The big South African cruise

by bella |
Published on

Get ready for an incredible journey in Africa sailing on the Norwegian Dawn

Why go?

Sail from Port Louis in Mauritius, all the way to Cape Town, South Africa via volcanic island, Reunion, and stunning Madagascar on the magnificent Norwegian Dawn cruise liner. It’s one of NCL’s smaller boutique ships, but still manages to hold 2,340 passengers and more than 1,000 crew.

This 12-day cruise includes many port stops along the way with plenty of hidden gems, beautiful beaches and lots of sunshine. You might even get to spot the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) on safari!

Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of downtime so you can unwind at the ship’s spa, enjoy great evening entertainment, and dine on board, savouring the likes of French cuisine and modern Mexican.

Volcano viewing

The first stop ashore is Reunion Island, a small French outpost in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar. It has the perfect conditions for paragliding, should it take your fancy – the sport was actually invented on the island.

From the port in Pointe des Galets, we headed on the Route Du Volcan towards the island’s most iconic landmark – an active volcano. The drive around the bendy roads offers beautiful panoramas across the green slopes reaching down to the sea. The view from Riviere des Ramparts is breathtaking.

The volcano is one of the most active in the world and as we travelled towards the crater in the tour bus, our guide told us to close our eyes and count to ten. When we opened them again, he said, “Welcome to the moon!” And he’s not wrong. It’s a strikingly desolate and stunning place.

On safari

Our cruise itinerary included two safaris. The first from Richards Bay, at iSimangaliso Wetland Park, is a huge, protected area along the coast. It feels like the savanna and the jungle all in one. The park is home to large numbers of hippos, crocodiles and elephants. We even saw two white rhinos grazing with their baby.

The second safari takes us from the stop of Port Elizabeth to Addo Elephant National Park, a sanctuary for more than 600 elephants, who live alongside lions, black rhino, hyenas, and warthogs.

We were lucky enough to get up close to a herd of elephants, with an adorable baby at its mother’s feet.

All aboard

We flew into Mauritius and enjoyed a one-night stay on the stunning island before heading on board. We made the most of our short visit by going snorkelling and were lucky enough to see a loggerhead turtle.

We booked a compact double cabin on the ship which was a good size for two people. There, we got a sea view and experienced the amazing sunsets from our balcony.

The Mandara spa has its own indoor pool, hot tubs and relaxation rooms, complete with an expansive sea view from the stern of the ship. We recommend booking a relaxing seaweed wrap for super-soft skin.

During the sea days, we enjoyed lazing around the pool listening to the live band, and taking in the many restaurants – there are six on board which are included in the package, and you can buy tokens to use in the other seven speciality restaurants or choose to pay as you go. The Venetian was our favourite with its old-school splendour, swooping staircase and white tablecloths.

There are all sorts of bars across the ship from Champagne to zero-waste cocktails, with lots offering live music. The Stardust theatre has a variety of shows including magicians, comedy and West End-style musicals.

Hidden gems

Mossel Bay, a small harbour town in South Africa, was our next stop and we hiked up to the 19th-century Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse, now a bar, and celebrated our climb with a glass of fizz overlooking the sea. Further up the cliffs is the Mossel Bay Zipline, which gives the rider incredible views over the Indian Ocean. It’s a haven for outdoorsy types, with surfers riding the waves below.

Our last stop in Cape Town was one of the most stunning views to wake up to, with the city dwarfed by the magnificent Table Mountain.

The waterfront area is home to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, which is full of exhibitions displaying the best of modern African art. Close to this area is where you can catch a boat to Robben Island, the high-security prison that famously held Nelson Mandela for 18 years.

We finished our trip with a visit to Blaauklippen vineyard, which dates back to 1682 and is one of the oldest wine farms in Stellenbosch. Cheers!

Need to Know

  • A 12-Day Cruise on Norwegian Dawn costs from £1,578pp for an Inside Stateroom. The ports of call are; Port Louis (Mauritius), Pointe Des Galets (Reunion), Antsiranana and Nosy Be, (Madagascar) and Richards Bay, Port Elizabeth, Gqeberha, Mossel Bay and Cape Town (South Africa).

  • British Airways offer flights to Mauritius and Cape Town daily.

  • For information about NCL ships and their itineraries, or to book a cruise, please call 0333 2412319 
    or visit

Words: Phoebe Edwards

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