South Africa has huge potential for future growth of the local cruise market, and of the country as a cruise destination, according to tourism officials in the Western Cape.
With Cape Town seeing massive growth in recent years, and a growing number of homeporting cruise lines, officials are now planning to position the country as a family and expedition cruise market.
During the coming cruise season from November, 2021 to March, 2022, Cape Town will receive more than 30 cruise calls, 25 of them from homeporting cruise lines such as MSC Cruises, Azamara Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Hapag-Lloyd.
There are also many international grand voyages departing from Cape Town during the cruise season, with Silversea Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, and Oceania all cruising from the city to destinations as far lung as Singapore and New York.
Cape Town’s roundtrip cruises typically last a week or two, but the international voyages from the city can be two or three weeks in length, which makes the city a major embarkation port for older, wealthier cruise tourists.
That is beginning to change, however, according to Sune’ Cornelius, cruise business development manager for the Western Cape at Westgro, a promotion agency for the province.
“It is a mixture. Cruising is becoming a very important family holiday. It used to be that older people and wealthier people (would cruise), but I think it’s become more affordable, especially after the COVID pandemic,” she said.
According to her, Norwegian and MSC cruises typically target the South African market, while the more expensive luxury cruise lines “definitely target international cruise guests or guests that are looking for expedition cruising and world cruises.”
South Africa is now looking to position itself as an expedition cruise line destination, adds Kendra Stoffberg, chief of staff at Wesgro.
“We’ve got a lot of smaller ports along the coastline, which would be amazing destinations for expedition cruising,” she explains. “We’re looking to expand that footprint of cruise tourism so that we don’t just bring cruise ships to the standard ports of call.”
Instead, she says South Africa is looking to “capitalize on the fact that we are at a location for the more adventurous traveler, to open up a lot of those smaller ports along our coastline. That hasn’t been done before.”
The draw for expedition cruise lovers is in having a large and “very different” coastline, as well as two climates, Stoffberg explained.
“We’ve got both the Mediterranean and the tropical offerings in terms of destinations,” she said. “That’s our plan going forward, to position ourselves as a destination for expedition cruising.”
South Africa’s Western Cape has a Mediterranean climate, while from the Durban northwards the coastline is generally sub-tropical, with many exotic tropical locations on the country’s doorstep, such as the islands of the Indian Ocean in the Mozambique Channel.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many expedition cruises departed from Cape Town for adventure itineraries up the west coast of Africa aboard Crystal, Silversea and Hapag-Lloyd’s explorer vessels.