Day 1: Australia – – Johannesburg
Head to the airport at the necessary time and catch a flight to Johannesburg in South Africa!
Day 2: Johannesburg – – Kruger National Park (D)
You land in Johannesburg and then board a connecting domestic flight that takes you to Nelspruit Airport. This is one of the closest airports to Kruger National Park. Arrive to the luxury lodge that will be your home for the next three nights as you get to experience all this awe-inspiring landscape has to offer. You time here includes daily breakfast plus sumptuous three-course dinners every evening and enjoying a standard of personalised service not offered at most hotels.
Day 3: Kruger National Park (B, D)
This morning is yours as leisure time to spend at the lodge however you wish. This afternoon sees your first scheduled outing: a sunset safari experience into the park. Climb into an open-air safari vehicle and keep your senses honed for lightning-quick movements and rustles in the shrub as you look out for some of the park’s most elusive nocturnal residents, including the honey badger and slinky serval.
Day 4: Kruger National Park (B, D)
A crack-of-down wake-up call is made worth it as you return to your safari vehicle for a full-day game drive through the park. The drive lasts from six to eight hours, and is your chance to encounter wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, including the famed Africa Big 5 of lion, leopard, elephant, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros. Return to the lodge afterwards to share tales of your sightings with fellow travellers over tonight’s dinner. This is your last evening in South Africa ahead of departing on your luxury cruise tomorrow.
Day 5: Kruger National Park – Durban (B, D)
Say goodbye to the luxury lodge and be taken to the airport to catch a flight to Durban, a vibrant city that has a culture richly influenced by African, Indian and colonial histories. It is also the departure point for your cruise. Step aboard the MSC Opera and settle into your cabin ahead of the cruise liner setting sail tonight.
Days 6 – 8: At Sea (B, L, D)
The MSC Opera sets a path for its first port and you have the next three days at sea as the ship moves through the Indian Ocean. This is the perfect opportunity to dive into the cruise liner’s offering of state-of-the-art facilities. Move between the bars and lounges for relaxed drinks and sundowners, or savour the cuisine on offer at any of the four restaurants (all of your meals are included while aboard). Those with leisurely pursuits on the brain can check out the on-board water park, casino and theatre, while other travellers may be content simply lazing by the swimming pool or being pampered in the day spa.
Day 9: La Possession (B, L, D)
Return to dry land as the ship arrives into La Possession, a commune sandwiched between Saint-Denis and Le Port on Reunion Island. There is no set itinerary or schedule for while you make any of the ports on the cruise, and your time in La Possession is your own. Head straight to the island’s capital of Saint-Denis for monuments and museums, or explore the area around La Possession via one of the good walking trails.
Day 10: Port Louis (B, L, D)
Arrive to the capital (and the first city founded) of Mauritius this morning. Step off the MSC Opera and take a walk along the waterfront promenade to get a feel for the city. You can learn more about Port Louis and Mauritius’ colonial heritage by ambling around the palm-tree lined Place d’Armes where you’ll see a statue of a former island governor. Other things to do in Port Louis include admiring the 18th-century Government House, strolling through the city market, or browsing the central market for knick-knacks.
Day 11: At Sea (B, L, D)
Take to the seas again as the MSC Opera begins its north-bound route. The next two days are spent entirely at sea. With so many facilities and opportunities on-board you might choose to devote a single day to each of the ship’s offerings – be it dining in the restaurants, shopping in the boutiques or weaving between the entertainment options. Should today be a dining day, take your pick from the ship’s four restaurants: L’Approdo and La Caravella, the formal main dining rooms; and Le Vele Cafeteria and Il Patio, two more casual options. There is also Aroma Coffee Bar if you need a fix of caffeine, and Lo Spinnaker, an ice cream bar located on the ship’s pool deck.
Day 12: At Sea (B, L, D)
The bounty of the MSC Opera continues to be at your fingertips today. Make a return trip to a favourite diner from yesterday, or take a seat at an unexplored eatery to charter new menu territory. Pair your meals with an aperitif or digestif in one of the bars or lounges. Listen to a professional musician tinkle the ivories in La Cabala Piano Bar, or settle into one of the high-perched stools at Sottovento Pub. There is also the relaxed Cotton Club and the Piazza Di Spagna.
Day 13: Port Victoria (B, L, D)
Dock in Port Victoria, the small and young (but gorgeous) capital of the pristine Seychelles. Port Victoria is another example of the French colonial influence in this part of the world, having been founded by a band of Frenchmen in the late 18th-century. Some of the best historical sights to see in Port Victoria include the Palace of the Justice and the Clock Tower of the Roundabout. The latter was built to mimic Big Ben in London! You can also take a trip to Victoria Botanical Garden, home to a group of Aldabra giant tortoises. The ship stays in Port Victoria overnight.
Day 14: Port Victoria (B, L, D)
You have all of today to carry on discovering Port Victoria. An option is to simply amble aimlessly around the cityscape. Pass by old world Creole-style houses, or venture towards the local market to browse the stalls offering fresh fruit and vegetables, arts and handicrafts. You might even chance upon a souvenir for a loved one back home!
Days 15 – 21: At Sea (B, L, D)
The MSC Opera’s exploration of the Indian Ocean and some of its most picturesque isles comes to an end as the ship plots a course across the Equator and into the Northern Hemisphere. This journey sees the ship spend the next several days at sea. Use this time to capitalise on the line-up of leisure and entertainment on-board. Attend tribute, dramatic and musical performances inside the Teatro dell’Opera (bookings required for evening shows), or look up the ship’s daily schedule of activities to attend things like dance lessons, language-learning sessions, card games, early morning aerobics, and even bingo. There is also the arcade if virtual gaming is your thing, or you can test your luck with a roll of the dice at one of the tables inside the Med Pearl Casino.
In the mood for a new outfit now that you’re one day out from stepping foot into a new destination? Browse the racks at Lei & Lui Boutique for pieces to add to your cruising wardrobe, or have your eye taken by all things that glitter and sparkle inside Gioielleria, the ship’s jewellery and accessories store. Two other shops – Logo and a duty-free offering – are also aboard for those wanting to indulge in additional retail therapy.
Up the ante on relaxation mode by giving in to the MSC Opera’s indulgent pampering offerings. Book in for a divine treatment in the MSC Aurea Spa therapy rooms, or stretch out on one of the daybeds inside the Relax Room. There is also a Turkish bath and steam room, and fully-equipped gymnasium for those travellers that prefer to work up a sweat. Those in need of Vitamin D can seek out the lounges at the Top 13 Exclusive Solarium.
Perhaps have a lazy morning with a lie-in in your cabin before heading to the sumptuous breakfast buffet. Passengers that prefer to eat in their cabins can even request a continental breakfast be delivered to their door (room service style).
Day 22: Aqaba (B, L, D)
Arrive in Jordan to reacquaint your sea legs with terra firma. Aqaba is a resort city located on the shores of the breathtaking Red Sea. The city is a popular destination with divers as there are a handful of notable dive sites just the coast, and the coral reefs are teeming with vibrant and colourful marine life – many of which can be spotted just by snorkelling! Those wanting to stay dry can head to one of the beach resorts and settle into a sunlounge, or travellers with a taste for the gastronomic can set out to discover the flavours of Jordanian cuisine by tracking down plates of crisp falafel, creamy moutabel dip, stuffed grape leaves, oven-fresh kaek sandwiches, or meat-filled shawarma. Have a head for history and culture? Pay a visit to Aqaba fortress or Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque.
Day 23: Suez Canal (B, L, D)
Get a glimpse of the Egyptian coastline as the MSC Opera begins its transit through the Suez Canal. This manmade waterway was built to connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean, and is considered one of the major links between Europe and Asia. The transit journey takes two days and this time is spent at sea.
Day 24: Suez Canal (B, L, D)
Sail closer to the Mediterranean as the ship continues to navigate the Suez Canal. Find a perch on one of the sundecks to admire the landscape on the banks on either side of the canal.
Day 25: At Sea (B, L, D)
You officially cross into the Mediterranean! Be sure you get out onto the deck to cast your gaze across these famous waters and to lookout for any of the tiny isles dotted on the horizon.
Day 26: Piraeus (B, L, D)
Dock in Piraeus this morning. This port connects to Athens, the capital of Greece. Make a beeline for the emblems of ancient Athens: the hilltop Acropolis and the former temple that is the Parthenon. Uncover more about Athens’ astounding history at the National Archaeological Museum, Benaki Museum or Old Acropolis Museum, among others. Meander the old hillside neighbourhood of Plaka to stumble upon hole-in-the-wall boutiques, whitewashed homes, outdoor cinemas and cosy family-run eateries.
Day 27: At Sea (B, L, D)
The cruise itinerary has one last day at sea as it glides into the Adriatic on the way to the Dalmatian Coast. Use this last full sailing day to make a final visit to your favourite on-board restaurant, savour a favourite dish or tipple, indulge with another treatment in the spa, or succumb to purchasing that souvenir you have had your eye on in one of the boutiques and shops.
Day 28: Split (B, L, D)
Split is Croatia’s second-largest city and is dotted with ancient Roman ruins, incredible seafood restaurants, narrow laneways, and al fresco cafes. Tick off some of the city’s major landmarks with a visit to the Diocletian’s Palace, Saint Domnius Cathedral or Pjaca and Peristil Squares. Want to see Split from above? Make the hike up the Marjan hill, passing two old churches as you go.
Day 29: Venice – – Australia (B)
Cruise into Venice this morning and feel a twinge of sadness knowing this is your final port. Disembark as needed and then take an airport transfer to begin your return journey home. Alternatively, you might choose to extend your stay with Flexi Flights to give you the opportunity to spend more time in Italy’s famous canal-strewn city.
Day 30: Australia
Arrive back in Australia today.