Cape Town as a Cruise Port: The Ultimate Guide

by - March 17, 2022

& 50 Incredible Things to Experience Nearby


Whether you are coming to Cape Town to embark on a cruise or stopping here for a day or two as a port of call on your cruise's itinerary, here is everything thing you need to know to make the most of Cape Town and your cruise experience. 


Why Cape Town may be one of the World's Best Cruise Ship Ports

Having worked on cruise ships for six years and lived in Cape Town for two, I have to say that I believe that Cape Town is one of the best cruise ship ports for visitors in the world. And I’ve been to a LOT of cruise ports!

Arriving at any international destination by ship can be daunting. When you don’t opt for expensive cell-phone roaming services and you’re unfamiliar with a destination’s currency, language and transport systems, together with the added pressure of needing to be back on board by a certain time, these factors can make a port visit a bit stressful. 

To add to this, a city’s cruise port is usually located a fair distance away from its attractions, sometimes in industrial or shipping areas, forcing visitors to travel by unfamiliar transport systems to reach the main tourist hotspots and often making them easy prey to being scammed or overcharged. 

If anything, often the only thing visitors can rely on is a very familiar collection of souvenir and jewellery stores right in the port terminal, built especially for the cruise ship tourists but giving them absolutely no impression of what the destination is actually like. (Well, apart from what is depicted on the souvenir fridge magnets and shot glasses that they sell.)  

Cape Town is definitely not like this!

With MSC having recently resumed cruises off the South African coast and NCL now expected to begin its inaugural South African season later this year, in this post, I explain why visiting Cape Town by cruise ship or embarking on a cruise from this location is such a treat!

The V&A Waterfront, Cape Town as a Cruise Ship Port


Cape Town as an Embarkation or Disembarkation Port:


The Cape Town port is probably less commonly used as a port-of-call mid-cruise and more commonly an embarkation port where guests join the ship for their cruise. 

When I was working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, my mother came to cruise with me. I was determined not to let her stay in any hotel that had the word “airport” in the title (people travelling for leisure should NEVER do that!) and so I put her up in a hotel in South Beach so she could actually experience Miami. Miami is a typical example of a city where a cruise port is located a fair distance from the city’s other attractions, in this case, on an island connected to the downtown area.

When you are not well travelled and you’re travelling to a city to join a ship, I think there is something quite comforting about being close enough to the port that you can see the ship from your hotel. Not only does Cape Town have hotels in view of the cruise port area but some very very nice ones.

Some options include: 
 
  • The Silo Hotel
  • Radisson Red
  • Cape Grace 
  • The One&Only Cape Town
  • The Victoria & Alfred
  • The Hotel Sky
(To name just a few)

Repositioning Cruises and World Cruises

Repositioning cruises are cruises that start and end in different places. Cape Town is often the embarkation port or disembarkation port for cruises that are repositioning to or from Europe or Asia. While world cruises are more rare, Cape Town is on occasion included in these itineraries and has even been selected to be the disembarkation port for Oceania's 79-day world cruise in 2024.

Cape Town port area at night

Experiencing Cape Town from a ship:

Whether you are flying into Cape Town to join your ship or exploring the city while your ship is docked in port, the sights and attractions located near the port area make it one of the world’s best cruise ports.

The V&A Waterfront

The Cape Town Cruise Port is located within walking distance from what is both South Africa’s oldest working harbour as well as the country’s most visited tourist attraction: the V&A Waterfront. 

In 1860 Prince Alfred was the first member of the British Royal family to visit Cape Town when he visited the harbour with the navy. He inaugurated the construction of the Waterfront. One of the basins of the new navy yard was named after him and another his mother, which is how the V&A (Victoria & Alfred) Waterfront got its name. 

The presence of a harbour here played a huge role in the formation of Cape Town as well as the nation in general. Though this historical site is littered with significant landmarks, it is still a working harbour, visited by container and fishing ships. It is most well-known, however, as a shopping and lifestyle destination, attracting more than 25 million visitors a year (when there’s no pandemic, anyway).

The V&A Waterfront as seen from the ocean

Beyond the Waterfront

Not only is there a wealth of activities and experiences that can be had at the V&A Waterfront but it is also the location of a stop on the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus and the starting point for various boat tours (including one that goes to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for a large portion of his 27 years in jail). 

If you would like to explore further afield, the Waterfront is also the location of a pick-up area for Uber and other ride-share services as well as being equipped with free Wi-Fi so you can hail those services. I can’t think of any other port that I have visited that offers such a wealth of experiences within 20 minutes travelling distance from where the ship docks. 

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If you are travelling to Cape Town on a cruise or to join one, here are:

50 Things to do Close to the Cape Town Cruise Port: 

(In V&A Waterfront and Beyond) 

A map of where you can find all these attractions can be found below.

History 

1. Free V&A Waterfront GPS Audio Tour (16 min walk)
You can discover the history of the V&A Waterfront on a free audio tour. It is an hour long and can be taken at one’s own leisure. It starts at the V&A Waterfront Information Centre and finishes at the Zeitz MOCAA in the Silo District.    
Download the VoiceMap app here

The V&A Waterfront, Cape Town


2. Guided walking tour of the V&A Waterfront (9 min walk)
Guided walking tours are also available at set times. Information on ticket prices and tour times can be found at the V&A Waterfront Information Centre. The tour leaves from the Chavonnes Battery.

3. The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island (15 min walk) 
The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island is a museum from which you can take a boat tour to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years behind bars. The prison is now also a museum and World Heritage Site. Many of the tour guides are ex-political prisoners themselves and will share their own personal stories from the prison as they walk you through the building and show you Madiba’s cell. 

The Nelson Mandela prison cell - Robben Island


4. The Jetty 1 Museum (15 min walk) 
The Robben Island Jetty 1 Museum is a much more simplistic Robben Island museum that, like The Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island, serves as a departure point for ferry boats taking visitors to Robben Island. The difference is that the Jetty 1 Museum was once the jetty from which all prisoners, wardens or staff would travel to and return from Robben Island.

5. The South African Maritime Museum (13 min walk)
For anyone who is enthusiastic about ships (me!), this museum provides an overview of the development of the Cape Town port which was built on land reclaimed from the ocean and quite the engineering feat. It is also home to a collection of ship models as well as the odd artefact from a local shipwreck.

6. The Clock Tower (10 min walk)
Built in 1882 (that’s really old for any manmade structure in South Africa), this is the original Port Captain's Office, bearing a clock imported from Edinburgh. 

V&A Waterfront - Clock Tower


7. The Chavonnes Battery Museum (9 min walk)
The Chavonnes Battery Museum contains the ruins of a fort built to protect the peninsula in the early 1700s. It was partially demolished in the mid-1800s and only rediscovered in 1999. It is probably one of Cape Town’s lesser-known but underrated attractions.  

8. Cape Town Diamond Museum (9 min walk) - Shimansky
Diamond mining has played a big role in shaping South Africa’s history and economy. To learn more about this, one can visit the Shimansky Cape Town Diamond Museum which, as the title implies, includes a Shimansky showroom in case you’d like to spend a lot more money than just what the entrance fee costs.

9.  The Robinson Dry Dock (19 min walk)
Again, if you are interested in ships, the Robinson Dry Dock, dating back to 1882, is one of the oldest of its kind in the world still in use today. As an ex-cruise ship crew member, I nearly left this off the list because the term ‘dry dock’ has such negative connotations for us but it is an interesting sight to behold. (Especially if you don’t have to be on fire watch!)

10. Battery Park (8 min walk)
Located on what was once the Amsterdam Battery is a scenic public park. The rear ramparts of the battery built by the Dutch in 1784 remain in place. It was remodelled and fortified by the British in the following century before being partially demolished in 1905. Not only does it offer beautiful views of the city but it is also the site of a skate park, a multi-purpose sports court and a retail area.

Art & Culture 

11. Zeitz MOCAA (7 min walk) 
The Zeitz MOCAA is the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. Its diverse and interesting collection is housed in an impressive architectural structure made out of repurposed historical grain silos. It derives its name from Jochen Zeitz, a German art collector who has loaned his extensive collection to the not-for-profit museum for his lifetime. Much evidence of the industrial building’s former purpose juxtaposes with the art it houses and adds to the whole experience. 

While you are there, be sure to visit the rooftop which offers incredible panoramic views of the city, the port area and the mountain. If you are feeling brave, you can also walk across a glass ceiling over the museum atrium below.

Zeitz MOCAA - V&A Waterfront

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12. Public art
The Waterfront area is littered with statues and public art. Some examples include:

  • Water Wars: A giant penguin by Belgian sculptor William Sweetlove that was created to draw attention to the problem of plastic pollution in the ocean. (11 min walk) 
  • The Rhinos are Coming: - This is possibly the name of the non-profit as opposed to the sculptures themselves but brightly coloured Rhinos can be found scattered around the waterfront, drawing attention to the plight of these endangered animals. 
  • Nobel Square: Here you can also pose with our four Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. (16 min walk)
Nobel Square - V&A Waterfront

13. Art galleries 
If you would like to purchase some art, there are a number of impressive art galleries in the vicinity, including: 

  • The Fine Art Portfolio (9 Min walk)
  • Southern Guild (4 Min walk)
  • Art@Africa (9 Min walk)
  • Wall (10 Min walk)

14. African Trading Port (11 min walk)
The African Trading Port is a store that stocks art from all over Africa. Outside the shop is a collection of oversized sculptures seemingly made from repurposed metal objects. It’s unlikely that you are going to purchase one of these sculptures as it may be tricky to squeeze it into your cabin (you’ll also probably have an issue with the ship’s safety officer because big things on rocking ships tend to fall over) but they do make for an impressive spectacle! 

African Trading Port - V&A Waterfront

The shop is located in the Old Port Captain's Building, a historical building from 1904 that is considered a good example of the Arts and Crafts School of architecture.

15. Buskers and local entertainment
On the weekends there’s always a schedule of entertaining buskers and local performers sprinkled throughout the outdoor areas of the Waterfront. From singers to choirs, acrobats, marimba bands and the occasional human statue, you never know what you may see here. The outdoor amphitheatre (14 min walk) is also often the central focus for the entertainment on offer.

16. You can also be a tourist and pose in one of these frame things (there are at least two)
It’s just one of those things you have to do if you visit Cape Town from literally anywhere else. 

Table Mountain photo frame - V&A Waterfront

(Even the Tinder Swindler posed in this thing if you've seen the Netflix documentary! Not quite as well as me though.)

Activities 


17. The City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour (19 min / 7 min walk depending on where you get on it)
If you would like a tour of the entire city of Cape Town, there is a tour office and two stops for the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour at the V&A Waterfront. 

The company runs three different routes. Some of the attractions located on these routes include:

  • Table Mountain and its aerial cableway. 
  • Camps Bay 
  • The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
  • A number of Constantia wine farms including the renowned Groot Constantia
  • The Imizamo Yethu Township 
  • World of Birds and Monkey Jungle 
  • City Sightseeing’s downtown tour office from where you can take a free historical walking tour of the city.
The City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus Tour - Cape Town


18. Sunset catamaran cruises (11 min walk) 
There’s something quite special about looking out over the water and taking in the sights of the waterfront, the city and the mountain from a catamaran as you sip on champagne (or an alcohol-free alternative) while the sun sets. While all of this already sounds like enough of a feast for the eyes, the influencers influencing on the catamarans add a whole other level of people-watching spectacle. Either way, you’re in for a treat! A variety of catamaran cruises can be booked through the boat operators docked along the water’s edge. 


19. Harbour Boat Tour 
While the catamarans go out to sea and return, boat tours of just the harbour area are also available. Champagne is not included but the ticket prices are a lot lower. 

20. Canal Boat Tour (18 min walk)
While Cape Town is hardly the Venice of Africa, it is home to a small stretch of tranquil canals that run a short distance out of the waterfront towards the Cape Town International Convention Centre. While this doesn’t sound that exciting, these tranquil canals are scenic AF! And though I have not yet done one of these tours (it is on the list!) I have heard that they are inexpensive and underrated.

As it is operated by the City Sightseeing company, the canal boat cruise is a hop-on hop-off tour, so you can prolong the experience by getting off and exploring some of the stops along the way. 

21. Other boat tours: (roughly 16 min walk)
A variety of other boat tours are available including speed boat tours, schooner tours, pirate-themed boat tours (The Jolly Roger Pirate Boat) and various ocean life safaris from which you can see seals, dolphins and if you’re very lucky, a whale.

Table Mountain as seen from the sea


22. Scuba Diving or Snorkelling (14 min walk)
Ocean Experiences offers a range of different Scuba Diving and Snorkelling courses and trips leaving from the V&A Waterfront.

23. The Cape Wheel (13 min walk)
It’s definitely not The London Eye but it is a Ferris wheel in the centre of the Waterfront that offers views of the city, the mountain and the port. 

The Cape Wheel - V&A Waterfront


24. Helicopter Tours (26 min walk)
Waterfront Helicopter Tours and NAC Helicopters offer a variety of different helicopter tours of different lengths allowing people to see beautiful Cape Town from above. 

25. The HintHunt (17 min walk)
The HintHunt is an exciting escape room experience. Participants can choose from a selection of 60, 90 or 120 minute-long challenges to race against the clock, solve the clues, figure out the puzzles and escape the escape room.

26. Bicycle Tours (10 min walk) 
With AWOL Tours you can join a tour group and cycle from the Waterfront through the city to exciting locations like: 

  • Adderley Street
  • Bo-Kaap
  • The Company Gardens
  • St. George’s Mall
  • Green Point Stadium and Eco-Park
  • And the Castle of Good Hope

27. Stand Up Paddleboarding (9 min walk)
The flat water of the canals around the Waterfront precinct make for the perfect conditions to learn or practice Stand Up Paddleboarding (or SUP). SUP Cape Town is located on the canal and provides lessons and equipment rental, while the canal provides the views. 

Stand Up Paddleboarding - V&A Waterfront, Cape Town


28. Roller-skating (13 min walk)
Located at Battery Park in the Waterfront precinct is Rollercade, an indoor roller-skating rink. While it may not be the most distinctly South African experience you've ever had, if your ship is 'overnighting' in port, it does make for a fun night out. Take your socks, they’ll provide the DJ! 

Experiences


29. The Two Ocean’s Aquarium (19 min walk) 
The Two Ocean’s Aquarium is home to a vast array of sea creatures from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans which meet not far from Cape Town. (Hence the name.) It is committed to educating visitors about preserving the ocean as well as rehabilitating and protecting ocean life. 

Of the 300 species of marine animals that can be found here, some of the highlights include ragged-tooth sharks, turtles, jack-ass penguins (which seem to be undergoing some sort of rebrand to be known as “African penguins”) and jellyfish. There’s also an octopus hiding in one of the round tanks, if you can find it you get a prize! …Okay, no, you don’t. But I think you should! 


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30. The Scratch Patch / Cave Golf (17 min walk)
If you are a fan of gemstones, this one is for you! A scratch patch is basically an area where they cover the ground in polished gemstones and you can play with them and purchase a selection of your favourites by the bag. Just writing this, makes it sound ridiculous but my friends dragged me to one (it was technically the Simon’s Town branch) and I found myself spending money on actual rocks! …And you can too! 

Kids, for some reason, love it. And there is also an indoor putt-putt course (decorated with fake rocks to look like a cave) on site. 

The Scratch Patch, Cape Town

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Food


31. V&A Food Market (14 min walk)
While the Zeitz MOCAA may be located in a converted silo building, the V&A Food Market can be found in a repurposed power station that once brought power to the Cape Town dockyard. It is home to about 40 different artisanal food vendors showcasing local and international delights. 

32. Local dining: (14 min walk)
The V&A Waterfront precinct is home to a variety of dining options, many of which can be found in the large shopping mall found on site. If you want a distinctly South African dining experience, I recommend:  

  • Spur: If cultural appropriation is greatly offensive to you, maybe dine elsewhere. But if you can see the humour in the fact that a Native American-themed restaurant is the "Restaurant of the South African family”, this is the place to go! It’s also a great place to find a cheap steak! 
  • There’s also Grand Life Cafe which is where all the influencers go for a photoshoot (and possibly a meal) after their sunset catamaran photoshoot. The people-watching here is next level!
  • Gibson’s Gourmet Burgers & Ribs: Okay, so this restaurant is very American-inspired but that didn’t stop me from including Spur on the list! I don’t really eat burgers so I can’t comment on whether or not they succeeded in creating the world’s best burger but I can vouch for the fact that the milkshake selection is very extensive. With over 200 options available, good luck choosing just one!
  • Mugg & Bean: A Chicago-inspired (I’m noticing a trend here) coffee shop chain, popular throughout South Africa.
  • Karibu is probably more along the lines of what comes to mind when you think ‘South African restaurant’, serving actual South African cuisine. Here you can sample local delicacies such as bobotie, potjiekos, snoek, putu, chakalaka, koeksisters and, of course, braaivleis.
  • You can also dine on African cuisine from other parts of the continent at Mozambik which serves the Afro-Porto fusion cuisine of Mozambique.
  • If being in a port area makes you crave freshly caught fish, local seafood restaurants include: Fisherman’s Choice, Cape Town Fish Market and Ocean Basket.
  • If you’re having too much fun and just want to grab something on the go, South African fast food joints include Nando’s (Portuguese South African), Wimpy (also American diner theme), Steers and Debonairs.
Grand Life Cafe / V&A Waterfront at night


33. International dining (14 min walk)
Some people want to explore new things, some people travel to convince themselves that people aren’t so different and are comforted by the familiar. Based on how many people asked me how to find the nearest Starbucks in the Caribbean (even in Cuba!), in this port you’re in luck!

  • Compare our KFC to yours. (We have something called ‘pap’ on the menu, you could call it a local delicacy.)
  • Get your Cape Town souvenir mug from Starbucks. 
  • You’ll also find MacDonalds, Krispy Kreme and I’m sure others that I am overlooking. 
  • The Waterfront also has a range of restaurants covering an array of other nationalities. My sweet tooth has forced me to make special mention of the Lindt Chocolate Studio, a speciality Swiss chocolate establishment that offers not just chocolate but chocolate-related baking experiences. 

Shopping


34. The Watershed (17 min walk)
The Watershed is a market where over 150 tenants sell art, crafts and the products of small local brands. Here you’ll find a distinctly local collection of ceramics, textiles, furniture, fashion and jewellery. It also hosts exhibitions, live entertainment and workshops. 

35. Local shops (14 min walk)
Some distinctly local shops found in the mall include:

  • Carrol Boyes: A collection of cutlery by a local artist. 
  • Local women’s clothing stores include: Poetry, Truworths, Foschini and Nicci Boutique. 
  • Young Designers’ Emporium: Showcases the collections of up-and-coming local designers.
  • Mr Price: South Africa’s Primark.
  • Cape Union Mart: For camping, hiking and outdoor attire.
  • Old Khaki: Local clothes for men and women (our attempt at Old Navy, I’m guessing?)    

36. International shops (14 min walk)
You can shop like an international fashionista with brands such as: Tommy Hilfiger, G-Star, Gucci, Pandora, Guess, Steve Madden, Zara, Michael Kors, Superdry, Superga, Burberry, H&M, Polo, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, MAC, Emporio Armani and others.  

Just beyond the V&A Waterfront:


37. Kayaking
Atlantic Outlook Adventures offers kayak tours from the waterfront. (19 min walk)
Alternatively, a bit further beyond that is Kaskazi Kayaks & Adventures (8 min drive) where I went Kayaking with dolphins. 

Kaskazi Kayaks & Adventures, Cape Town

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38. Oranjezicht City Farm Market (8 min drive / 21 min walk)
This is Cape Town’s attempt at an artisan food/farmers' market. It used to be located on the Oranjezicht Farm, a historical farm in Cape Town. Then they moved it to this location and even though it is no longer in the area known as Oranjezicht, they kept the name to confuse people.


39. Museums: 
If you wish to discover more about South Africa’s history, there are a number of museums in the city centre including:

  • The District 6 Museum: A museum that honours District 6 and the forced removal of 60 000 people from their homes on the basis of race during the Apartheid era.  (13 min drive) 
  • The South African Museum: Founded in 1825, this is South Africa’s first museum. It is home to various zoological, paleontological and archaeological collections. (10 min drive)
  • The Jewish Museum & Holocaust Centre: Located in an impressive modern building, this museum pays tribute to Jewish life and the history of Judaism in South Africa.  (12 min drive)
  • The Iziko Old Town House Museum: This museum is based in the former City Hall, an opulent Cape Rococo style building built in the 18th century. It is now an art gallery where you can see the Michaelis Collection consisting of Dutch Golden Age works. (10 min drive)
  • The Iziko Slave Lodge: A museum devoted to the history of slavery in South Africa. The upper level is home to an art gallery (not related to slavery necessarily). (10 min drive)

40. The Castle of Good Hope (10 min drive)
This is South Africa’s oldest building. It was built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) between 1666 and 1679 and is considered the best-preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort in the world. The historical buildings are well-preserved and house a number of museum exhibitions as well as some art and cultural exhibitions. The ramparts allow for scenic views of the mountain and the city, and the engravings left by prisoners on the interior of their cells are not to be missed. 

It may take a bit of advance booking but you can even go journeying through the tunnels underneath it.

The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town



41. Free Cape Town Walking Tours (Motherland Coffee Company) (14 min drive) 
If you would like to discover the city’s history, free walking tours are available from the downtown area. From this tour you can see:

  • The Grand Parade: Cape Town's main public square
  • A number of museums including those mentioned above
  • The Castle of Good Hope
  • St. Georges Cathedral
  • The Arch for Arch (A monument constructed in honour of Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu) 
  • The Greenmarket Square
  • The Company’s Garden 
  • And the City Hall (Here, a statue of Nelson Mandela marks the spot where he made his first speech after being released from prison.)

42. Bo-Kaap  (9 min drive)
Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap was originally the home of slaves that were brought to Cape Town from Malaysia, Indonesia and different parts of Africa. The neighbourhood is steeped in history. Not only is it home to the Auwal Masjid, South Africa’s oldest mosque, but it is also said to hold the largest concentration of pre-1850 architecture in the country. Though it was a racially segregated area, it was not the victim of forced removals common in the Apartheid era like the nearby community of District 6.

Despite its rich cultural heritage, with its striking brightly painted houses, it is most commonly visited for the photo opportunities it provides. So, if you’re one of those awful people who only travel for the pictures, I’m sure this area is already on your list.

Bo-Kaap, Cape Town


43. The Sea Point / Green Point Promenade (11 min drive)
If you feel like a scenic stroll along the oceanfront, that’s what “the prom” is all about. The walkway that stretches through these areas is frequented by walkers, joggers and cyclists (bicycles can be rented nearby). The promenade is also sprinkled with landmarks and littered with public art, like the somewhat controversial "Mandela Glasses" or Rayban ad that points to Robben Island and is technically titled ‘Perceiving Freedom’. You may also spot some play areas, putt-putt courses, public pools and the Green Point Lighthouse that was first lit in 1824. 

Depending on the time of year, you may spot dolphins and possibly even whales from this viewpoint. 

The Sea Point Promenade, Cape Town


44. The Belmont Mount Nelson Hotel (17 min drive)
The Mount Nelson hotel is a luxury hotel built in the late 19th Century on a historical estate where deer 
once roamed. It became the British military headquarters during the Second Boer War when it hosted Winston Churchill. It was later painted pink for peace in 1918. It has also hosted H.G. Wells, Lady Jenny Churchill, Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie and Edward, Prince of Wales. In keeping with its British Colonial heritage, it has a reputation for its high teas.

45. The Sky-HI Ride (15 min walk / 8 min drive - driving recommended) 
If you’re looking for an exhilarating adrenaline rush to go with your panoramic views of Cape Town, this is the experience for you! Located on the 28th Floor of Hotel Sky, this breath-taking drop ride reaches a free-fall speed of up to 100km per hour and almost 4G’s. Where do I sign up?

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46. Rooftop bars
There’s something special about taking in aerial views of the city or watching a sunset while sipping on a cocktail at a rooftop bar. Cape Town has quite a few:

  • Radisson RED V&A Waterfront (6 min walk)
  • 14 Stories Rooftop Bar (7 min drive)
  • Rough Diamond Rooftop Bar (12 min drive) 
  • Harold’s Bar & Terrace (9 min drive)
  • Vista Bar & Lounge (17 min walk)

47. Salt River / Woodstock art tours (10 min drive)
Enjoy the street art of Salt River and Woodstock, the site of Cape Town’s annual street art festival, on a guided walking tour with Baz-Art. Alternatively, you can experience some of the antique stores or artisanal food and craft markets found in the area.

Leopard Street art - Salt River / Woodstock art tours

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48. Beaches: 

The Clifton Beaches (20 min drive)
The Clifton beaches (numbered one to four) are the closest beaches to the Waterfront. They are also some of Cape Town’s most sheltered beaches on windy days. Each of the four beaches seems to have its own reputation and vibe. I haven’t lived here long enough to know one from the other but apparently, nudity is fairly commonplace at Clifton 4th. I'm not sure if that's an attraction or a deterrent but there you go!

Camps Bay (20 min drive)
Camps Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The white sand beach is lined with palm trees, bars, restaurants and hotels, against the backdrop of a mountain range known as the 12 Apostles. It is very popular among the wealthy and the beautiful, and would probably be even more popular if not for the chilly Atlantic ocean. It’s the perfect place to stop for a stroll along the water's edge (if not a swim) and a cocktail, especially if the sun is setting at the end of the day.

Camps Bay, Cape Town

49. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (20 min drive)
Kirstenbosch is a botanical garden at the foot of table mountain and prime frolicking terrain. It’s over 100 years old, so I guess that means it's historical too. If biodiversity and indigenous flora turn you on, this is the place for you!

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And of course:
50. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (19 min drive)
Table Mountain is obviously Cape Town’s most iconic landmark and one of those things you just have to do when you visit this city but it can be quite time-consuming. This is the kind of activity that takes at least half of the day so be sure to set aside enough time. 

While you can climb the mountain, unless you are a super fit, trail-running triathlete, take my advice and take the cable car. You may wait in the queue for about 2 hours (at least that was the case pre-pandemic) but I promise you will still get to the top faster and once you are there, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to walk around as much as you like without half killing yourself.



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So if you’re coming to Cape Town to join a ship and you’re wondering whether or not you should extend your stay on either side of your cruise, the answer is “Of course you should, yes!” 

Here is a map where you can find all of the above-mentioned attractions:




I recommend downloading the offline version of this map or using another map app that allows you to use GPS to navigate your way around, even when you don't have internet access or cell phone roaming services. 


Free Wi-Fi (for downloading maps or hailing ride-share services) can be found in these places at the V&A Waterfront:

  • The Victoria Wharf
  • The Silo District
  • The Watershed
  • The Cruise Terminal
  • Battery Park
Table Mountain as seen from the V&A Waterfront


P.S. For the crew members visiting Cape Town:

Everything you need can be found at the V&A Waterfront:

  • Mr Price is the Primark of South Africa
  • Pick n Pay is where you go for inexpensive groceries 
  • You can find free Wi-Fi at the places mentioned above and a charging station (with a view) here:
Phone charging area - V&A Waterfront

  • And yes, there is a Starbucks!

Which cruise lines dock at this port in Cape Town?

While some port cities have more than one cruise ship port, Cape Town only has one. Cape Town's cruise port is visited by cruise lines such as:

  • Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
  • AIDA Cruises
  • TUI Cruises
  • Holland America
  • MSC
  • Azamara
  • Oceania
  • Regent 
  • Phoenix Reisen
  • Costa
  • NCL


Safety Tips for Cruise Visitors to Cape Town:

  • Do not wander far from the main tourist areas on foot. 
  • Do not walk around at night. 
  • Travel by reliable ride-share services like Uber if journeying into unfamiliar areas or travelling at night.
  • Keep your valuables out of sight and do not use your phone while walking. 
  • Do not leave valuables unattended (even for a minute). 
  • If dining in a high traffic area, keep your bag on your person. 
  • The emergency number in South Africa is 112 or 10111 for the police. 


Cape Town and Poverty 

Be advised that there are a lot of homeless people around. People from First World countries who are not used to witnessing poverty may find this unsettling. 

Often these people will sell heart stickers for R20. It's not unethical to buy them and once you've experienced how many heart icons are sprinkled around Cape Town, they may make for a nice souvenir. Alternatively, you can make a donation to a charity such as U-Turn that works to sustainably uplift the homeless. Do not give money to street children. 


Pin: The Ultimate Guide to Cape Town as a Cruise Ship Port

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7 comments

  1. Such a great and informative guide of our beautiful Cape Town! Picked up a good few tips too. Thanks for this post.

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  2. I've been dying to visit Cape Town, so it's fascinating to see what a significant cruise ship port it is. I hope to explore at sea here one day myself!

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  3. This is such a thorough list - I love that you included the map and driving distance for everything! Also, gorgeous photos!

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  4. You had me at The Scratch Patch! That's too cool - I love gem stones. I would have spent entirely too much money on a bunch of rocks lol. Cape Town looks amazing too!

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  5. Wow there are certainly a lot of amazing things to do here! I'd love to explore it for a few days.

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  6. Great post! I'd love to visit Cape Town, and it's great to know there are so many good things to do near the port. Thanks for sharing!

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  7. I absolutely loved Cape Town - I hope that I get to visit some day on a cruise. Thank you for such great information and thorough list of things to do!

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