I have just returned from another blissful trip on the MSC Sinfonia, this time a four-night cruise from South Africa’s beautiful mother city, Cape Town, to tiny Walvis Bay in Namibia.
On this trip, I decided to have a specific look at why cruising makes for such an excellent family holiday.
Of course, it is great value for money for mom and dad, with children under-18 who share your cabin coming along at no extra cost, all food and beverages like coffee, tea and limited alcoholic drinks at dinner included, free entertainment, all making for a relaxing holiday for the entire family.
And you don’t have to sail in South African waters either, as MSC has a fleet of 13 ships cruising the world.
Once you are on board, what to do with the youngsters if they get bored? Or when you, as parents, want some quality time together? After all, it is your holiday, too. My exploring the possibilities started with interviewing MSC Sinfonia crew member Stacey Middelton.
Stacey heads up MSC’s Mini Club on board the MSC Sinfonia in the current South African season.
“The crew’s main aim is to always keep our guests happy and satisfied. This includes creating beautiful memories for parents and children alike. MSC Sinfonia has room for just over 1500 passengers, and on this specific journey we have about 90 children between two and 12 years old on board, and another 100 who range between 13 and 17 years old.
“The kids are, of course free to roam the length of the 263-metre long ship in the company of parents or on their own when they are old enough, but before long they just need something more to stay entertained,” says 24-year-old Stacey, who hails from Durban.
This is where the Mini & Junior Club plays a special role.
“Your children will be in safe hands,” she says. “All crew have completed fire fighting and first aid courses and have certificates in personal safety and social responsibility.”
MSC Sinfonia has three children's areas – the Pinocchio playroom, which lies next to the spa on deck 11, and the Planet Teen's Club and separate Galaxy video games arcade, near Club Pasha at the stern end of deck 12.
Pinocchio's is a large and cheerful room, with an elephant-patterned carpet, a soft climbing frame, a TV, plenty of soft toys and an area with tables and chairs for arts and craft activities.
Babysitting will cost you 15 euros/$20.25 per child per hour, and during the day activities are offered for three age groups.
A Mini Club caters for 3- 8 year-olds with baby discos, painting, dance, and arts and crafts sessions; the Junior Club keeps 9-13 year-olds happy with treasure hunts, parties and other activities, while the Teenagers Club-cum-disco caters for 14-17 year-olds.
Clubs are open from 9am until 11pm with breaks at lunch and dinner times.
“Likely to be voted most popular kids' facility, though, is La Gelateria ice cream parlour on deck 11,” quips Stacey.
A welcome new development on board for most parents must be the “happy dinners” which free your kids from fretting at the dinner table. Parents can dine at leisure while the youngsters can play to their heart’s content at the Mini and Junior Clubs with their new-found friends and be entertained by the entertainment team. Happy dinners are available at the main restaurants up to four evenings per week and are free of charge.
“Your children are served their own dinner from the kids menu while you are enjoying your opening courses – so you still dine together as a family. Then, when they have finished at their usual enthusiastic speed, you promptly take them to the Happy Dinner meeting point near the entrance of the restaurant, from where our animators will accompany them to the Mini and Junior Clubs.
“You can then return to your table and savour your main course, dessert and drinks at a leisurely pace, after which you can stroll over to the Mini and Junior Club to pick up the children,” says Stacey.
Children must be members of the clubs and aged between three and 11 to make use of this facility. To book happy dinners, you need to fill in a booking form at the Mini & Junior Club on deck 11 before 4pm in the afternoon.
If you want to enjoy some late night activities at the casino, the theatre, or dancing the night away, your children can also have late night fun together and in the company of trained personnel at US$6 per hour, US$10 for a full evening session, or US$50 for an entire cruise of 7 evenings.
Children under 3 years of age can access the Mini Club if accompanied by an adult when the ship is docked in port from 9-11am and from 4-6pm.
Happy sailing, is what I’d say!
For more information and to book your cruise, visit www.msccruises.co.za.