Cruising Mzanzi: Mom and Me, at Sea

When I tell my friends and colleagues that I took my mother on a local cruise, their reaction is always the same: “Wow, that’s great,” they say, quickly followed by, “I could never do that.”

I get it. When it comes to travel with parents, it’s not always easy. What I have learned, however, is that it is still worth it. And, if you want to give your parent something meaningful for Mother’s Day this year, you can’t go wrong with the gift of travel.

My mom and I took our first mother-daughter trip to Thailand back in 2013 and reunited at the end of last year on the MSC Musica sailing from Durban to Portuguese Island. From the success of this recent experience, I realise that I should have done a local cruise with her much, much sooner.

If you’re on the fence about sailing across the open ocean with your mother as your travel companion, I invited my good friend Divan Viljoen, Marketing Campaign Manager of Flight Centre Travel Group’s Cruiseabout, to help me explain why a local cruise with “Ma” works out so well.

Local cruises are budget and time friendly

While we’d all love to surprise mom with a first-class ticket to her dream destination on Mother’s Day, unfortunately, it’s not always in the budget.

I chose to surprise her with a cruise for her birthday last year because she always likes to tell me the story about when she sailed with her family as a kid to Cape Town. Not only was a local cruise meaningful and nostalgic for her, but it worked out economical for me, and oh-so-easy to book.

“What’s great about cruising is that there are no hidden costs. When you pay for your holiday, you get everything in one fell swoop, from the accommodation to your food, onboard activities and transport,” says Divan. There’s no need to be a logistical ringmaster, he adds, scrambling for the best prices, while making sure Mom is always happy.

“Draw a line-by-line comparison of the costs involved with taking Mom to a fancy hotel for a few nights versus a cruise,” he adds. He also insists (and I agree) that you will soon see how economical a local cruise journey is.

If you’re particularly short on cash and time right now, most local cruise specialists allow for paying the deposit up front and the rest later in instalments. That’s what I did last year. It’s worth asking about if you want to secure your Mother’s Day cruise gift before 12 May.

Here she is, donning her best beachwear…

More mom time, but and me time, too

A cruise offers plenty of onboard activities with moments to catch up, bond, and make new memories without the stressors of queuing or unpacking and repacking our suitcases every other day. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving!

“Across Norwegian Cruise Line’s fleet, as one example, each ship is equipped with pampering spa facilities ideal for moms and daughters to relax,” says Divan. “Kick back in the hydrotherapy tub, and rinse off in the waterfall shower after a quick dip in the lap pool. And, that’s all before you get your hot stone massage.”

“Norwegian also sets the standard for the best entertainment at sea with internationally acclaimed musicals and Broadway shows like Rock of Ages, Swing!, and Kinky Boots, ideal for moms and daughters who want a bit of razzle-dazzle after dinner,” he adds.


After sailing with my mother, my advice is that sometimes doing less means you will experience more. While Mom and I enjoyed trying activities together, we have different tastes and interests, which makes a cruise ship ideal because we can both go off and do your own thing and meet up again later. When I wanted to catch up on some afternoon reading, Mom could saunter off to socialise by the pool.

Terrible lighting, but great pic Mom!

Mom can get what she likes, how she likes it

While I enjoy anything that has me experiencing a new corner of the globe, ‘roughing it’ is not my mother’s preferred travel style. Another great thing about a local cruise is that upgrades are simple, and there are endless unique add-ons that are perfect for a mom.

“If Mom has a desire for five-star comforts, and wants a room with a view, she can certainly have it on a cruise,” says Divan.

On our MSC cruise to Portuguese Island, I upgraded to a room with a porthole as Mom wanted to be able to see the ocean. This was easy to do, and I’m glad I did. She also didn’t want to eat from the buffet every night, so we opted for the set menus at the different restaurant venues on the ship, which worked like a charm. The buffet became our own little morning tradition (Mom was not opposed to unlimited waffles and crepes with fresh berries and honey).

“Moms set in their ways can also poke their toe just outside their comfort zone and try new things without feeling forced,” Divan adds. “For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line offers up to 27 dining options on any given ship!”

My mother, who has complained only 20,000 times that she can’t keep up with me, not only managed to do so, but was supremely grateful for the cruise trip. If you’re stumped for a Mother’s Day surprise this year, I highly recommend you book a mother-daughter sea voyage. I promise you, it will be an experience you will both enjoy.

Our lucky Southern Right Whale sighting near Richard’s Bay.

My final tips for a mother-daughter local cruise:

#1 Be patient, very patient with each other throughout your journey.

#2 Choose the right ship and route. When in doubt, ask a cruise specialist to help you.

#3 When exploring a new port along South Africa’s coast, set one or two goals – not 10!

#4 Don’t plan to spend every waking minute together. We each had alone time and our together experiences.

#5 Get to know the layout of the ship before you travel to avoid getting lost and frustrated, or even worse, completely losing each other! We learnt this the hard way.

Arriving back in Durbs (she made me pose).

The 2019/2020 South African Cruise Calendar is now open with cruise lines travelling up and down our coast. Check what MSC has to offer, as well as Norwegian Cruise Lines which is growing in popularity among South Africans.