An African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn

An African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn

Cruising holidays in South Africa have become extremely popular in recent years. While other types of holidays are mainly about the destination, cruises are as much about the journey too. They offer a blissful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life with your food, transport and entertainment taken care of, and require you to unpack just once while your floating hotel takes you to multiple cities and countries.

Our cruising options in South Africa were previously limited mainly to Mozambique and Namibia. These options recently increased with the introduction of affordable Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) sailings between Cape Town and Mauritius. The cruise line made its South African debut last year with the Norwegian Jade’s 12-day journeys around the coast of South Africa and Namibia. This year, it returned with the Norwegian Dawn and a variety of itineraries covering a combination of Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa.

Port Louis Harbour, Mauritius

Port Louis Harbour, Mauritius

I had been on 3 cruises before—Caribbean and Mediterranean cruises with Royal Caribbean and a Mozambican cruise with MSC—and loved them. So, when the opportunity arose to experience a Norwegian Cruise Line cruise between Mauritius and Cape Town, I couldn’t resist.

My husband, my son and I boarded the ship in Port Louis, Mauritius, after spending 3 idyllic days  at Le Meridien Ile Maurice there. The atmosphere on the ship was lively as we prepared to set off on our journey, with many of our fellow travellers – who were predominantly from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia – heading to South Africa for the first time.

Reunion Island landscape

Reunion Island

Our first port of call was Reunion Island, which had been on my bucket list for a while. There, we drove past stunning vistas and landscapes en route to Piton de la Fournaise, one of the world's most active volcanoes, which erupts multiple times a year. A traditional Creole lunch ensued before we bid au revoir to Reunion and returned to our ship.

Logistical issues resulted in our voyage being shortened by 2 days, which meant that Madagascar was removed from our itinerary, and we spent 3 days at sea before arriving in Richards Bay.

Sunrise in Richards Bay from my balcony

Sunrise in Richards Bay from my balcony

Our port excursion in Richards Bay led us to Isimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, where many of our companions had their first taste of a safari, and ended at the beautiful beaches of Cape Vidal, where the snorkelers among us had a ball. The boat ride in St Lucia was another popular excursion.

Elephants drinking water in Addo Elephant National Park

Addo Elephant National Park

Gqeberha was next on our route, and we headed to Addo Elephant National Park where we saw herds of elephants, along with other wildlife.

Our penultimate stop was Mossel Bay, where we rubbed shoulders with residents of The World, the largest private residential yacht on Earth, who were also docked there. For our excursion, we chose to do a panoramic tour of the coastal town, while others opted for yet another safari in a nearby game reserve.

An African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn

Norwegian Dawn docked in Cape Town

Ten days flew by and our journey culminated in Cape Town, where a wide variety of port excursions were available to introduce the Mother City to the passengers. The ship docked overnight in the Cape Town harbour, giving them time to discover the city's many wonders before disembarking the following morning. Table Mountain, Boulders Beach and Cape Point were among the most popular choices. Having visited most of Cape Town’s main attractions before, we opted for a tour of historic Stellenbosch.

The Norwegian Dawn is one of the fleet’s older and smaller ships, with a capacity of 2340 passengers and 1032 crew, but this meant that the atmosphere on the ship was more communal, and we began recognising and chatting to fellow guests soon enough.

Norwegian Dawn balcony cabin

Our balcony cabin

We stayed in an en-suite balcony cabin, where my son had a pull-out sofa bed. Rooms and family suites were available for larger families too. I loved sitting on the balcony captivated by the continuously changing scenes before me – as day turned to night, as sea views changed to harbour views, as ports, cities and countries altered and as the hues of the ocean transformed. It never ceased to fascinate me.

Venetian Dining Room - Norwegian Dawn

Venetian Dining Room

Food! No matter how hard you try, the temptation will be too great to resist, and gaining a few extra kilograms will be inevitable. We were spoilt for choice with over a dozen restaurants offering loads of tantalising meal options, including Italian, French, Mexican and Brazilian cuisine. One of the highlights was Teppanyaki, a Japanese restaurant, where the food is served with a generous side of hilarious entertainment.

Food on the Norwegian Dawn

Some of the meals wee enjoyed

Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its freestyle concept where guests are not restricted to strict dining times, tables, or dress codes, unlike many other cruise lines. We loved the freedom of being able to eat whenever we liked, wherever we liked, dressed as casually as we liked. Many of our fellow cruisers declared that they were loyal to Norwegian for this reason, while others loved how they catered for solo travellers.

African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn pool deck

Pool deck

Sea days were far from mundane. We would be issued with the Freestyle Daily, a newsletter that would help us to plan our time meticulously. It would contain information on the port to be visited, the weather forecast, as well as a schedule of entertainment and events planned for the following day, inter alia.

The ship has multiple sporting facilities, a jogging track, swimming pools, and around-the-clock activities consisting of workshops, quiz shows, art auctions, live entertainment and much more. Nightly shows during our cruise included a comedian, a magic show and skilled acrobats. In between activities, I managed to get gloriously pampered at the Mandara Spa. For those who preferred to relax at the poolside or soak in the hot tubs, those were possibilities too.

Norwegian Dawn Video Arcade

Video Arcade

While the adults are otherwise occupied, the kids are catered for with the Splash Academy Youth Centre and the Entourage Teen Club. My son enjoyed the Video Arcade.

Kiddies pool on Norwegian Dawn

Kiddies pool

The Norwegian Dawn will be undergoing a substantial refurbishment later this year, whereafter it will return to South Africa in December 2024. If the convenience of having all your basic requirements taken care of—while getting to explore multiple destinations and only unpacking once—appeals to you, then go ahead and book your cabin. I fall more in love with this mode of travel every time I experience it.

For more information and to book your cruise, visit Norwegian Cruise Line.

An African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn


See some snippets from our cruise below.

See my feature about the cruise safari in the Sunday Times.

10 comments on “An African Cruise on the Norwegian Dawn”

  1. "InAfricaAndBeyond consistently delivers captivating content that immerses readers in the beauty and diversity of Africa. Their engaging narratives and stunning visuals make exploring the continent a virtual adventure. A must-follow for anyone seeking to discover the wonders of Africa from afar."

  2. Never heard much about cruising in Africa except around Arabia and Nile cruises. This looks really lovely especially Reunion!

  3. I'd never thought of taking a cruise for an Africa visit. Looks like this makes quite a few interesting destinations.

  4. Very interesting itinerary. I didn't realize you could cruise to these destinations. We went to Mauritius but not Reunion and also loved Namibia. Your photos are excellent.

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