MSC Cruises South Africa is returning to form for the 2022/23 cruise season, with plans to homeport two cruise ships in the country for the first time since the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
MSC Sinfonia will cruise roundtrip from Cape Town to Mossel Bay in South Africa, plus Walvis Bay and Luderitz in Namibia, while MSC Orchestra will homeport in Durban for voyages to Pomene and Portuguese Island in Mozambique.
MSC Orchestra will also sail her traditional Durban to Cape Town itinerary, which will then see her cruising from the city to Walvis Bay on select itineraries.
This will be MSC Cruises’ second attempt to homeport two classes of cruise ships in South Africa simultaneously. The cruise line was meant to homeport in Cape Town and Durban for the 2020/21 cruise season, but those plans were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic brought global cruising to a standstill for much of 2020, and South Africa did not reopen its cruise sector until 2021, forcing MSC to cancel the entirety of its season for 2020/21.
Cape Town cruise tourism officials earlier this year said they were hoping to stage a strong rebound for the coming cruise season in November, 2022, after the current season was largely lost due to the emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Although several cruise lines were due to homeport in Cape Town during the current season, it was severely impacted by travel restrictions imposed on the country by major cruise source markets around the world, including much of Europe and North America.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd cancelled their planned roundtrip Cape Town itineraries as a result.
It’s a sad state of affairs for the local cruise market, which was seeing rampant growth in the years before COVID-19 struck. In 2018, some 50,000 cruise tourists visited Cape Town, compared to just 6,000 in 2012.
Durban, meanwhile, remains the hub for the local cruise market, with the vast majority of South Africans sailing roundtrip from the port annually. This is reflected by the fact that the larger MSC Orchestra will homeport in Durban, while the smaller MSC Sinfonia will homeport in Cape Town.
MSC Cruises has also invested in a dedicated cruise terminal in Durban, while it also introduced a new cruise destination, Pomene Bay in Mozambique, during the 2019 cruise season.