Durban is a city of contrasts, an industrial port city with a beautiful beachfront, a cosmopolitan hub on the doorstep of the historic ‘Zulu nation’, a former British colony with the largest Indian demographic on the continent. It is also the most popular domestic tourist destination in South Africa, and the regional hub for MSC Cruises.
Cruise terminal: The Durban Cruise Terminal is under development, for now cruise ships dock at the N-Shed Passenger terminal in the Port of Durban.
Shore excursions: Shore excursions in Durban are many and varied, running from traditional and cultural experiences in ‘living history’ Zulu museums to encounters with the ‘big five’ in world-class game reserves.
Language: English primarily, but there are 11 official languages in South Africa
Staying safe: Durban is a major industrial city with a high crime rate. Caution should be exercised – don’t leave valuables unattended, and avoid walking alone or in small groups at night.
Currency: The South African rand
Durban is a beachside city in South Africa. Home to the largest and busiest container port in Africa, as well as the largest Zulu ethnic group in the country, it is very much a city of contrasts.
It has one of the most beautiful beachfront skylines in the world, and yet is also one of the most gritty and industrial of South Africa’s cities. It has no major tourist attractions and yet is the most popular city for domestic tourism in the country.
It is not as large as Cape Town and yet is more cosmopolitan.
Durban is the homeport for MSC Cruises annually between November and March and is also a popular cruise port call for major cruise lines rounding the southern tip of Africa.
It has a ‘Golden Mile’ beachfront, a major waterpark and retail hub within a short taxi ride of the cruise terminal (uShaka Marine World) and is the gateway to some of the most scenic parts of South Africa, including the Drakensberg mountains and the evocatively-named Valley of a Thousand Hills.
For most cruise tourists in Durban, the safari adventures at Phinda Game Reserve are also a major draw.
The cruise terminal in Durban
The cruise terminal at the Port of Durban, within a natural harbor behind the beachfront, is actually called the N-Shed Passenger Terminal, although plans are underway to develop an entirely new and more modern Durban Cruise Terminal.
It’s sorely needed, the N-Shed terminal is old, run-down and grimy looking compared to cruise facilities in other parts of the world. It also lacks basic facilities such as currency exchange, shops, free wi-fi, and passenger lounges.
The location, however, is superb. There are craft stalls set up at the terminal when cruise ships come to call, but a ten-minute walk from the terminal, down the length of T-Jetty, brings you onto Victoria Street (now re-named Margaret Mncadi Avenue), which is home to the Port Natal Maritime Museum and skirts the leading edge of the bustling Durban city centre. To the east, a 15-minute walk or so, in South Point, is uShaka Marine World and the seemingly endless Durban Beach Front.
Currency and language in Durban
The currency in Durban is the South African Rand, like the rest of the country. There are no exchange facilities in the cruise terminal, but in the city centre, a 2-minute ride from the cruise terminal, there are many banks and exchange houses.
English is spoken by all the residents of Durban, although it is only the mother tongue of South Africans of British descent. Durban is home to a majority of Zulus, Xhosas, Afrikaans and Indians.
Staying safe on a cruise to Durban
Pick pockets are proliferant in Durban, and muggings of tourists are not uncommon. Although walking around the city centre and cruise terminal area during the day is safe, you should not walk alone or in small groups at night.
Valuable possessions should be left on the ship, any camera equipment and local currency should be handled discreetly, and if you rent a car, lock the doors and keep the windows closed at traffic lights.
Is Durban good for shopping?
Durban is the best place to buy Zulu handicrafts, especially at the Victoria Street Market, where locally made Zulu drums, tribal masks, cane woven baskets and beaded jewellery can be bought at reasonable prices.
Be aware, though, that the sellers here will hear British or American accents and double their price, so be prepared to haggle, its part of the fun.
Who cruises to Durban?
There are 39 scheduled port calls to Durban in 2019, while 28 cruises will depart from the city the same year.
All of the Durban cruise departures are aboard MSC Cruises’ ship MSC Musica, which homeports in the city seasonally every year, targeting primarily the local South African source market with 3 and 4-day cruises to islands on the coast of Mozambique.
The 39 scheduled port calls to the city are mostly cruises originating in Cape Town aboard one of the 13 cruise ships from 12 cruise lines that are cruising from Cape Town in 2019.
Oceania Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Seabourn, Voyages to Antiquity, Crystal Cruises, Saga Cruises, Cruise & Maritime Voyages, Viking Cruises, Phoenix Reisen and Princess Cruises will all visit Durban during 2019.