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MSC Opera starts her maiden SA season in style

To mark the luxury cruise ship’s maiden call in the ports ofMSC Opera starts her maiden SA season in style dec12 tn niche tourism Cape Town (refer article in November edition of Tattler) and Durban, MSC Cruises hosted VIPs, dignitaries, media and travel industry representatives to celebrate the launch of the MSC Opera’s cruise season in Southern African waters, writes Des Langkilde.

Hosted guests boarded the MSC Opera on 23 November 2012 at Durban’s N-Shed for an overnight programme filled with entertainment, gastronomy and unlimited quantities of liquor and beverages, which is probably why our host included overnight accommodation onboard – it wouldn’t do to have their distinguished guests drive home inebriated – a distinct possibility considering that the bars opened from midday through to 2 am.

To say that the MSC Opera is impressive would be an understatement. From the grand reception hall on deck 5, to the plush carpeted passageways leading to tastefully furnished restaurants, lounges, bars, entertainment venues and boutique shops, the visual impression is one of understated luxury and elegance, leaving one with a sense of spaciousness that belies the ship’s 12 decks and 856 cabins spread over a length of 251,25 metres by 28,80 metres wide. Considering that the liner can accommodate 1,700 passengers, attaining an illusion of spaciousness is quite an extraordinary design feat.

Clearly yours truly and glamorous wife were not considered to be VIP’s as our allocated cabin was not one of the 172 balcony cabins or 28 balcony suites. Thankfully, our cabin on the 8th deck did have a large port hole, which I imagine would have afforded a panoramic ocean view had she set sail. Although small by landlubber standards, the cabins have been designed to optimise the limited space although I cannot imagine any of the more portly guests actually fitting into the confines of the shower unless he or she were to do so one limb or buttock cheek at a time.

The ship has four restaurants, eleven bars, two pools, and two whirlpools. The liner boasts the MSC Aurea Spa and Solarium, a disco, video games room, internet café, casino, team building facilities and a medical centre. Conference facilities include a theatre for large corporate events and meeting rooms complete with technical infrastructure.

It was in the Teatro dell’Opera that proceedings kicked off with a presentation at six pm. “MSC Cruises is the only cruise line sailing regularly in South Africa, with two ships operating for almost 6 months from the home ports of Durban and Cape Town,” said MSC Cruises COO Mr Niel Palomba. “I am particularly proud of this, not only because I have a special bond with this incredibly beautiful country, but because I truly believe that South Africa has huge potential for cruising and can grow with us and gain the international recognition it deserves.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr Palomba. Cruise tourism is definitely set to explode once Durban’s new cruise terminal is completed (read more on this subject in the Issue 3, 2011 edition of Tattler).

Charity

But it’s not all take and no give. MSC Cruises has a benevolent side, where the company has been an active donor to the Ukuthemba Foundation since 2009, and MSC Opera’s maiden call in Cape Town was used as a fund raising opportunity for 2012. Speaking to MSC Starlight Cruises Marketing Director Allan Foggit on the pool deck before the presentation, he said that the auction raised R470,000 for Ukuthemba’s children’s homes.

Conferences and Incentive Groups

The MSC Opera serves as an ideal resort style venue to host a conference, teambuilding or incentive event as there are few land-based venues in South Africa where accommodation, all meals, entertainment and a company conference can be arranged with one call and it’s all included in the fare.

The return of MSC Sinfonia with 777 cabins, and the addition of MSC Opera provides an exciting prospect for both the business and leisure travel trade as it is the biggest and most ambitious cruise programme in South Africa’s history.

MSC Opera will be based in Durban until early March 2013, operating three and four-night cruises to Maputo, Portuguese Island and Barra Lodge in Mozambique. A Christmas cruise will sail to Portuguese Island and then on to the tiny beach village of Anakoa in Madagascar.

An 11-night festive New Year cruise will see New Year’s eve celebrated on board MSC Opera under La Reunion skies, and then onward to Mauritius on New Year’s day, where she will remain in port for three nights non-stop, allowing guests to enjoy this enchanting island to the full.MSC Opera’s itineraries will also include Port Elizabeth towards the end of her season, and she will also operate several of cruises out of Cape Town to Mossel Bay, Walvis Bay, and Luderitz before leaving South African shores for the European summer.

MSC Sinfonia will operate out of Cape Town before taking over the Durban itineraries after the departure of MSC Opera in early February 2013.

For more information visit: www.msccruises.co.za.