A Guide To Choosing The Right Cruise

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Cruising is trending – and this year, over 31.5 million passengers will hop aboard! In fact, cruise passenger volume is expected to exceed 2019 levels in 2023 according to cruising.org.

“Cruising is an extremely versatile holiday choice as there’s something for everyone to enjoy onboard – never mind the exciting adventures that await at the various ports. But what most people don’t know is that there are also many themed cruises available, all creatively customised to appeal to cruisers with specific interests or celebrating specific milestones,” says Antoinette Turner, General Manager of Flight Centre South Africa.

From foodie cruises to romance themed sailings for honeymooners, there’s plenty in store at sea. Here’s our round-up of some of the most notable themed cruises, so you can decide which is the perfect fit for you.

The foodie cruise

If a foodie cruise is on your to-do list Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Oceania Cruises are the trailblazers in this department. Immerse yourself in a world where gastronomy takes centre stage, and every meal is a masterpiece.

You can look forward to savouring mouth-watering steaks at upscale steakhouses and relishing freshly caught seafood at seaside grills. Also on the menu: captivating cooking demos, interactive workshops and exclusive tasting experiences.

NCL’s Meet the Winemaker Cruise Series

NCL’s highly sought-after Meet the Winemaker Cruise Series is back in 2023 for its seventh year. These cruises feature open-forum discussions, meet-and-greets, intimate wine tastings and wine-pairing dinners and educational Q&A sessions with the culinary world’s most respected masters.

Plus, this year, on selected cruises, guests will enjoy unique culinary experiences sponsored by Certified Angus Beef.

Interested? Here are a few of the upcoming Meet the Winemaker cruises:

· September 17th 2023: Norwegian Prima, Northern Europe Cruise, with special guest Emma Walker, Johnnie Walker Master Blender.

· October 22nd 2023: Norwegian Escape, Bermuda Cruise, with special guest Michael Mandavi.

· October 28th 2023: Norwegian Joy, Western Caribbean Cruise, with special guest Gerard Bertand, Master Winemaker of the Year.

· October 29th 2023: Norwegian Escape, Bermuda Cruise, with special guest Randy Ullom.

Oceania’s Jacques Pépin Cruises

Renowned French master chef Jacques Pépin is Oceania Cruises’ Executive Culinary Director, and often makes an appearance on various cruises to cater to visiting foodies.

Pépin will host the upcoming 10-day voyage from Barcelona to Rome, departing on October 10th, 2023. Board this cruise and you’ll experience signature menus, exclusive talks, cooking demos and many other tastebud tantalising opportunities.

For the Kids

According to Flight Centre Travel Expert Yuthika Rabilal, cruising is big amongst families right now.

“Cruising has become more affordable, which is why we’re seeing more interest from families and multi-generational travellers. There’s plenty on board for the kids to do and lots for parents and grandparents to enjoy, too. It’s a multi-dimensional break for the whole family.”

It’s true that many cruise ships are family-friendly, equipped with loads of fun facilities to keep the kids engaged. Plus, if you book a cruise departing straight from South African soil, you can avoid those long-haul flights – a massive relief for parents with younger children, in particular.

NCL is famous for its youth programmes for kids of all ages, including its Guppies Programme (from six months – four years), Splash Academy (three – 12 years) and Entourage (12 – 17 years). The cruise line’s family accommodation options are also a hit, from multi-room suites to interconnecting staterooms.

“Families are always welcome aboard NCL’s fleet. Not only do we offer a fantastic kids programme, but all ships in our fleet offer staterooms suitable for families to enjoy a well-deserved vacation, ranging from inside staterooms to club balconies and even suites,” says Kevin Bubolz, Vice President & Managing Director Continental Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

What about food and entertainment? NCL offers Freestyle Dining, so the entire family can choose to eat where they want, when they want. Kids three and under always eat for free, and children between four and 12 can order from the complimentary kiddies’ menu. As for fun, the options are practically endless – think rock climbing, bowling, pizza parties, scavenger hunts and much more!

NCL’s South Africa: Port Elizabeth, Durban & Lüderitz cruise

This 12-day cruise on board the Norwegian Dawn sets sail from Cape Town on February 1st, 2024, and March 8th 2024. Remodelled in 2021 and the recipient of the Cruisers’ Choice Cruise Critic 2017 ‘Best for Families’ award, this family-friendly ship is full of kids’ treasures.

“Its stand-out feature is the T-Rex Kids’ Pool, featuring a dinosaur-themed spiral slide, a paddling pool and slide, a hot tub and water shooters shaped like dinosaur bones,” says Bubolz.

Add to that the chance to explore the best of South Africa and Namibia, and you have yourself a truly unmissable family getaway.

Disney Cruises

You can’t highlight the best kids’ cruises without mentioning Disney Cruise Line. Viewed by many as the ultimate kiddies’ cruise experience, this cruise line is ‘where magic meets the sea’. The little ones can enjoy Disney’s Oceaneer Club and Lab, promising interactions with their favourite Star Wars, Marvel and Disney Pixar characters. The ships are also chockfull of pools, waterslides and child-friendly restaurants.

For the Matrics

After a long, challenging year spent studying, writing exams and pondering future careers, the matrics need a break to de-stress before entering the ‘big, bad adult world’. When it comes to matric cruises, MSC Cruises always comes to (or, rather, organises) the party.

MSC Cruises Matric Cruise/Matriek Bootreis 2023

MSC Cruises has some vibrant celebrations in store for the class of 2023! The Matric Cruise/Matriek Bootreis sets sail from December 11th – 15th 2023, with special onboard guests including Justin Vega, Simone Pretorius, Early B, Droomsindroom and another surprise performer.

This year, the cruise takes place on the MSC Splendida, anchoring in South Africa for the first time ever. Matrics will be treated to lots of live music, world-class bars and restaurants and a long list of entertainment, from the Club 33 Disco and a 4D cinema to indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a gym and a Formula Racer simulator.

For the party animals

MSC Cruises is loud and proud when it comes to its party and music cruises.

Oh Ship

MSC Cruises’ best-known party cruise is arguably Oh Ship, generally setting sail every year in November or December. Oh Ship promises all hands on deck regarding entertainment, welcoming South Africa’s most popular DJs, live performers and comedians on board to ensure the party of a lifetime.

Oh Ship 2023 kicks off on December 1st 2023, with special guests including Njelic, Miss Pru, and Dino Bravo, to name just a few.

The Bhangra Boat

The Bhangra Boat cruise is celebrated for its curated fusion entertainment: a diverse blend of music, comedy, bhangra and dance parties. This cruise sails on March 1st 2024 from Durban to Mozambique’s Portuguese Island.

Krone Cruise

The much-anticipated Krone Cruise sails via the MSC Splendida from Durban to Mozambique’s Pomene Island from 2nd – 5th February 2024.

Gear up for exclusive concerts featuring the finest Krone sing-along medleys, as well as intimate meet-and-greets, exquisite dining experiences and various other activities. A guaranteed highlight? Krone Karaoke, where you can showcase your vocal talents alongside your favourite Krone artist.

Super Sokkie 2024

If you missed out on a spot on the Krone Cruise, Super Sokkie 2024 promises similar party vibes, also on board the MSC Splendida and cruising from Durban to the sun-drenched shores of Mozambique. The cruise takes place from 8 to 11 March 2024 with a whopping 10 sokkie dance music artists bringing the best Afrikaans bangers to the high seas.

For the Honeymooners

NCL ramps up the romance in every possible way!

“The cruise line offers Romance Packages, including romantic dinners for two, breakfast in bed, couples’ massages, professional portraits and much more. A lavish stay in The Haven by Norwegian – situated right at the ship’s highest point and with a 24-hour butler – is the cherry on top for honeymooners,” says Turner.

NCL’s Greek Isles: Santorini, Mykonos & Rhodes cruise

Most honeymooners make a beeline for the Maldives or Mauritius – but what about the gorgeous Greek Isles? Santorini’s clifftop town of Oia is often hailed as the ‘Sunset Capital of the World’ – it doesn’t get more romantic than enjoying those views with a glass of champers in one hand and your partner’s hand in the other.

This seven-day cruise has three sailings scheduled for 2023: September 3rd – 10th, September 24th – October 1st and October 15th – 22nd. Enjoy the many perks of the Norwegian Jade, from candle-lit dining to relaxing spa treatments and long, lazy afternoons spent cuddling in the hot tub.

While the 2023 cruise season is in full swing, you haven’t yet missed the boat to book a holiday of a lifetime. The perfect cruise awaits – don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a travel expert to help you find it.

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