First I must say very well done to MSC on securing the new area for boarding at Duncan Dock - it is far better than the Eastern Mole where we boarded in Cape Town in 2010. The area is far less windy. Also, we were delighted to be allowed to jump the queue as a result of our 1-year-old being with us :)
I love the welcome aboard parties - and often find them the best of the cruise - everybody's in a hyped up mood, we had the beautiful view of Table Mountain as a backdrop, and the dancing girls, crew members and passengers; as we waved our arms to the sound of Kurt Darren's Kaptein span die seile.
In a ship we are in the hands of the sea, which is usually calm but sometimes stormy - things we can do little about. We may feel the bobbing about in the way we walk, in our sense of balance and in actually seeing the horizon moving relative to the ship. For us landlubbers, there may be the temptation to resist this feeling, to think it's "wrong" and to wish it away - this is the path to seasickness. It's futile to fight it, as it's going to happen anyway, once you're on the ships you're in the hands of powers other than yourself - the captain, the ship & the sea.
One of the secrets of successful cruising is to hand yourself completely over to the reality of the situation, to completely surrender to the bobbing about in the waves, to embrace every roll in the waves, every dip of the ship, to think this is right and as it should be, and at some deep level to accept your fate whatever it might be.
In South African hotels there's mostly female cleaners of the rooms, and what was interesting to me is that on the ship there's mostly male cleaners. I wonder why? A colleague speculated that it's because males are more likely to be willing to part from their families for extended periods, but that doesn't explain the plentiful females working in other parts of the ship.
As an avid blackjack player, I spent as many hours as possible at the Lucky Star Casino, starting with $50 (bets priced in US Dollars) making another $50. I love the atmosphere around the table - one of the jovial fellas ordered an "Attitude Adjustor", which he proceeded to knock over the entire blackjack table, the cards were wet and sticky as were the chips, and we had to change tables. One of the dealers was Bulgarian and she was answering "yes" to everything he asked - the joker wanted to test whether she only knew the word "yes", so asked her "Will you have s*x with me?" The fun and games around the table...later he was pressing his view that Europeans don't know how to cook red meat, an opinion I have more sympathy with.
All the players at the table were novices, with nobody knowing the correct basic strategy of blackjack - for example, a freqent strategy employed was splitting tens against a ten.
Some of the features & rules:
6 decks of cards, no shuffling machine (old style "shoe")
you can double on any 2 cards
insurance pays 2:1
if you want to play 2 hands, the 2nd hand must have double the bet of the first hand
minimum bet $2 up to 3pm, after which the minimum bet is $5
I might sound like a bit of a workaholic, but the main reason that I wont go on longer cruises is that you cant rely on the ship's internet satellite connection for mission critical work, as it's intermittent - in fact most of the time it wasn't working.
Do take loads of photos when you cruise (and send us them - we'll even give you travel vouchers if we publish them on our site). The photographs taken by the MSC staff are beautiful, although they are pricey - we bought 6 stunning photos for $71 (everything on the ship is priced in US dollars).
As we approached Cape Town harbour in the last hour of our cruise, the Palmiet tugboat guided us home. Here's the crew of the Melody securing the tugline.
Mossel Bay harbour is too small for a cruise ship to enter, so when we arrived on the MSC Opera, her lifeboats were used to ferry passengers between the ship and Mossel Bay harbour.