Three Days of Wine, Tea, Shopping in Stunning Cape Town

Days 105-107, 2024 Grand World Voyage

Wednesday-Friday, April 17-19, 2024; Cape Town, South Africa.

I don’t think I have ever before spent two nights and three days in a port during a cruise, but what a thrill it is to do so in Cape Town – one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A nice feature of a world voyage is overnight stays (11 this year). But a silver lining of our re-routing around Africa is this leisurely stay in Cape Town.

We arrived in dense fog, which delayed us an hour or so past the planned arrival time of noon. Once we approached the pier, the fog lifted, giving us a glorious bright sunny day at the foot of Table Mountain. Over the next two days some fog came and went, but the skies were mostly clear and brilliant, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s as the Southern Hemisphere is squarely in the midst of autumn.

On the two days we were here last year, I took all-day tours out of the city – a day of wine tasting in South Africa’s famous winelands and another along the coast to the Cape of Good Hope. This year I stayed closer to the Mother City, as Cape Town is known.

You can’t come here and not think of wine, so I joined a ship’s excursion to the picturesque university town of Stellenbosch an hour away. Not only did we taste five wonderful wines at Blaauwklippen wine farm, but we also had an hour to roam about the city, with its Dutch architecture and old oak trees. I sketched the Moederkerk Church and then spent the last few minutes ducking in the boutiques – enough time to purchase a gathered skirt that promised one-size-fits-all (it did, as you can see in a photo below).

Back on the ship, I had to say goodbye to Katrine, a beverage server I’ve known from the 2023 world cruise. When I joined the Zuiderdam in December, she ran across the Lido Deck to greet me just as I boarded – my first indication that I had was “welcomed home!” She’s off on vacation to see her son, but I hope our paths will cross again.

On day 2 in Cape Town, with my sisters still away on a four-day safari, I hopped on the hop-on-hop-off blue route, a two-and-a-half-hour loop of the peninsula. We headed through the city to the back of Table Mountain, where I transferred to the wine route bus and Groot Constantia, the oldest wine farm in South Africa.

My wine tour ticket allowed me to tour the manor house, the gardens and the vineyards. In a real change from ship excursions, I was the only American on our tour of the winery, along with a women’s bike tour group from Brazil and other tourists from around the world. For the five-pour tasting, I sat with a man from Australia, who had flown to Dubai for a MSC cruise to the Mediterranean, only to learn it was canceled. He decided to fly to Cape Town for a week before traveling on.

After a great lunch of fish and chips at Simon’s restaurant on the farm, I rode the bus the long way back to Cape Town, to Haut Bay and along the coast. The fog teased us from just off shore, but didn’t return until that night.

This time the shuttle back to the ship dropped us off at the cruise terminal. When we arrived the first day, we docked at an industrial area, allowing a Virgin Voyages ship the preferred berth as it had a total turnover of passengers. Seeing that I would have a 30-minute wait while the ship was in the process of moving, I opted to head upstairs to a restaurant bar. I enjoyed my gin and tonic while waiting for the ship to open its gangway and the reboarding crowd to disperse.

The new berth was just a short walk from the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, full of ships, restaurants, bars, a huge shopping mall and throngs of people enjoying the sunny day. My sisters (who returned the night before from their safari) and I joined the crowds, finding the strong U.S. dollar made shopping very affordable.

By midafternoon we headed for the Mount Nelson Hotel and its high tea. Elaine had brilliantly booked our reservations for a fraction of the cost of the ship’s excursion there. We should have fasted all day – the finger foods, scones and desserts proved to be our last meal of the day.

Elaine, Jo, friend Deb and Eloise

Back on the ship, the South African Youth Choir performed a stirring concert of traditional African music and outstanding musical theater solos. As we were about to sail later that night, I heard faint singing. When I stepped out on my balcony, the choir members were spontaneously singing a cappella as they walked off the ship. What a beautiful memory of South Africa!