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A Journey on the MSC Splendida: Escaping the Ordinary on a Cruise from Durban to Cape Town

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Traveling on a cruise is an extraordinary way to see the world. It feels like you are in a floating, movable, yet fancy village that offers scenic ocean views as you experience the waters. I recently joined South African Tourism for a media tour dubbed Sweet Escapes. The tour kicked off with a three-day cruise trip on the MSC Splendida from Durban to Cape Town, and it was beyond everything I had dreamt of.

I mastered the art of freezing time as I enjoyed the luxuries on board while the tides of the Indian Ocean sailed us to our destination. This tour gathered Journalists and content creators from different parts of Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, to explore hidden gems in South Africa.

I had only experienced traveling on the water as a quick transport means between Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam. This time, it was on one of the most majestic cruises in the world, and despite my imagination of how it could have been, nothing could have prepared me for it.

One day before the trip, we all arrived from our respective countries and checked in at Sun International’s Sibaya Lodge, located among the rolling green hills of KwaZulu-Natal. The lodge overlooks the Indian Ocean, and the city of Durban sits beautifully from afar.

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We met for dinner at the Platinum Belt restaurant and lounge at Umhlanga Ridge to familiarize ourselves with each other before the trip began. All the faces were drawn with excitement and hope for a great trip, not knowing that the trip would leave a great mark on our lives.

The next day, a bus drove us to the Nelson Mandela Cruise Terminal near the city center. After arriving at the terminal at 10 am, most of us could not recognize MSC Splendida at first sight, and those who did gasped and squalled excitedly.

With 16 decks, MSC Splendida stood tall, like a building with several floors. It was the biggest cruise I had ever seen. We could not even make sense of where it ended because it extended to the side covered by a building at the terminal.

As I curiously let my eyes explore it from the outside, the chimneys at the top caught my eye. Hot smokes artistically blew from them as if the ship was ready to go. I smiled and thought to myself that this ship was to be my home for a few nights. A floating shelter that offered magical views of the Indian Ocean—what a dream!

We got off the bus and joined a line of passengers who were getting their tickets to get on the cruise. In less than four hours, we were all entering the ship. I dragged my carry-on through the metallic stairs and was greeted by a reception with a great deal of light.

A growing crowd assembled at the reception, while some people walked fast to the elevators, following instructions on their tickets that led them to their cabins. I was eager to admire the cruise’s in-house designs, but my feet slowly dragged me to the elevator.

I got off at the 10th deck and headed toward my room. Key cards with pamphlets filled with directions and schedules for the day hung on the door handle of everyone’s cabin. Some of the bags also checked in outside the cruise ship were already waiting outside the cabins.

I opened the door to my cabin, and my eyes screamed in admiration of the beauty of the room and the view in front of it. A normal-sized bed with a red colored headboard dominated most of the cabin’s space. Near the door, there was a built-in closet with a safe. Opposite was the bathroom with a couple of towels.

Next to the bed was a simple sofa that extended to a bed. A small table and what looked like a comfy chair sat in front of it, should one need to work. Sounds of an ongoing program filled the room as I made my way to the balcony. Two chairs with a small table decorated the space.

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From afar were a few industries right next to a forest. I kept looking around to lock the memory in the deepest part of my mind because I wanted to remember that moment as my heart was incredibly filled with gratitude.

My stomach began to form sounds that made me check the time, and it was past my lunchtime; however, before I took off looking for food, I joined the others in a queue for drinking coupons that were only given before MSC Splendida set sail.

We were immediately told to return to our cabins to watch mandatory safety protocols shown on the small televisions mounted on one of the corners. They shared details about safety during the three days and directions on using swimming buoys placed in the closet. Afterward, our crew met on the 14th deck at the restaurant ‘Bora Bora Buffet’, where there was unlimited food. The only thing we brought with us was the appetite to eat for the world.

 

Every corner at the restaurant was filled with families, couples, and solo travelers admiring the food’s delicacy. I had pizza slices and fresh vegetables before I joined Relebuhile, one of my new friends from Lesotho, at the aqua pool, which was situated on the same deck. A performance with in-house DJs and dancers was taking place. Dancing is not my forte; however, it would have been a waste not to try new things. I threw a few moves, and the food in my stomach started to dissolve.

A short while later, we spotted several Jacuzzis on the same floor: two near the stage we were dancing on and three on the far end of the same floor. The evening was approaching, and we could not resist the temptations of the chilly evening that was upon us.

With our heads admiring the transparent roof above the Jacuzzi we were in, unspoken thoughts drowning us in the beauty of the space we were in, a sudden movement brought us back to earth as it caused the water in the pool between the Jacuzzis to splash from one side to the other; the cruise had just set sail.

The movement was rough until I went to bed, and surprisingly, I slept like a baby. It felt like the rough waves were rocking the cruise like one giant bed, which made sleeping beyond restful.  After a couple of cappuccinos the next day, we began the adventure from one floor to the next. We started at the fifth deck because that was where the reception was.

I did not notice things the day we were boarding, such as a piano that sat in the middle of the reception and was surrounded by a few sofas, putting whoever was playing the instrument in the spotlight. On both sides of the piano were two staircases with crystals cemented beautifully, making the cruise ship look like a high-end mansion.

With about 2488 passengers, MSC Splendida had eight dining options, including restaurants and food bars. It also had 28 lounges and bars, five swimming pools, 12 Jacuzzis, 24 elevators, a 4D cinema, cosmetics and jewelry shops, and a state-of-the-art strand theatre with seating for 1600 guests.

That’s not everything. It also has a gym, a beauty spa, a sports court, and an F1 Race-car Simulator. There is also a waterslide and sports court for children. Every deck was a world on its own, offering spectacular views of both the ocean and the places I was watching it from.

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As the evening approached, the ship’s movement began to hit all sides again. My hands began to act on impulse whenever the dizziness hit me again. During the dinner, it was getting intense, and I had to go to the reception to get meds before the situation escalated any further. While at the reception, there were several live singing sessions on different lounges. The singers were singing different genres, complementing the musical instruments they were simultaneously playing. One had a piano and trumpet, the other a bass guitar.

On the third day, most people were excited for a closing performance from Daliwonga, a South African artist. However, before his session, a karaoke gathered hundreds of people at the purple lounge, which, like the name, was dominated by purple. The lyrics drove people to sing together like an upcoming choir.

Later that night, Daliwonga owned the stage as he sang some well-known songs, and his audience sang with him.

The next morning, we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope Port, where the sunrise reflected on the waterfront decorated by a couple of ships docked at the port. Table Mountain stole the show in the background of traditional dancers welcoming passengers from the MSC Splendida. We were finally in Cape Town, the mother city of South Africa.

Lilian Ndilwa is a seasoned journalist based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She is well known for her visual and compelling feature articles which demonstrate the ability to make readers experience and perceive Tanzania through the lenses of her words. Lilian’s stories encompass the areas of entertainment, art, technology, life and style, gender, and traveling.

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Rebecca
Rebecca
10 days ago

It was just disappointing that we paid a lot of money to go to Namibia but we didn’t reach Namibia. The ship was just at Cape Town without moving until we started complaining the following day. Only after several complaints it started moving to nowhere. I felt like we were robbed. They could have just charged us for the Cruise to nowhere.

Marie lottering
Marie lottering
9 days ago

I was extremely disappointed at the quality and taste of the food. I had been on previous cruises and the food was delicious. However sadly not on the splendida. First , I was seved raw fish in the restaurant then dried fish over fried to the point of biltong in the Boro Boro buffet. One could see they were understaffed and that the staff was overworked and exhausted. Wrong drinks were served at bars without an attempt to replace it. I can go on and on . Disappointing falls short of expression my trip.

Carla
Carla
8 days ago

My family and took the 2 week cruis to Mauritius on the MSC Splendida…it was as amazing as this article’s description.

I don’t have any complaints! The staff, food, service, everything was great! My kids had the time of their life! We went to every show each night and they couldn’t get enough.

There was so much food it all tasted delicious!

I must say, with there being so many ppl on this cruise, there wasn’t overcrowding at all.

There was always a jacuzzi open, space in the pool, space in the theatre, tables open in the buffet. It was really such a fantastic holiday, one I will never forget.

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