The global cruise industry shutdown last year may have been a welcome reprieve for Cape Town, giving the city time to catch up with the immense demand its cruise sector has experienced in recent years.
While Cape Town continues to actively market the city as a global cruise destination, officials admit that the year-on-year demand that has characterised the cruise sector for several years was becoming unmanageable.
Between the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 Cape Town cruise seasons, the city saw 50% growth in the number of scheduled cruise calls and expected number of passengers cruising to and from the city, which officials say was becoming too much.
“In the cruise season that was cancelled (because of the pandemic), there were nearly 90 ships that were booked to come into the Port of Cape Town. The previous year it had been around 60,” said Kendra Stoffberg, chief of staff at Wesgro, a promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape.
“The numbers are nearly doubling on an annual basis. We can’t develop the cruise terminal quickly enough,” she told Cruise Industry News.
This impressive growth was driven by the redevelopment of the Cape Town Cruise Terminal, but would have soon required an additional expansion to accommodate the growing number of ships, which have also been getting bigger.
TUI Cruises, for example, was going to be homeporting its ship Mein Schiff Herz in Cape Town during the cancelled cruise season, the largest cruise ship ever to homeport in Cape Town for a full season.
According to Stoffberg, the growing popularity of Cape Town as a cruise destination and turnaround port has also been driven by changing preferences within the global cruise market.
“I think it’s led by a general kind of swing that we’ve seen in tourism around the world,” she said. “People are no longer just interested in ‘tick box exercise touring,’ they are really looking for more niche experiences, more offbeat locations.”
While the current 2021/2022 cruise season is going to be a slow start for Cape Town, with just 32 cruise ship calls scheduled, officials have previously indicated they expect a rapid bounce-back for the city.
The Cape Town cruise season runs from November to May and is set to see Ponant, MSC Cruises, Azamara, Silversea Cruises, Regent, Crystal Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd and even Norwegian Cruise Line returning to the city for roundtrip and one-off cruise itineraries.
Hapag-Lloyd’s luxury cruise liner Europa will open the cruise season on November 30th, sailing a roundtrip and grand voyage, while MSC and Azamara will be homeporting in the city for part of the season.
Silversea, Cunard and Regent will be cruising to and from Cape Town as part of their 2022 Grand Voyages and World Cruises.