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Cape Town (Photo:Alexcpt_photography/Shutterstock)
Cape Town (Photo:Alexcpt_photography/Shutterstock)
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Emily Payne
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Cape Town

Beautiful, sophisticated, socially progressive, democratic, engaging, hopeful -- these words capture Cape Town's very essence. Table Mountain majestically holds court over the city, found between Table Bay and the Cape Flats. This South African jewel serves as the ideal base for intrepid travelers wishing to explore all of the Rainbow Nation from the Cape of Good Hope and the rolling Cape Winelands to the adrenalin-charged safari game reserves, near the country's northeastern border.

Shore Excursions

About Cape Town


A stylish waterfront welcomes you as soon as you are docked; it's like the Hamptons of South Africa


It's a major city, so be savvy; don't flaunt valuables or walk in unfamiliar places after dark

Bottom Line

From Table Mountain and game reserves to shopping and vineyards, Cape Town has a surprising amount to offer

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This fishhook-shaped peninsula, lashed by fierce waters of the Atlantic Ocean, is an enigma. Cape Town often feels more like an old European bastion than an African outpost. Since banning apartheid in 1990, the city has become more cosmopolitan, while still struggling with the effects of years of social inequality. Case in point? Cape Town's Lamborghini dealership sits just blocks from the massive townships east of Table Mountain. Yet, there's an infectious sense of hope, and the residents are some of the friendliest you'll find anywhere in the world.

Cape Town offers a range of mesmerizing opportunities to learn about South Africa: its tribal past, wine region, Dutch, British and Cape Malay influences, and unique and striking flora and fauna.

Where You're Docked

Most cruise ships dock at Table Bay Harbour, within walking distance of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. But some larger ships dock at Duncan dock, where you will require a taxi or transport organized by the cruise line to get to places of interest. As a U.S. or U.K. citizen, you won't need a visa to enter South Africa. However, you will need a passport with four empty pages. It must also be valid throughout your stay, as well as six months after your departure.

Port Facilities

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with Table Mountain in the distance, is a focal point of Cape Town and is home to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, which features more than 450 shops, including fashion stores like Topshop and Mango, as well as markets, restaurants, hotels, the Two Oceans Aquarium, and the Iziko South African Maritime Museum. You will find plenty of ATM's and Internet cafes in the V&A Waterfront, as well as two information centers, found on Dock Road (alongside Ferryman's Pub) and at the Waterfront information kiosk in Victoria Wharf.

Good to Know

Like other cities in South Africa, crime can be an issue in Cape Town. Safeguard yourself! Don't walk anywhere after dark. Don't wear expensive jewelry or carry lots of camera equipment in areas with which you're not familiar. If you rent a car, don't leave valuables in the trunk.

Getting Around

On Foot: During the day, you can easily and safely walk from your ship to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront complex if you are moored nearby. If you are farther away at Duncan dock, you should order a taxi.

By Taxi: Taxis are the best way to get around the city. Restaurant hosts and shopkeepers will gladly call a cab on your behalf. You can't hail a taxi on the streets of Cape Town, so order a cab by phone through one of the many taxi companies. They're not cheap, but they are safer than the mini-bus taxis -- especially at night.

By Train: The Southern Line Rail Route, which stretches from Cape Town to Simonstown, is highly recommended. The train stops at several beautiful suburbs and coastal villages. Train travel does not always run on time, so consider this when planning your day. Be aware of potential pickpockets.

By Bus: One of the best ways to get around is by using the City Sightseeing bus, which gives you the option of hopping on and off at various major attractions throughout the day.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Locals refer to their currency as the "buck", but the rand (ZAR) is the official term. Each rand equals 100 cents. Note denominations include R200, R100, R50, R20, and R10. The current exchange rate is one U.S. dollar to 9 rand. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com and www.xe.com.) While MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club credit cards are widely accepted, it's a good idea to carry rand for small purchases. Cape Town offers many foreign exchange facilities, including American Express and Rennies Travel. Be aware when using ATM machines, and keep your pin number hidden, especially in busy downtown areas.


The population is multilingual, but English is most commonly understood. The three ethnic, tribal languages you'll hear most often are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans, but you might also hear Sepedi, Sotho, Tswana, Swati, Venda, Tsonga and Ndebele. Among English speakers, a strong vernacular has developed, with several slang words that would be unrecognizable, such as:

Braai: barbecue
Cooldrink: the common term for all fizzy drinks
Howzit? : how are you?
Just now: in the foreseeable future
Lekker: cool, nice, great

Food and Drink

You'll find a huge variety of options for your midday meal including locally inspired Cape Malay, Indian and Continental cuisine. Seafood is very popular, so don't miss your chance to enjoy fresh fish and shellfish. The langoustines are a real treat.

Eat like a local and head to any of the docks for fish and chips. Kalky's (021-788-1726) at Kalk Bay is a popular option. This place is as unassuming as it gets, with indoor and outdoor seating (tables and benches). But, the fresh hake, snoek (the local speciality) and chips are delectable. (Kalk Bay Harbour, Kalk Bay; open Monday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.)

Panama Jacks, in Table Bay Harbour, is a tourist favorite. The seafood-heavy menu features hake, trout, tuna, prawns, lobster, calamari, mussels and more. The menu also features sushi and entrees like prime rib and lamb. (Quay 500, Cape Town Harbour; open for lunch from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., closed for Saturday lunch.)

The Western Cape is also home to the Cape Malay style of cooking, brought to South Africa by Indonesians and Malaysians. Curry dishes, bobotie (minced meat, sweetened with brown sugar, raisins and apricots) and samosas can be sampled at Bo Kaap Kombuis. You'll also be dazzled by the sweeping views of Table Mountain. (No. 7 August Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town; open Tuesday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed on Monday.)


Steer clear of the mass-produced wooden giraffes and elephants; they are not often a product of Cape Town. Some are made in China. Instead, look out for street sellers who make fantastic wire and bead sculptures and baskets; they are made by the road side, so each one is unique.

Best Cocktail

When in South Africa, you must observe the stalwart "sundowner" tradition of sipping a refreshing beverage while witnessing a spectacular African sunset, whether you're at a bar on the Victoria Wharf, on the white sand beach at Camps Bay or out on safari. Locally made Amarula liqueur -- made from the fruit of the marula tree -- is a favorite. Drink it on ice or knock it back in a "Springbokkie" -- a delicious double-layered shooter made with creme de menthe.