SA Cruise News

Current 2020/21 South African cruise season looking increasingly unlikely

The tightening of anti-COVID-19 restrictions in South Africa has all but cancelled the 2020/21 cruise season out of Cape Town and Durban, with President Ramaphosa warning against travelling over Christmas and New Year.

While South African cruise officials, and the country’s principle cruise operator MSC Cruises SA, have not confirmed it, the 2020/21 South African cruise season is most likely not going ahead in light of the new restrictions, and MSC Cruises SA has dropped all December departures from its website.

The South African cruise season is meant to run from November to April annually.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced that daily COVID-19 cases in the country have skyrocketed beyond 5,000 a day, while the daily average of COVID-19 deaths has increased by nearly 50% over the last week to just over 150 deaths.

In light of this, the sale of alcohol from retail outlets will only be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday, and the national curfew has been extended from 11pm to 4am.

“The curfew is meant to prevent gatherings that go on late into the night while enabling restaurants, bars, and taverns to continue to operate and earn an income,” Ramaphosa said.

MSC Opera was due to cruise roundtrip from Cape Town for the 2020/21 season.

“We should all remember that the hours of curfew also apply to Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. This means that we will all need to make changes to the way in which we celebrate these occasions,” he added.

In a major blow to the country’s cruise tourism sector, Ramaphosa also announced that all beaches in the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route in the Western Cape would be closed from December 16th to January 3rd.

All beaches in KwaZulu-Natal will be closed on the 16th, 25th, 26th and 31st of December as well as on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of January. All other beaches in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape will remain open.

South Africa’s beaches, a major draw for cruise tourists, have been closed.

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In addition, festivals, live music, and live performances at beaches will be prohibited.

The new restrictions are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 through large social gatherings, according to the president.

“We have undertaken extensive consultations on this issue so that we can find an approach that reduces the risk of large-scale transmission while limiting the negative impact on businesses in coastal areas,” he said.

The South African government’s renewed restrictions make it unlikely that the upcoming cruise season will be allowed to go ahead, as cruise ships are seen by authorities as potential super-spreader hotspots.

South Africa’s tourist hotspot, the Garden Route, is also a major COVID-19 hotspot.

In addition, the country’s principle cruise tourism hotspot, the Garden Route, has also emerged as a coronavirus hotspot, alongside the Sarah Baartman district, in the Eastern Cape and the Nelson Mandela Bay metro area.

SA authorities have also said that no more than 100 people are now allowed at indoor events and no more than 250 people at outdoor events, making it all but impossible for cruise ships to accommodate any passengers.

It’s important to note that this is speculation, as neither MSC Cruises or Cape Town or Durban tourism officials have confirmed the cancellation of the 2020/21 cruise season. The season was initially scheduled to begin in November, and was pushed back to December, before being postponed again until January.

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