South Africa’s ports are ramping up for a bumper cruise season with at least eight luxury cruise lines and over ten passenger vessels of varying sizes set to ferry international and domestic tourists across the country’s port cities.
The South African cruise season kicked off officially in October with a number of smaller vessels already having called at South Africa’s ports. They are en route to and from travel hotspots in Africa, Europe, the Far East, the Mediterranean, South America and more.
However the MSC SINFONIA – the largest and most popular cruise ship in the local cruise calendar – marked a highlight in the 2015/16 cruise calendar when she arrived in her homeport of Durban in the early hours of Thursday, 19 November. This was her first South African call this season.
Fresh from a EUR50m revamp, the already impressive vessel has been upgraded with new features and facilities, including lengthening by an extra 24m and the addition of around 200 extra balcony cabins with capacity for around 500 more passengers.
The upgrades called for close collaboration between TNPA and MSC to ensure that the longer vessel could be accommodated at South African ports.
TNPA’s Port Manager for the Port of Durban, Moshe Motlohi, said, “The newly lengthened MSC SINFONIA will now be accommodated at the longer M berth in the Port of Durban, however other cruise liners will continue to be served at Durban’s N Shed cruise ship facility, which has recently been upgraded through a joint initiative between TNPA and MSC. This has brought the terminal more in line with international standards and will cater for the growth of the local cruise tourism sector.”
N-Shed now boasts a number of new features for an improved passenger experience such as new signage, immigration and check-in desks, a new fast track lounge, new baggage scanners and conveyor belt, an air-conditioning system, extra seating, balustrades, turnstiles and sail shades, new ramps and a back-up generator and UPS in the event of load shedding.
TNPA also recently awarded the tender for the upgrade of the cruise facility at E Berth in the Port of Cape Town to the V&A Waterfront and is finalising the Terminal Operator Agreement with the preferred bidder. The V&A Waterfront has proposed a three-phase growth plan involving capital spend aimed at enhancing the passenger experience. The terminal upgrade makes up the first phase of a larger site revamp. Once completed, the port’s passenger terminal will be able to accommodate its current and future passenger vessel fleet. It is also envisaged that the upgraded facility will house value-added retail and hospitality services.
The RMS ST HELENA was the first passenger vessel to call this season when she berthed in Cape Town in October. MS OCEAN PRINCESS, owned by Princess Cruises, has called at the Port of Cape Town followed by calls at East London and Durban. MS AMADEA, owned by Amadea Shipping Company and operated under charter by the Germany-based Phoenix Reisen, has called thus far at Cape Town, Mossel Bay, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban and Richards Bay. Holland America Line’s MS ROTTERDAM also called at Cape Town.
The South African cruise season runs from late October to early May.