I love early Christmas presents, so you can imagine my delight when I was told by my wonderful employers at South Africa Travel Online that all of us were going on a cruise! We were so excited, we could hardly concentrate on our work that day!
The MSC Melody is smaller than the MSC Sinfonia, but it is still an impressive sight when you arrive at the E-Berth of Duncan Dock! We collected our luggage tags from the customer service tent at the entrance (remember to take your own pen along) and made our way to the queue. We also wisely decided to pop our seasickness tablets...more on that later.
This is the part where priority boarding would've come in handy. If you're like me and want to rather save the cash for cocktails, you will be surprised to hear that the queueing wasn't too painful. We grabbed a seat and waited for our number to be called. After a short while, we were able to get our cruise cards sorted out (I linked mine to my credit card, very simple) and we were ready to board!
Before I forget, be sure to put on your best smile, you will be followed around by paparazzi until you board the ship!
The leaving party was really fun! I am more of a spectator and loved taking pictures of Table Mountain in the background, beautiful! The spirit onboard was electric, everyone was excited and couldn't wait to get going! The cocktails were flowing and the music was pumping, the perfect way to set off!
A few hours after embarking, we had our compulsory safety drill. As you can see, this is a fairly relaxed affair and it is over very quickly. Some advice, wait a bit before you start rushing up or down the stairs. It's not like you can get lost and when 1500 people have to get to a certain point, you'd do well to avoid the initial chaos.
We had a great time exploring the ship and I was secretly comparing the Melody to the Sinfonia. Personally I prefer the Melody. I like the old school, 70's vibe. I also loved the Melody's pools, I thought they were larger and better situated. I'd rather have one big outdoor pool (the Calypso pool) than 2 smaller pools. They have a sliding roof over the Riviera pool, which means that, even if it's raining, you can still pretend you are on a tropical escape and have a swim!
The food, mmmmm. I preferred the Melody's food, without a doubt. I tried to taste a little bit of everything and I wasn't disappointed. Lunch was definitely the highlight of my day, weirdly enough the menu was less extensive during dinner!
There was a lot of painting going on around the ship and it was good to see that someone clearly loves the Melody enough to keep her in tip top condition. The ship wasn't full to capacity and it was nice to be able to walk around without bumping into people constantly.
Our room was super cute. It was a 2 berth, inside cabin. It wasn't very big, but as we didn't spend much time indoors, we didn't really care. The bathroom was really nice and I think it was actually a little bit bigger than the Sinfonia's standard bathrooms.
The entertainment onboard wasn't quite as good as on the Sinfonia. I have to commend them on doing a great job with the facilities at hand. The theatre is more like a large lounge and you have to turn up early for a good seat. The stage isn't very big either and I wasn't overly impressed by the singing and dancing, having grown up as part of the MTV Generation, I am naturally critical.
The shows that involved passengers were excellent! We watched Mr Melody and nearly died laughing. The vibe onboard was just great throughout, strangers smiling and laughing at each other as we staggered down the hallways. Yes, the sea was very rough. I am so glad we took our seasickness tablets since we saw several people looking very ill. We couldn't even disembark at Mosselbay, but this meant we were able to spend more time onboard. On the last night we all had our sea legs and we rocked the dancefloor of the Juckanoo club till the early hours of the morning.
The ship is very wheelchair friendly, I saw random wheelchairs tucked away around corners, clearly a sign that they are very accommodating. When you got a little tired of trying to entertain the kids, you could drop them off at Pluto's Playhouse. The staff here are very friendly and trained to entertain your little angels all day long. You could also escape to the Mercury theatre if life onboard got too exciting. I actually watched a couple of films and was very impressed by the theatre! If I were the cruise director, I'd have the shows in here instead, and not in the lounge! Makes sense to me!
We were lucky to enjoy fairly good weather, we found some deck chairs and just chilled out, with a beer bucket at hand (USD8 for 4 local beers). I am exceptionally good at doing nothing and loved watching everyone doing their thing. The entertainment crew had something going all the time. They played musical chairs and re-enacted movies during the day, much funnier than it sounds, trust me! The passengers who took part really went for it and managed to entertain the rest of us with their antics involving some big orange cones...don't ask.
Dinner in the restaurant was a special affair. I prefer the buffet since you can then taste everything on the menu, but it was nice to sit around a beautiful table. The waiters were fantastic and great with kids. Abdul waited on us with great attention without being annoying, he has clearly never worked at the Spur, thank goodness.
The duty free shops had some excellent specials, be sure to take a few extra rand to spoil yourself. The spa looked very nice when I strolled through there. My point is this: if you get bored onboard, you're not looking around enough...go read a book in the library, play cards or bingo, have a swim, shop, drink, eat! You can do as much or as little as you like.
One last thing, there is internet onboard, but do not, count on it being online. The ship often sailed out of satellite reach and you might end up wishing you sent that very important email before you boarded.
I really enjoyed sailing on the MSC Melody, it felt as if I was on an actual ship and not a floating hotel. I loved feeling the movement of the ocean and stumbling around like a drunkard. One step forward, 3 steps to the right, oh yeah, now you're doing the Melody Shuffle!