The best cruise regions for South African families in 2020
The Mediterranean is the most popular international destination for South African passengers.
MSC Musica, one of the ships owned by MSC Cruises that will operate out of Durban for the 2020/2021 summer season. MSC is making significant investment into the cruise tourism industry in South Africa. Image: Supplied
When it comes to travelling with family, there are so many great places to visit in the world, and one of the best ways to see them is on a cruise holiday.
According to Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), by the end of 2019, 30 million people will have expected to take to the seas, and with cruise holidays growing in popularity in South Africa, we asked Wilkinson to round up his top international cruise regions for families to visit next year.
Norwegian Cruise Line Regional Vice President for the Middle East & Africa said: “A family cruise is perfect for those who love to travel but don’t want the hassle of booking multiple flights and spending hours searching for affordable hotels and activities.
“From the Caribbean Islands to the Mediterranean and beyond, pleasing younger guests, their parents, and grandparents is important when it comes to cruising.
“With a variety of restaurants, incredible entertainment and activities on board, and new destinations to explore along the way, a cruise holiday guarantees an unforgettable experience for all the family.”
Mediterranean cruises include ports that bring ancient history and civilizations to life for everyone to enjoy, says Wilkinson.
“In Athens, visit the Acropolis to see the Parthenon, dedicated to the goddess Athena. In Rome, imagine gladiators battling it out in the Colosseum, just before tucking into real Italian pizza, pasta and gelato.”
The Mediterranean stands as the most popular international destination for South African passengers because they can visit several different places over a relatively short period of time, he adds.
“Families on a European cruise need only unpack once, and the ship will transport them to several destinations.
“This ease of travel from place to place is one of the greatest benefits for harried parents who might not otherwise consider foreign travel with their kids, due to the logistics of transporting family and luggage from one location to another.”
The Western Caribbean
If you have a bit more time and budget to spare, many South African cruise-goers typically graduate to Western Caribbean voyages. Generally, they’ve already been to the Med, and are looking for opportunities to simply relax, both onboard and ashore.
“A more relaxed itinerary means fewer days sightseeing in ports. This can be a plus for families who see the wide range of onboard activities, and especially the kids’ clubs, and waterparks, as one of the best reasons to cruise,” says Wilkinson.
Western Caribbean ports also offer more varied activities, such as shopping, hiking through rainforests, exploring ancient Mayan ruins, and there’s always a spectacular beach nearby.
In the Western Caribbean, there’s something for everyone.
“Swim with dolphins and snorkel along the Belize Barrier Reef. And, if you’d like to take it a step further with the kids, Norwegian offers a range of activities from their PADI learn to dive programmes for beginners.”
Pulling off the perfect family holiday isn’t always easy, especially when you’re trying to cater to different ages and preferences. Fortunately, a South-East Asia cruise offers a little bit of everything.
“You will find high-tech cities and ancient wonders, tropical beachside towns and mountain escapes, some of the world’s most delicious food and a whole host of new cultures and languages,” explains Wilkinson.
“Just about every cruise line is now active in South East Asia. South African families can select their favourite from a variety of itineraries with stops in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong.”
“The excitement and mystery of this region beckon South African families, who can enjoy all the comforts and flexibility of cruising.
“Fortunately, cruise ships, like our Norwegian Jade, which regularly sails this region, are packed with a variety of dining options, incredible live entertainment, and unforgettable activities for all ages included in your cruise fare.”
Here are a few extra tips to help in planning your family’s next cruise.
- Plan to arrive at least one night (if not two or three) before boarding whenever possible. Arriving at least one day ahead of time will reduce the worry that a flight delay could mean missing the ship.
- Arriving two or three days ahead will also mean that any delayed luggage will catch up to you before boarding the ship and family members will have a chance to recover from jet lag, so they can hit the ground running when the cruise starts.
- Cruising involves a taste of many fabulous destinations so, whenever possible, plan to spend a couple of days pre- or post-cruise to explore those areas a bit more.
- Take advantage of sea days to relax and save enough energy for sightseeing on port days.
- A private tour guide is generally not much more expensive than the cost of purchasing the shore excursion for several people, and you have the ability to tailor the tour to suit your family’s needs.
- Plan plenty of breaks during the day, particularly when travelling in the heat. Ice cream and gelato will help improve moods when everyone is hot and tired! Be sure to drink plenty of water, and don’t forget the sunscreen!