THE PORT of Durban is a hub of activity. It’s Monday morning and the temperature in the city’s starting to soar. Families, couples and groups of friends are sauntering about in their summer wear – sun hats being a mandatory accessory.
We are about two hours away away from boarding the MSC Musica, bound for Pomene.
After boarding the cruise liner, famished passengers make a beeline for the buffet, gorging on pizza and desserts.
The cabins are available to guests from 1pm. However, there’s no guarantee our luggage will arrive at the same time.
After the mandatory safety drill, half an hour before the MSC Musica is scheduled to leave the harbour, everyone flocks to the pool area and viewing deck. The chatter continues as cocktails are sipped while little ones enjoy a swim.
By late afternoon, everyone is in cruise mode (no pun intended).
Dinner, usually a formal affair, is in two sittings – one at 6pm and the other 8pm. I am booked at the L’Oleandro Restaurant, where I feast on aloo palak, an Indian curry made with spinach and cheese, and seafood paella. Both are delicious.
While some of the guests choose to end the night with a theatre show, others retire early.
BEING an early riser, I can’t resist catching the sunrise from my balcony cabin. Fitness fanatics have the option of working out at the gym, which opens at 6am.
With more than 2500 holidaymakers on board, breakfast tends to be a crowded affair. It’s best to arrive early to get a table.
And it’s a spread of note with everything from baked bread, fresh fruit and a hot buffet on offer.
Afterwards, we can choose how to spend the time. The pool (or the Jacuzzi) holds much appeal. But so does the rest of the activities on board, which was provided in a pamphlet the night before.
Intrigued, I attend The MasterChef at Sea competition, before lunch. Amateur chefs battle in teams of two for the title, which makes for entertaining viewing.
The Kaito Sushi Bar serves a wonderful lunch – it comes with an additional fee but is worth every cent.
In the afternoon, I head to the Crystal Lounge for a general knowledge quiz, where I emerge as the winner. Other options for guests include a game of Bingo in one of the lounges or enjoy live music along with a cocktail. For those feeling a bit more energetic, the Q23 disco is the place to be.
THE DAY trip to Pomene Island, an unspoilt area just 170km south of Vilanculos and 600km from Mozambique’s capital Maputo, starts from 7am. With my sunscreen packed – temperatures rise to well over 40°C – I get myself ready.
I am an island boy at heart. There is nothing better than taking a dip in the ocean or lazying on a lounger with a good book.
On the island, we can sunbathe or explore Pomene through a range of exciting educational tours.
After a generous (bordering on excessive), application of sunscreen, I am ready to explore.
It is enlightening to learn the history behind the hotel ruins that we stumble upon.
Do note, the tours have to be booked a few weeks before your cruise if you want to qualify for a discount and not have fomo as I did. Other activities include ocean safari, a mangrove estuary trip and kayaking.
If you have time, a visit to the Pomene Nature Reserve, a protected marine area, is a must.
There is a small craft market on the island where you can buy authentic African art – anything from keyrings and ashtrays to silk printed items and wooden planes. The craft owners have compelling stories to share, too.
Rogal Mthembu, who owns a small souvenir stall, says: “I had just finished school and was searching for a job. When I could not find anything, I took solace in creating mementoes as a hobby. I ended up turning my passion into a career.”
A few stalls away, there are people selling traditional Mozambican beers and cocktails, which is perfect antidote for the weather.
The passengers preferring to be away from the bustling atmosphere, settle by the water’s edge.
The lunch service operates from 11am to 2pm with a spread of fresh buns, grilled meats and seafood to keep everyone happy.
With the heat becoming unbearable, I return to the MSC Musica with the first group. It gives me an opportunity to catch up on some reading in the library and take a nap, while the cruise liner gently sways back and forth.
Interestingly, Mo Magic performs for guests in the evening. And his magic acts leave them impressed and curious, at the same time.
Wednesday is “party night” on board. Cruisers learn to dance to different styles of music from across the world.
The atmosphere is exhilarating and I learn some cool new dance moves from fellow cruisers.
THIS is the last day before we return to reality. By this time, everyone wants to make the most of the day.
The options include learning how to make origami butterflies or, for those brave enough, signing up for the Lip Sync Battle contest. The guy who sing Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean is unbelievably talented.
I choose to while away my time at the thermal spa.
Sitting in the sauna, with the magnificent ocean all around me, makes for a priceless moment of solitude.
For those looking to splurge, an hour-long massage or facial will be the way to go.
Opting against shopping, I end the evening with a theatre show at Teatro La Scala and a chocolate beverage on deck 5.
DISEMBARKMENT starts from 6am until 9am. Most cruisers leave their bags outside the night before.
Before you disembark, make sure you tuck into the breakfast spread.
A perfect cup of hot chocolate, or coffee, is the ideal way to toast a fabulous cruise.
As I leave the port, I’m thinking of returning with my family later this year. I know my siblings will be thrilled.
* Clinton Moodley was a guest of MSC Musica.