1.How safe is it to travel these days?

We will not be taken to any place where there is danger. Tourists are very carefully looked after. You have travel insurance included in your package as part of the VISA requirements (if you took it with us). If you are concerned about your health, please speak to your doctor and get the necessary prescriptions to bring with on board. They have ship doctors on board, but it is very expensive to see them, so I suggest you take along all critical medicine that you will need. Tap water is safe to drink, however, I suggest you take a plastic water-bottle along with you (empty one) that you can use to refill at the water fountains, and on the ship. This will save you costs with bottled water.

2. VISAS

You will need a Schengen Visa (which is obtained no less than two weeks prior and is inserted into your passport).

3. What is the currency?

The universally used currency is Euros with most of the countries we are visiting. I am taking cash and a credit card. I would suggest that in your cash you include a couple of 1, 10 and 20 Euro bills for use in markets. If you have not yet bought your currency, please ensure that you do so ahead of time. NB: watch the exchange rate and buy your currency ahead of time. The airport is very expensive! When you board the cruise ship, you ONLY use a “cruise card” which you pre-load in Barcelona with money. Ie, you do not use any cash or credit card on the ship. So, you can choose to load this cruise card with Euros, or with your credit card (I will use my credit card). Bear this in mind when you buy your foreign currency. The cruise ship will “hold” at least R2,000 as a deposit (either in cash or on your card). Should you utilize more than this onboard, you will pay in on the last day. Should you use less, you will get the cash back.

4. How much pocket money will we need to take?

As much or as little as you want to. All airfares, accommodation, all meals on the ship, service charges, tipping etc, are included in the fare. You may wish to buy lunch at the cities where we dock. That could be an inexpensive sandwich, or some local fruit, or more costly, like a sit down meal, depending on how hungry you are! And if you want souvenirs, you will need extra for that. The cruise ship offers drinks packages but you can also buy drinks on an individual basis on board (depending how much you drink, this could work out cheaper or more expensive than a drinks package). I suggest that to save money, you take along some sachets of “game” which you can dissolve with water in your own waterbottle, this is especially handy when you are exploring the port cities.

5. What to put in your medicine bag and hand luggage?

A. In your medicine bag, include your normal prescription drugs, tweezers, and sun cream. Please also include an anti-histamine (for allergies), headache tablets, plasters and immodium. If you think you may get sick, ask your doctor for an anti-biotic prescription.
• You will only be allowed 1 piece of hand luggage on the aircraft (a small handbag is allowed as well)
• No containers of liquids more than 100ml will be allowed in hand luggage. Make sure it is all less than this and is in a see-through clear bag (ziplock bag). You can buy travel sized bottles from Clicks.
• Hand luggage may not weigh more than 7kg and must be a specific size. They are very strict with this, so rather check with me if you are unsure.
• No pocket knives, scissors or sharp objects – put them in main luggage.
• Only take two days of medicine/tablets in your hand bag, the rest must be in your luggage.

6. Main luggage

• Take one suitcase no more than 20kg
• Travel light – arrive with the minimum – so you have capacity to add weight (souvenirs etc) and still be below the limit for the return flight
• We strongly suggest a suitcase with wheels that is easy to pull. Remember to have a lock on your case. We will supply you with luggage tags at the airport – please utilize these to help identify your bags.

7. On the plane

• Make sure that you get some sleep – we will arrive EARLY morning and immediately embark on the bus to our hotel.
• You can take snacks onto the aircraft and the cruise ship – but must be in original sealed packaging.
• I suggest you bring along a travel pillow and earplugs/herbal sleeping tablet for the plane. I am a light sleeper, so I need these things! I also always take socks with me and a waterbottle.

I suggest that for the first day we fly, you fly in comfortable clothes (like a tracksuit) and pack summer clothes in your hand luggage to change into on the plane if you get too hot. Once we get to our hotel, you will be able to change and shower.

8. What do you advise I pack?

Travel as light as you can. Porters will take your bags to your room once you board the ship (mandatory ship policy), but that often takes a bit of time…so make sure in your hand luggage you pack all your valuables. Light clothing is advisable. Cotton is best as it doesn’t crease.

 A hat and sunglasses
 A camera, extra memory card, batteries, cellphone chargers etc
 A photocopy of your passport and credit card just in case anything gets lost or stolen (you can give these papers to me on the aeroplane and I will keep it safe for you)
 A small light Bible and/or notebook
 Comfortable walking shoes, socks and flip flops
 Wet wipes and tissues (public toilets…need I say more!)
 A swimming costume
 Soap for hand washing of clothes (if you want to hand wash)
 Toiletries
 The ship and hotel will have hairdryers, I still take my own though as it is stronger. The voltage is different on the ship however, so you may need an adaptor which you can get for free from the front desk. The European/ship plugs are 2 prong, so that is very handy for South Africans. If you have a three point, you can buy an adapter at the airport/luggage shops.

9. What’s the weather like?

At this time, the days are sunny and warm, and the evenings are cool. The temperature ranges in the mid-twenties (say 19C-27C) in the day. Please take lots of sunscreen, a hat and even a small umbrella if you want shade when we are standing outdoors. The cruise ship is fully air-conditioned, as is the bus and hotel. I always recommend taking something warm for the plane.

10. What sort of clothing is best?

The dress code on the ship and on the land in port, is casual, very informal. Only dinner times in the formal restaurant are smart casual…so it is a great opportunity to dress nicely – men with long pants and closed shoes, and women with something sparkly. There will be one dinner, the Captain’s Dinner, that is semi-formal…men can wear a suit if they like, otherwise a collared shirt, jacket and slacks are fine. Women can wear a long dress/fancy slacks/cocktail dress. But don’t be intimidated by this – it is a fun opportunity to dress up, but no one will be “refused” if they aren’t in a suit. There will also be a themed “Italian” evening when you must wear something red/white or green, so take a top/tie or dress along for this. Also take a jersey and a pair of jeans just in case it’s cold at night. Flip flops and takkies are perfect for walking. Remember to take a swimming costume for laying in the sun on deck, or swimming or sitting in the hottubs/ sauna area. I usually take some summer dresses, tshirts, jewellery and accessories, sparkly sandals for dinner, and comfortable walking shoes for the daytime.

11. What about phonecards/ internet and staying in touch?

Europe is still slow to adopt free internet; our hotel may have free wifi, though I cannot guarantee this. We are staying at the Hotel NH SANTS which is a 4 star in Barcelona. The ship offers wifi and internet cafes, which all are available at a cost. You can make phonecalls on the ship from your room/satellite phones at a cost. You can also buy a local sim card in Italy, however, I feel personally that if you set your phone on to SMS roaming which is not too expensive (allows you to send and receive text messages on land), this will be suitable. If you must make calls, then set your phone onto international call roaming (which is costly) but this allows you to stay in touch. If you are not sure how to do this, contact your service provider for more info ahead of time. You will only do this at the airport just before we board.

12. How fit do you need to be?

Every bit helps. The only “heavy duty” stuff will be what you choose to do – this is a holiday!

13. Discipline

Please be disciplined!!! Be ready at agreed times, eg in the morning for breakfast and departure. Do not be late – or you will be left behind. Rather plan to be early for each part of the program.

14. Programme

Onboard the MSC Cruise ship you will find plenty of things to do. You can watch an informative and read up more over here: https://www.msccruises.com/en-gl/Cruise-Ships/MSC-Fantasia.aspx