder in the village. He held a brief 'court' with us, telling us about his life and the island and its workings. Thereafter we trekked through some more bush for about 40 minutes, in sweltering heat on the back of an open 4x4 bakkie. We stopped at the foot of a range of huge sand dunes, which we would have to scale in order to access Turtle Beach. Hopefully we would be able to see some turtle nesting activities which occurs on this breathtaking beach. On the other side of the sand dunes we were greeted with the most awe inspiring beach view. There was undisturbed shores as far as the eye could see, against a backdrop of azure waters- truly a splendid sight. Unfortunately there were no turtles to be sighted on that day.
After spending half a day exploring Inhaca Island, we chose to return to Bazaruto beach where lunch was awaiting. By this time the beach was packed to capacity, everyone flocking to the water to cool down in the tropical heat. Back to the ship, where I expected fewer people, but even though it looked as if all the passengers were frolicking on the sandy shore, there were still so many onboard. Time for some rest, grab a session in the spa and chill until dinner time. 

Day 3 was Ihsaans birthday, so after breakfast he joined the youth club in their mini chef workshop while we took in some fresh air by the pool. This didn't last too long before we left the sultry heat behind and enjoyed a leisurely day taking in the theatre, the shops, a fulfilling lunch and some more shopping. The birthday boy was treated at dinner time and thereafter a party at the youth club. He also spent the day buying as much duty free candy as he could find!
The next day we arrived in Durban harbour, and just like that our tropical cruise was at an end. A perfectly leisurely break, where I was not required to cook, clean or entertain the kids. I also didn't have to plan any sight seeing or excursions as this was done by MSC. 

Overall, this was the perfect balance between a city break and a leisurely island cruise. The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves, the adults were relaxed and free and food ready any time of the day. 

A few pointers:
1. The showers in the cabin are pretty tiny but functional.
2. Ensure that anti nausea meds are taken before you depart and again when the ship starts moving.
3. The activities at the junior clubs are great up to age 7, thereafter the activities are limited up to age 12.
4. There are movie screenings in the Business Centre, which is smaller than an actual cinema, 
but will work for the kids.
5. All expenses onboard is in US $ so it can be pretty pricey with ZAR currency, so buying the booklets upon embarkation is useful to save some pennies. 

Other than that, it was my second time on an MSC cruise, and while everything was still the same (even the sit -down dinner to a degree), I had the most amazing time!

Enjoy the pics:
Left to Right:
Ihsaan loves the airport atmosphere; Dad and boys; Keeping busy while waiting to board;
The most majestic pre-dawn flight
Left to Right:
Rides on South Beach; Mom & Boys; Moses Mabhida Stadium; Gateway shopping
View from the top of Moses Mabhida Stadium
A Day at Moses Mabhida, it is so precious to see how family vacations strengthen the bond between them
A Day at Ushaka and beach swimming
And after a few days exploring Durban, embarkation day for our MSC cruise!

Lesson: If you didn't get the fast pass, you'll end up waiting close to an hour
to pass through Immigration!

And finally through Immigration and ready for cruise life!
Our first Sunset onboard the MSC, view from our cabin
                                  Day two: Excursion to Bazaruto and Inhaca Islands, Mocambique
Always time for a selfie
The view as we sail away from the docked cruise liner
The shore of the uninhabited Bazaruto Island
Left to Right:
Couple shot on the beach; the first glimpse of the Bazaruto island; View from the excursion point;
MSC in the distance; activities on the beach have all been arranged by MSC; excited Ihsaan ready
to explore!
The form of transport to the Inhaca Island was on a tiny speedboat (much to my surprise) -Top
Left to Right: I was taken aback at how many passengers were squashed onto this little boat;
abandoned buildings as one arrives on the shore; the idyllic beaches;
 a beach bar is merely some patio chairs and umbrellas & a restaurant is a wooden structure on the main road of the town.
Our transport into the heart of the island via 4x4
As we leave the centre of the city (essentially one main road) the infrastructre is basically a rough dirt road
Granted an audience with the chief/king of the Inhaca Island

All sweaty at the top of the last sand dune, its only downhill from here

Arriving on Turtle Beach after scaling extreme sand dunes

To access this beach one has to climb immense sand dunes in the sweltering heat, so it is only visited by tourists.
But how beautiful and undisturbed is the shoreline?
A moment in the surf on the shores of the Turtle Beach, Inhaca Island

This birthday boy enjoyed the day immensely, from smoothies at the pool bar, to the magic show at the theatre,
some retail therapy and a mini chef workshop at the youth club



Birthday dinner before he joins the kids club birthday celebration


The final sunset with the birthday boy

Caio for now,
RuBe xoxo