MSC Cruises says it is awaiting further information from the South African government on specific guidelines for visitors before reconfirming its 2021/22 cruise schedules for Cape Town and Durban, according to Seatrade Cruise News.
MSC Cruises has homeported annually in South Africa since the 1990s during the November to March summer cruise season, but has yet to confirm whether it will send any ships to the country this year.
The statement comes a day after Azamara announced it would be sailing a South African cruise season between January and March, 2021.
While MSC Cruises typically homeports in Durban for most of the cruise season, it had deployed two ships to the country for the 2019/2020 cruise season, sailing out of both Cape Town and Durban.
That cruise season was cut short by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and MSC has not been able to cruise in the country since, although it did keep MSC Musica in warm lay-up in Durban for much of late 2020 in the hope of being able to resume cruises.
South Africa announced earlier this week that cruise tourism would be allowed to resume from all its cruise ports, and if MSC doesn’t return for the coming season it will be a major blow to the sector’s recovery.
There are several other cruise lines due to sail roundtrip from Cape Town, however, including Azamara, TUI Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and AIDA Cruises.
South Africa has largely reopened to all international tourists, incoming tourists are required to take a COVID‑19 PCR test, download the COVID Alert South Africa app and complete the traveller health questionnaire before departure.
PCR tests must be taken 72 hours before the date of travel, and all passengers will be screened for COVID‑19 symptoms and will be required to answer any questions required by the Health Authorities on arrival.
Children below the age of 5 years are exempted from the COVID-19 PCR test.
However, it is the country’s specific COVID-19 mitigation measures for cruise ships that MSC Cruises is awaiting information on. The South African government is likely to require similar measures to other cruise ports that have reopened around the world.
These include PCR testing prior to departure, social distancing and mask mandates at the terminal and onboard, and enhanced sanitation.
A sticking point for cruise lines and local authorities will likely be the availability of COVID testing facilities on-site at the cruise terminal in Cape Town.