The ship is spectacular. Not as big as I expected, (actually a but small with only 2 jacuzzis and two small pools for a lot of guests) but still impressed me a lot, as it was my first time in a floating hotel. The pools, restaurants and other public areas are well maintained and clean. The inside cabin is smaller than portrayed by brochure photo's, but acceptable.
From the beginning: Do not give any attention to your "boarding time", and do not waste money on "fast track boarding". Just be at the Port as early as possible - 7am will do, as the ques are very long to get on board the ship and directions/communication not very good at this point. Fast track option is only for customs and the que there is short anyway. Checking in is surprisingly painless, BUT... you will be lucky if your cabin and luggage is ready before 17:00, so pack a costume and some reading in your hand luggage.
Our trip destination was changed due to bad weather, so we stopped at Maputo instead of Inhambane. This was disappointing, as I really did not want to go to Maputo - but I suppose the weather determines the route and safety is important. It would have been nice though, to have this communicated beforehand and an option given to change the trip date.
The food was ample, but typical mass production menus - very bland, boring and definitely not the "taste sensation" as advertised and expected. To put it into perspective - most of the food would have compared very poorly to most items at any franchise take-away or family restaurant in SA. Do not expect Debonairs Pizza, KFC chicken or Steers Burgers - (just appreciate them when you get back, ;-). (Yes I used these franchises to compare, as proper restuarants would be just way out of the league)
The service on board from 95% of the staff was extremely annoying and frustrating. I found the level of English (which is expected for a South African cruise) lacking, and frustration levels therefore extremely high among many passengers. Bar service is extremely slow and cocktails small and lower grade.
Be aware that your expenses aboard will probably exceed your ticket price by far. Everything is expensive and charged in US dollars, plus a 15% service fee added to all bills. The drinks packages are not worth the effort. For 31 USD per person per day, an "all inclusive" drinks package is on offer, including "all drinks" up to $4.80. This basically means that you need to have 6 drinks per day to justify the cost of the package - which would be nice, BUT to get 6 drinks a day out of the exceptionally slow and unfriendly barmen and waitresses, is almost impossible, especially over peak times. Also be aware that this package excludes anything with a brand name or from the icecream bar, except for small cones, even if the price is below the $4.80.
The entertainment on board was very mediocre, but for one act (the "guy in the ring"). I really expected a much higher standard. The Cruise director and his "dream team" appeared very amateurish and a lot better could be done in this department.
The visit to Portuguese Island was a "nice day at the beach". Same slow bar service, medium grade food etc, but nothing spectacular - also nothing bad. Apart from the communication frustration on board to arrange the disembarkation to the island, the transport to the beach and back to the ship, and organisation on the island went smooth.
All in all I found the cruise an average experience, that I will not do again - with overpriced drinks, mediocre service and heaps of medium grade food. The attitude of the staff, from barmen, waiters, reception, right through to the dream team and entertainment, was that they were "superior", with a level of arrogance that did not make guests feel welcome or special. Guests felt "tolerated rather than treated". Staff created the impression that guests are a "necessary inconvenience".
The ship and floating hotel is impressive, the service and staff are not.
Seasick? I used medication, that helped, the sea was not very rough, but still caused a bit of dizziness. The "sea legs" on dry land for 4 days after the trip was actually a lot worse than on the ship itself!
Would I recommend it? Hard to say - if you have the money (remember to at least double the ticket price and include travel and accommodation before and after the trip) I would say do it once. Some people love it, I can have much better holidays with the same money.
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