My wife and I have been on numerous cruises (21+) throughout the world on various cruise lines over the years. This was our fourth cruise with Oceania; the previous cruises were the northeastern seaboard, Bermuda, Cuba and India, the Middle East and Europe . The 15-day South African Explorer Cruise started in Cape Town on January 5, 2019.
Our trip actually started on December 31, with our flight landing in Cape Town on January 2. Our pre cruise Eastern Cape Safari started with a flight to Port Elizabeth and a two hour land drive to the Shamwari Game Reserve. This is a privately owned reserve. The Reserve Lodge was fantastic while the Reserve was primarily open range with little water and almost no trees; primarily big bushes. We saw the big five up close and personal, and many other wild animals. The Reserve isn't lush, but that's where the animals are living. A great pre cruise trip. We then flew back to Cape Town to start the cruise.
Boarding the ship was very easy. Our room was at the rear of the ship on deck 7, room 7121. This was a good location as we were near the primary sources of food; decks 5 and 9. Most points of interest are on 5, dining room at the rear and the Nautica Lounge at the front. Deck 9 has the computer room, card room and spa. The ship is a few years old but was very nice; very clean. The staff was great and the food was excellent. Coffee, including specialty coffees, was available 24/7 on Deck 10 front and also, during select hours on Deck 5 rear.
The ship provided complimentary water and soft drinks. The Program Director provided information about basically everything you needed to know on a timely basis. The ship had a cast of great entertainers on board and also a great band. They were very professional and excellent musicians. The cruise line provided speakers who covered a wide range of interesting topics on Africa and apartheid.
The passengers and the crew were all very nice people from all walks of life. The people on the ship made the cruise interesting and enjoyable. The only real negative was the price of alcoholic beverages; they are a little pricey.
We had a lot of fun playing games and competitions to earn Big O points. We earned almost 300 points which were cashed in on the last full day for Oceania merchandise.
The visited Ports of Call follow.
MOSSEL BAY – Our first port was located just east of Cape Town, Mossel Bay, a nice modern and clean city. We took the Discover Oudtshoorn and its Ostrich Heritage tour. This was a much more interesting tour than expected. We learned a lot about raising Ostriches and saw new born chicks through adult birds.
RICHARDS BAY– We took the Dumazulu Cultural Village tour. The drive out to the village was very nice and the Village interesting. The Zulu people were very friendly and helpful in attempting to teaching us the Zulu language. They explained their heritage and customs very nicely. The tour ended with a dance program.
MAPUTO – Maputo is located in Mozambique; visa required. We took the Glimpse of Maputo tour. This was primarily a tour of the city. It included a brief tour of a steel house designed by Eiffel (Eiffel Tower), a visit to a few markets, a Natural History Museum and a Fort. This really was a nice tour, much more interesting than it sounds.
DURBAN – We are back in South Africa for two days in Durban. Our first tour was the Durban City Tour. The tour included a very nice market (good place to purchase locally made goods) and a visit to a beautiful botanical garden. By the time we got back to the ship, it was dark. Interesting tour.
On the second day, we took the Valley of a Thousand Hills tour. This tour included a visit to a Zulu exhibit/show located on a beautiful mountain top. The views are out of this world. The Zulu show was entertaining and very well done. The people were friendly and open for questions and photographs. The local gift shop was outstanding and the tour included a snack.
EAST LONDON – In East London, we took the Natural History tour. The museum tour was given by the curator and was very good. He highlighted the most interesting and valuable exhibits in the museum; some of which were very significant. This tour also included a drive along the coast to some beautiful areas. The museum tour was great.
PORT ELIZABETH – We took the Local Townships and, Arts and Craft Center tour. The tour through the various neighborhoods was fantastic. We learned what apartheid meant to the various races and/or cultures. The tour included a visit to a craft shop in one of the metal clad building neighborhoods. The handcrafts were very nice and inexpensive. We also visited a private school and met with the principal. The visit included snacks and refreshments in addition to a brief concert by a singing group. This is a don't miss tour.
WALVIS BAY – Walvis Bay, Namibia has a beautiful protected harbor that is very significant. We took the Dolphin and Seal Cruise with around 20 other people. We saw hundreds of seals, probably a dozen dolphins and a few jackles. One seal, a very friendly one, actually jumped up into the boat and allowed us to pet it. The cruise included beer and other refreshments and very nicely prepared snacks. The mini cruise was actually very nice …. we learned a lot about the area.
Our second day in Namibia included a tour to the Swakopmund Township. This was an interesting tour of the desert, the country side and the various types of housing in Swakopmund. We also had a very nice lunch in Swakopmund at a local restaurant where a local singing group performed. This area of Namibia is mostly sandy desert. The tour stopped at a local sand dune (#7) to provide the opportunity to climb to the top. Some people did. This was again, a real education about life in Namibia.
CAPE TOWN – We took two tours in Cape Town. The first one was the Cape Town and Table Mountain tour. This tour took us to the cable car to ride up to the top of Table Mountain. We were lucky that the weather was very nice, although a bit windy and cool at the top of the mountain. We had around two hours to walk around the area. It was an interesting walk. The mountain top is very beautiful and much more developed with plant life than expected. The tour also included a brief tour of the city.
Our second tour was the Panoramic Cape Town by Night. This tour sort of repeated parts the earlier tour but in the dark (not Table Mountain). The darkness provided beautiful views of the city. Cape Town is impressive by night.
We also extended our stay in Southern Africa by taking the Victoria Falls and Chobe Chilwero tour. This required leaving the ship around 5:30 am to fly to Johannesburg (Joburg), then connect to a flight to Victoria Falls. The drive from Victoria Falls airport to the Falls took around an hour. The Falls are in Zimbabwe which requires a visa ($45 US cash per person for a US citizen). Getting the visa took time, probably a hour or so. Things move slowly. You will get wet at the Falls; be prepared. The mist is warm.
After the tour of the Falls, we continued on to the Sanctuary Lodge near the Chobe Game Reserve. This trip required leaving Zimbabwe to Botswana. Crossing the borders and driving to the Lodge is interesting and entertaining. Animals cross the two lane road along the way and border crossings will provide many new stamps in your passport. The Sanctuary Lodge is impressive. It is in a beautiful location just outside the National Park. On our first trip out to the Park, just as we entered the two lane highway, we spotted a herd of elephants crossing the road. We drove up to them and got many great photographs … up close and personal. We then entered the Chobe National Park which is located just south of a finger of Namibia and Zambia, and west of Zimbabwe. You have to see this on a map. The park is full of impalas, hippos, baboons, cape buffalo and many different types of birds. The Park was like a Garden of Eden. A beautiful and picturesque area. We took two game drives and a boat drive along the Chobe River. One of the game drives was on the morning we left, so it was a bit short. The previous drive was probably five hours long. The evening drives always appear to include wine, gin and tonics, and snacks. This tour should have had one more day at the Lodge. The time went by too quickly.
We left the Sanctuary Lodge around 9 am, drove to Victoria Falls airport and flew to Joburg. The hotel in Joburg was very nice and in a great location. The hotel stay included a very nice dinner and also, breakfast. The next day we took the Hop on Hop Off bus to tour the city and also, Soweto. This is a great way to tour the city. The Soweto portion included a guide. That evening we flew to Germany and then the US.
All of our tour guides were very good. They all spoke English well and were very approachable. The in country flights were a major step up from flights in the US. We always got a hot meal and drinks; even when the flight was only 90 minutes or so.
On this cruise, you will learn a lot about apartheid, Nelson Mandela, the Zulu, the languages, the local governments and about the Southern African people. It was educational and enlightening … no security concerns.
Overall, the cruise was great and the pre and post trips fantastic. You will see many metal clad houses and poor areas but the people are friendly and well dressed. You will meet many very nice people on the ship and also, tour guides and locals. Oceania really took good care of us; they were always there to make sure everything was taken care of during the cruise and also, during the pre and post trips. They really seemed to care. A great trip.
Nice location at the Rear of the Ship .... can get a little rough!