Where are the historians and fact-checkers? I think my name should go into the history books as the first Ghanaian to explore West Africa on a luxury cruise ship. One, I don’t think there are many cruises like this along the West African coast; and two, Ghanaians usually don’t go on such cruises!

In April, I joined the elegant SH Vega cruise for the Cultural Crucibles of West Africa: From Accra to Dakar. The 13-Day Expedition Cruise was a delightful 5-star voyage of dining, relaxation, music, and a lot of adventure.

SH Vega is a 5-star elegant Scandi-design boutique ship that offers an intimate setting for guests to fully be immersed in all the sights and sounds of their voyage.

SH Vega’s Sophisticated Elegance is accentuated by spacious, relaxing public spaces which provide wide open, unobstructed views throughout the ship. The destination is always in view.

The Elegant Scandi interior is designed in neutral tones using natural textures. The smooth lines and rounded walls allow for a relaxing yet light ambiance. The rich textiles, varied textures, and intimate lighting create a harmonious, comfortable environment. Lighting options for every mood, along with a mesmerizing holographic fireplace create the perfect relaxing space.

Suites have a separate living room and bedroom. All staterooms are equipped with spacious wardrobes and bathrooms. My Balcony stateroom featured a 6-square meter panoramic balcony.

SH Vega has everything to make the stay of guests memorable and enjoyable. Deck 3 has a clinic, library, beauty salon, and expedition lab. Deck 4 has the reception, launderette, and the amazing Swan restaurant where we had dinner and breakfast regularly. Deck 7 has a shop, swimming pool, pool bar and grill, club lounge, and an observation lounge. There is a gym, sauna, jacuzzi, spa, and a bridge on deck 8, while deck 9 offers a stargazing experience like no other for guests!

The Swan Dining Room serves international and regional cuisine focused on quality, creativity, and flavours. With an open seating policy, guests can dine at their leisure, from breakfast through to dinner. Breakfast and Lunch are served on the buffet, while dinner is a sit-down affair complete with white tablecloths and linen napkins.

The Cultural Crucibles of West Africa started when we sailed from the Tema Harbor to the Takoradi harbour and made our way to the infamous Elmina Castle. I hadn’t been hear in over two decades so it was interesting reliving the history of the transatlantic slave trade.

The next stop of the adventure was in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire. We made our way to Grand-Bassam a town in southeastern Ivory Coast, lying east of Abidjan. During the late 19th century, Grand-Bassam was briefly the French colonial capital of Ivory Coast. Because of its outstanding examples of colonial architecture and town planning, and the juxtaposition of the colonial town with a traditional Nzema village, the historic center of Grand-Bassam was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012.

The next country of visit was Sierra Leone, where we entered via the port in Freetown. We visited the Sierra Leone National Railway Museum, an incredible collection of British-built trains that has survived 40 years hidden in a derelict railway workshop.

We then visited the Original Fourah Bay College building, located at the east end of Freetown. Fourah Bay College opened in 1827 as the first institution of higher learning in modern sub-Saharan Africa after the collapse of the one at Timbuktu.

We then made our way to the peace and culture monument where we met the minister of tourism and checked out the oldest cotton tree (which is over 500 years old) as well as the national museum which are all in very close proximity.

We then ended our visit to Sierra Leone with some food, fun, and games at the Tokeh beach resort.

Guinea Bissau was our next country of visit, where we stayed within the Bijagos archipelago for 3 nights. Here I had my first experience with the zodiac, which took us from the ship to the various islands.

We kicked things off with a visit to Bolama, the closest of the Bissagos Islands to the mainland of Guinea-Bissau. The island is almost surrounded by mangrove swamps and is known for its cashew nuts.

We later had a nature walk visit to experience the life of the people of the Roxa or Canhabaque

On day two in the Bijagos archipelago, we visited the Bubaque Island, known for its wildlife and heavy forests. We met of the people of the village who entertained us with music, drumming, and dancing.

On the final day in Bijagos, we visited the stunning Kere island. A private island with hotel and restaurant facilities, games, and more.

My final country on the expedition for me was the Gambia. Here we had a tour of Banjul, the capital. We visited the Gambia National Museum, home to historical documents and displays concerning the History of the Gambia. We experienced the iconic Kankurang dance by Mandinka masquerades.

We also passed by the local market briefly before making our way to Kunta Kinteh Island. As an important historical site in the West African slave trade, it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kunta Kinte, a character described in Alex Haley’s book and TV series Roots, has become associated with this Island. The book states that Kunta Kinte was among 98 slaves that the slave ship Lord Ligonier brought to Annapolis, Maryland in 1767.

Source: Ameyaw Debrah

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