South African cruise passengers are eager to get back to sea after more than a year of no cruising, says Ross Volk, Managing Director of MSC Cruises South Africa.
MSC Cruises South Africa says there is immense local demand for the upcoming cruise season aboard MSC Musica, which is scheduled to homeport in Durban between November, 2021 and March, 2022.
“We’ve seen that South Africans are eager to travel based on the strong advance trends,” he said. “This is also evidenced by the spike in guest demand as we’ve introduced exciting promotions with our early booking special offers.”
This is despite the ongoing uncertainty over whether the coming South African cruise season will even be allowed to go ahead. At present, South Africa’s anti-COVID-19 regulations prohibit “passenger ships for international leisure purposes“.
MSC Cruises finds itself in a similar situation to last year, when it engaged in talks with the South African government to allow cruises from Durban and Cape Town, but was ultimately forced to cancel the season.
“We remain actively engaged with all the relevant government departments and we look forward to receiving go-ahead to restart soon,” said Volk, echoing similar comments last year.
There are four cruise lines scheduled to homeport in South Africa for the coming season (MSC Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Azamara and Norwegian Cruise Line).
Cruise operations from South Africa remain on hold, however, as even the country’s most relaxed lockdown restrictions at Level 1 don’t allow cruises, and given the stubbornly high rate of infection and low vaccination uptake, that’s unlikely to change in the near future.
It’s a sad state of affairs for the local cruise market, which was seeing rampant growth in the years before COVID-19 struck. In 2018, some 50,000 cruise tourists visited Cape Town, compared to just 6,000 in 2012.
Cape Town had received new cruise terminal in 2018, providing a significant boost to the number of cruise ships calling in the city, or using it as a turnaround port, while Durban was scheduled to have a new cruise terminal for the ill-fated 2020/21 cruise season.
Despite the uncertainty regarding the coming 2021/22 cruise season, all four cruise lines continue to hold out hope of a turnaround in local regulations and the COVID-19 situation on the ground in the country.
MSC Musica is scheduled to sail from Durban to Pomene Bay in Mozambique as part of a four-night cruise on November 18th.
Mein Schiff Herz of TUI is scheduled to cruise roundtrip from Cape Town on a two week cruise on December 1st.
Norwegian Jade is scheduled to sail the first of several 12-night roundtrip cruises from Cape Town on January 2nd, 2022, followed by Azamara Pursuit with a similar itinerary on January 3rd.
MSC Cruises South Africa doesn’t see the low vaccine uptake and ongoing COVID-19 situation in the country as a major impediment to its coming summer cruise season.
“In the short to medium term MSC Cruises is prepared for the hybrid situation of safely transporting vaccinated and unvaccinated guests with the support of our rigorous universal testing procedures and other measures under our industry leading protocol,” said Volk.
“We believe that vaccination should co-exist with testing systems and other health and safety measures and should be seen as an advanced extension of responsible travel,” he added.
All passengers boarding MSC Musica in November “will still have to have antigen swab tests prior to embarkation.”
An extra layer of testing will apply to unvaccinated passengers, who will be required to undertake an RT-PCR COVID-19 test 72 hours before they arrive at the cruise terminal.