So in an attempt to try more travel experiences in 2020, we opted to go on a cruise with MSC last week. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise before so it was a rather novel experience.
Our 4-night/ 5-day cruise departed from Durban Harbour in South Africa on Monday afternoon before heading north up the coast towards Mozambique. Our itinerary was as follows:
- Monday afternoon departure from Durban, South Africa.
- Tuesday at sea all day.
- Wednesday arrival at Pomene Island in Mozambique.
- Wednesday disembark the cruise ship and take transfer boats to the island for a day at the beach.
- Thursday at sea all day.
- Friday arrival back at Durban Harbour.
MSC Cruise Essentials
I’m going to explicitly state three facts that you need to keep in mind to ensure that you have the best experience on an MSC cruise. Others may disagree especially if they’ve gone on numerous cruises before. But, I believe these three things are what made our experience so enjoyable:
- Priority embarkation and disembarkation (both in Durban and again at Pomene Island).
- A balcony cabin (specifically the Fantastica Experience).
- The top drinks package (and the wifi package).
These three things played a huge role in our overall experience. Therefore, I recommend that if you go on an MSC cruise, do it well by splurging on those luxuries.
First, priority embarkation at the harbour made the process of getting ourselves and our luggage on board quickly and efficiently. With almost 3000 people trying to board a cruise ship at the same time, being able to bypass the queues is a real bonus. After receiving our cruise cards we easily went through the Customs procedure and found ourselves on the dock next to the huge ship.
On Board the MSC Orchestra
Once on board, we spent some time trying to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the ship (don’t worry, you’ll still get confused even on the last day; especially if you’re drinking).
We wandered through the expansive and stylishly decorated lounges, before taking the elevator up to the top floor for lunch at the buffet. After a quick lunch, we headed outside to view the pool deck as we waited for our cabin to be ready for check-in.
As we explored we took note of the many restaurants, myriad of bars, found the reception area, window shopped at the stores and peeked in at the Covent Garden Theater. MSC has a large fleet of cruise ships and the MSC Orchestra is considered as one of the medium-sized ships. Nevertheless, I was amazed at the size of the ship and how much was inside.
The Italian-owned company MSC works hard to keep everything look new and luxurious even in their older ships and the MSC Orchestra sure does sparkle inside. Expect a remarkable crew on board these ships that are patient, friendly and efficient.
MSC Cruise Cabins
As part of the MSC Cruise Fantastica Experience, we had a lovely balcony cabin on the 9th floor assigned to us. This is the first level that has cabins with balconies and directly below our balcony was the reassuring fleet of orange lifeboats.
Once they announced that the cabins were ready we rushed off to find ours and were pleasantly surprised with the size of the cabin. The large bed took up most of the space but we even had a cupboard, desk, chair, couch, and small coffee table. Although the ensuite bathroom was small it was well laid out to make the most of the space available with plenty of shelving and storage for toiletries (note that shampoo and body wash is provided just like in hotels).
Another reason to love a balcony cabin? It’s private and quiet which can be a blessing when the crowds out on the deck get a bit overwhelming.
But, as I’m sure you can guess the best feature of the cabin was our private balcony. We immediately unpacked, got into some more casual beach clothes and spent some time relaxing on the balcony.
The gentle lapping of the waves far below was a soothing feature that truly made it a calming and peaceful experience. There’s nothing I love more than hearing the sound of the ocean. As we departed the harbour, with the help of a tugboat, the entire ship erupted with cheers and singing as passengers celebrated on their balconies and the decks – a great sendoff that put everyone in a cheerful mood.
I suggest grabbing a drink of the minibar and toasting the beginning of your sea voyage – well that’s what we did!
The MSC Cruise Experience
If you opt for an upgraded package as well as a decent drinks package then you’re in for a lovely experience. The all-inclusive type of experience really makes the trip fun; especially since you don’t have to worry about converting the Dollar prices to Rands.
Depending on your package, your cruise card will indicate at which restaurant you can eat dinner and even which table you’ll be seated at. The basic packages include only the buffet option but we had the pleasure of dining on gourmet 3-course meals at ‘Ibiscus restaurant each night. The food was superb and the service even better. This same was true at the other restaurant where breakfast was served each morning and the premium Shanghai Restaurant where we had a sushi lunch one afternoon.
Make sure to always keep your cruise card on you as you’ll be using it for just about everything (not just to get into your room).
After dinner each night we headed to our favorite bar (and bartender) to try a new cocktail. The menu is extensive. We wanted to try them all. With a drink in hand, we’d head outside to stroll along the topic deck. The fresh night air and bright stars lured us out and we spent some time taking everything in.
Entertainment & Excursions
The entertainment on the MSC Orchestra is extensive and there’s something to appeal to everyone. Between daily Bingo (win up to $25k) and the various shows, you won’t be bored. There are things for kids and adults to enjoy. Take a dip in the pools, relax in the Jacuzzis, play adventure golf or even play in the arcade. MSC has created ships that are full of experiences and have something that appeals to any age. There is even a disco area on board for those who want to party late into the night.
The lights, the activities and the energy of the ship make it an experience you won’t soon forget. Although we don’t really enjoy musicals we loved Bryan Miles Mind Waves show. The interactive mentalist type show was intriguing and fun to enjoy before our second seating dinner.
But, the best experience was the trip to the island of course. Pomene is a small island off the coast of Mozambique that comes alive when cruise ships arrive. After a short boat trip to the island, we walked through the local crafts market but headed straight for the beach. The Indian Ocean water was the perfect temperature for a dip and we went back twice.
After lunch, we took one of the first transfer boats backed and enjoyed some time on the cruise ship without the crowds – a perfect day on our MSC Cruise.
Have you been on an MSC Cruise before? Share your experience in the comments below.
We would like to thank MSC for hosting us! As always, all opinions are my own!
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