South Africa’s cruise season for the coming 2021/22 summer has been given the go-ahead at the last minute, suggesting the country may be able to salvage some cruise itineraries after almost two years of no local cruises.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa is now an adjusted Alert Level 1, with cruise tourism one of the activities that can now resume.
“It’s been a long wait, and we’re pleased that we will be able to have a cruise season start this year,” David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront, told News 24.
“We’re excited and ready to welcome back international guests and crews to Cape Town and to pick up where we left off in growing this sector of our tourism,” he added.
Cape Town is South Africa’s primary cruise port, although Durban is the homeport for MSC Cruises’ annual South African cruise season between November and March.
MSC Musica was due to homeport in Durban for the 2020/21 cruise season, until it was cancelled at the last minute due to local and international travel restrictions.
The ship is currently in Genoa, Italy. MSC Cruises has not yet indicated whether the South African cruise season for 2021/22 will go ahead, but the cruise line has a May, 2022 departure from Durban scheduled on its website, suggesting it has plans for a repositioning voyage following the conclusion of the upcoming season.
Cape Town, meanwhile, has 36 cruise calls expected between November, 2021 and May, 2022, according to Wesgro, the official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for the Western Cape.
All 2021 cruises from Cape Town were cancelled in September, prior to the announcement of a transition to Level 1 by President Ramaphosa. Cruise lines are now moving to reschedule departures from the port, with AIDAaura due to cruise from the city on November 28th.
The move by SA to allow cruises to resume follows other cruise destinations around the world, which have put in place strict COVID-19 health and safety protocols to mitigate the risk of an outbreak onboard.
These include vaccine mandates, mask wearing, social distancing and enhanced sanitation of ships. It’s unclear at this stage what safety protocols the various cruise lines sailing from Cape Town will put in place.
AIDA Cruises, TUI Cruises, Phoenix Reisen, Azamara and Norwegian Cruise Line are all scheduled to cruise from Cape Town, either during the last few months of 2021, or during the tail-end of the current season in early 2022.
According to Alderman James Vos, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, cruise tourism in the city has seen significant growth year-on-year.
In 2012, 6,050 passengers arrived in Cape Town on cruise ships, and by the 2018/19 season, this figure reached 52,580.