Avatar photo

By Hein Kaiser


Making magic on the deep blue ocean

A cruise is for family, lovers and friends: You’re in a cocoon even among thousands of other passengers

Cruising is the kind of holiday that inspires television serials, romance, nights under the stars, exploring unfamiliar places and, more than anything, not having to lift a finger for a few days.

It is simply magical, and to breathe in the ocean air, a revitalising séance in appreciation of real wide-open space and nature. It is as much a time for reflection and introspection as it is for fun, rest and relaxation.

Because going on a cruise really allows you to shape your own break; participate in entertainment action on board or simply lie back and read an enjoyable book on the deck.

In between, eat, drink, eat again and chill hard. It never crossed my mind that cruising could be an ideal family holiday.

Previously I shipped out with friends and lovers, and while kids were around on these adventures, I did not take much notice of them because cruising allows you to cocoon yourself into a world of your own, despite being amongst thousands of others doing the exact same thing in their own way.

When I became a dad a few years ago, the notion of one day trekking to Durban and sailing somewhere with my family started to grow.

But as a parent, irrational fear creeps in at every turn. I kept asking myself whether, on a packed ship, my kids would be safe in the pool, whether a windy day could sweep them up and drop them overboard, what would happen if they didn’t make friends on board, and if I had a cab – in with a balcony, would childhood acrobatics and curiosity become a dangerous leap into the ocean?

Cruising is a top-drawer family holiday

Finally, my family took the leap when my inner shrink eventually relegated these thoughts to the place where they belong. And we had an absolute ball. Cruising is a top-drawer family holiday.

There’s time to play with the kids, and, thanks to on-board children’s facilities, time to romance beneath the stars, too.

While a cabin can feel claustrophobic when shared by a family of four, you spend so little time inside it that it doesn’t matter. There is a lot for kids to do.

The MSC Splendida’s Kids Club is a safe space where every child is registered, bar coded and strictly signed in and out.

Facilitators are friendly and welcoming, and not only did I feel comfortable depositing my youngsters there for a day or two, my kids had such a fun time they did not want to leave when dinner time came around.

There’s Lego, colouring in, arts and crafts and group games which entertain preprimary and young kids, while an arcade and a teen club take care of the needs of older children.

The structured programmes, supervised play and mixing with other kids, getting some multicultural input, left my brood enriched and happy at the end of each session at the Kids Club.

The best part was it cost nothing. It is not just the kids’ area that holds potential to turn a cruise into an adventure for children.

The staff, from waiters through to poolside crew, all have a penchant for smiling, helping, entertaining and caring for children.

Restaurant staff were as patient as Job with my fussy and messy kids, remembered the drinks and the kind of food they liked, and even smiled through a likely grimace when my four year old started drumming on his chair with the cutlery, in the process knocking a full glass of coke onto the dining room carpet along with

Poolside was a concern for me, because on a packed ship with a gazillion adults, I wondered, how my kids would get to swim and have fun in the sun, safely.

Again, I was surprised by my own miscalculation. Adults do not swim much. They tan, they drink and they laze.

And there were always lifeguards on duty, bent on ensuring the joy of kids, in a safe environment.

An adventure a group of friends may have together

The cruise with my family revealed another important aspect of joining a whole lot of people on a ship. It is an environment where you can Cruising is a top-drawer family holiday.

If you are a couple, it becomes a distinct experience to that of a family, or for that matter, the adventure a group of friends may have together. And in each instance, it is the crew on board that magically creates these experiences.

When we got home, my kids already started asking about the next cruise. That is how much they enjoyed it. And so did we, because there was never any question of des – peration in curbing a preschooler’s boredom.

I would pack up and board another ship with my family at the snap of a finger because it is that much fun.

ALSO READ: Oudtshoorn: Ostrich capital of the world enjoys feathery fortune

No time for Wi-Fi on the Splendida

“This is bigger than the Titanic,” said five-year-old Cuba Kaiser when he first laid eyes on the MSC Splendida at Durban harbour.

And being a 21st-century child, his very next question was whether there would be Wi-Fi on the ship, or not.

His four-year-old brother, Jett, piped up and told him he’d seen people on cruises, on YouTube, holding up cell phones and taking pictures, so there must be internet.

It was the beginning of a great adventure for two preschoolers who’d never been on a ship.

From cabin deck passages through to the pool, restaurants and the kids’ area, everything was a potential adventure and needed to be explored.

Especially the jacuzzis, jetting hot water that saw the two youngsters jump in an ice-cold pool, head out to warm up in the hot tub, and race back into the cold water.

‘It was more beautiful than Mauritius island’

It was a game that lasted for all five days. They never tired of it. Nor did the pair find boredom in endless rounds of mini 10pin bowling in the sports bar area.

“We want to go balling,” the peanut gallery blurted out in between wanting piz – za and pancakes for break – fast, lunch and dinner.

“It’s an absolutely mindblowing adventure for kids,” said mom Kylie. “The kids’ club offers great edutain – ment fun for children but there’s so much else to do for families to be together,” she said, adding a date night for mom and dad was the only reason to really let the kids play under supervision.

 “And there’s so much lati – tude for romance, even just enjoying the spectacular sunsets together.” “The kids’ club was super cool,” said Jett.

“We made folded paper boats and masks,” he added. “And we played with lots and lots of Lego,” Cuba said. “And then we went to dream island,” Jett said.

“It was more beautiful than Mauritius island.” Jett loved disembarking onto a tender for a short cruise to the beach.

 “The water is pretty big,” he said, remembering the swells that saw ocean spray passengers before hitting the beach. “There wasn’t a moment of boredom,” said Kylie.

“Not once, and on disembarka – tion both boys were upset that it was home time.”

Pictures: Hein Kaiser

NOW READ: GweGwe Beach Lodge in Eastern Cape opening soon

Read more on these topics

Holiday travel

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits