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

By 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.

About Cape Town


Pro

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

Con

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.

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.

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.

Language

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

Shopping

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.