MSC Cruises has confirmed that its South African cruise season for 2021/22 aboard MSC Orchestra will go ahead as planned, with only minor itinerary changes.
MSC Cruises has made only minor changes to its roundtrip Durban cruise season as a result of the Omicron variant, and says MSC Orchestra will homeport in South African from December, 2021 to April, 2022 as planned.
Unlike other cruise lines that homeport in South Africa annually, such as Norwegian Cruise Line and Azamara, MSC Cruises relies almost exclusively on the local source market for bookings, and not the international fly-cruise sector.
As such, the travel bans imposed on South Africa since the discovery of the new Omicron variant have not affected its deployment plans in the country. At the time of writing, MSC Orchestra’s roundtrip Durban season was restricted to South African residents.
“They will operate under the protection of our health and safety protocol and in line with health guidelines as issued by local authorities as they apply to the population for all activities in that country,” MSC said in a statement.
The announcement comes the same day Norwegian Cruise Line announced it would be cancelling its South African itineraries, while Azamara said it is monitoring the situation. Both cruise lines were due to homeport in Cape Town in January.
The travel restrictions imposed on South Africa globally have impacted MSC Cruises’ SA season to some extent, however, as some destinations are no longer allowing South African passengers to disembark.
As a result, the annual Christmas cruise from Durban to Mauritius will not go ahead, and MSC Orchestra will instead cruise a 4-night itinerary to Pomene. Her Christmas cruise, departing December 20th, will be a 6-night voyage to Pomene and Portuguese Island.
Pomene and Portuguese Island are the only international destinations during MSC Orchestra’s South African cruise season, apart from Walvis Bay in Namibia during her roundtrip cruises from Cape Town in January and March.
She will also cruise a 7-night voyage from Cape Town to Durban via Marion Island on January 24th, 2022. However, Marion Island is considered South African territory.
The entire island is a nature reserve and its only human inhabitants are the staff of a meteorological and biological research station run by the South African National Antarctic Programme.