Seabourn will be sending Seabourn Sojourn to South Africa in 2023 to sail a one-off 30-night cruise from the ‘Mother City’ to Barcelona in Spain.
Seabourn Sojourn will depart Cape Town on April 27th, 2023, bound initially for the West Coast of Africa, before heading out into the Atlantic to visit the islands of Cape Verde and the Canary Islands.
This will be the only Seabourn cruise of the year from South Africa, a reflection of the ongoing recovery of the industry following COVID-19, as the cruise line has usually sailed at least two Cape Town cruises annually.
Also unusual for Seabourn is the fact that the itinerary doesn’t stay overnight in any of the ports, but that may be due to the fact that there are 14 ports of call packed into this itinerary, an average of one destination every second day.
Seabourn Sojourn will depart Cape Town on the evening of April 27th, giving passengers a full day of exploring, or several days if booked on a pre-cruise hotel package.
“Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain and flanked by Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, Cape Town is known by South Africans simply as ‘the Cape,’ an acknowledgment of its uniqueness and its status as the Mother City,” says Seabourn. “The first area to be settled by Europeans in the 17th century, it is today a major seaport and the legislative capital of South Africa.”
Seabourn Sojourn will spend a day at sea cruising for Luderitz in Namibia, a city that grew out of a parcel of land purchased by German businessman, Adolf Luderitz in 1883. He was prospecting for diamonds and hit the big time, leading a diamond rush that peaked in 1909.
A thriving, German-styled town called Kolmanskop sprouted out of the desert nearby to house the gem-seekers, and when the diamond rush ended, the town was abandoned to the desert. It’s been slowly engulfed by the shifting sands ever since, and is an evocative and haunting place to visit on a shore excursion in Luderitz.
The bay on which Luderitz itself sits hosts a bounty of wildlife as well, including seals, whales and flamingos. Other endeavors have started, too, such as the culture of delicious oysters in the clean, cold ocean waters.
Seabourn Sojourn will then cruise overnight to Walvis Bay, which in Afrikaans means Whale Bay. Whale watching can still be done offshore, but the natural deep water port is too commercial now for any whales.
“Today its dramatic setting is inseparable from any impression of this deep-water port on Namibia’s desolate, but beautiful ‘Skeleton Coast’,” says Seabourn. “Here the undulating dunes of the Namib Desert meet the sea, and its lagoon is spangled with white pelicans, pink flamingos and other seabirds.”
Up the coast road is Dune Seven, the highest along Namibia’s coast, and a great shore excursion option.
Seabourn Sojourn will then set off for a crossing of the equator en-route to Cotonou in Benin. Passengers who have never crossed the equator will of course be expected to undergo a mock trial by King Neptune and his court for the entertainment of the “shellbacks” who have already done so.
“Mild but hilarious indignities will be conjured, and in the end a good time will be had by most, if not all,” Seabourn promises.
After five days at sea, Seabourn Sojourn will arrive in Cotonou, the economic heart of the nation of Benin, which stretches northward inland from the Bight of Benin, a legacy of the arbitrary border-drawing of colonial powers in the previous century. The city’s red-and-white Cathedral of Notre Dame and the twin white minarets of its mosque stand out about the low-lying cityscape, and in the teeming Grand Marché de Dantokpa, there is a thriving market serving the continued popularity of the traditional animist Vodun religion.
“Every sort of native botanical product and mummified portions of a wide variety of African wildlife are actively traded in this quarter of the city’s main marketplace,” says Seabourn.
Nearby, the Fondation Zinsou is a museum of contemporary African art. Two other nearby attractions are also available, the stilt-village of Ganvie in Lake Nokoue, a unique offshore community, and the town of Ouidah down the coast, an important Portuguese colony where slaves were exported for the farms of Brazil. An old Portuguese Fortress stands here, as well as an intriguing Vodun temple dedicated to python snakes which live in the temple.
The following day finds Seabourn Sojourn in Tema, the gateway to Ghana’s teeming capital city of Accra. “The cultures of West Africa share a traditional propensity to be busy,” says Seabourn. “It’s exciting and can be dazzling to newcomers.”
Accra is a colourful city joyfully struggling to get ahead and break free of its dark past. The oldest section, Jamestown, is centred around the 17th century James Fort, where the British colonial authorities converted a traditional market for precious metals into a slave market. Climb the red-and-white lighthouse for a view of the busy city. Visit the National Museum to get a glimpse of the elaborate and very ancient cultures of Ghana through exhibits of art and artifacts. Then survey Independence Square, and its memorial to the independent nation’s first leader Kwame Nkrumah.
The next port of call, Lome in Togo continues the thread of exploring the extent to which colonial conquest disrupted ancient West African kingdoms and communities. The entire country of Togo is a long, thin strip of land wedged between Ghana and Benin, a border drawn by German colonists for the sole purpose of plundering the interior. Yet despite its small size, the country is home to more than 40 distinct ethnic groups and is blessed with broad golden beaches and a sunny, warm climate.
The huge Grand Market distributes everything required for life in the city, while the picturesque and fragrant Akodessewa market dispenses all sorts of botanicals and mummified animal parts to the 51 percent of Togo’s population who are practitioners of Vodun or other native animist religions. It is the largest such market in Africa and is a must-see. The National Museum is a good place to learn more about the history and cultures of Togo, while the tall steeples of the red-and-white Cathedral are a memorial of German colonial occupation.
Seabourn then sets out for Banjul, Gambia, spending four days at sea heading out of the Gulf of Guinea and into West Africa’s Atlantic seafront. Gambia is named after the river that runs through it. In fact the nation consists largely of the river and a narrow band of riparian land on either side of it. It’s the smallest nation on the African mainland at just 30 miles wide at its broadest point, and surrounded on three sides by Senegal.
The capital, Banjul, sits on St. Mary’s Island near the river’s mouth and the bustling Albert Market is the social and economic heart, where nearly everything is traded in any (or several) of the country’s five official languages, plus French and English. The National Museum is a good place to get a look at the historic and ethnographic makeup, while to the south is Abuko Nature Reserve, a 180-acre section of savannah forest home to several species of monkeys, hyenas, antelope, and reptiles including crocodiles and monitor lizards.
After cruising overnight, Seabourn Sojourn will reach Dakar, the Senegalese capital, which bears many visual reminders of its past as a French colonial outpost, and is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan African cities. Amidst the Parisian-style boulevards and buildings, office workers and executives go about their businesses dressed in the traditional Grand Boubou national dress, reclaiming a culture and identity almost taken from them.
Among the many sights to see in this city, none is more evocative and sobering than Goree Island and its House of Slaves. This fortress, just offshore of the waterfront, is a reminder of the brutal trade in human beings, including an unimposing doorway, set just above the waterline in the seaside wall, identified simply as the “Door of No Return.”
After Dakar, Seabourn Sojourn will head out into the Atlantic, bound for the Cape Verde Islands of Santiago and Sao Vicente. Santiago is the largest and home to half the population. The old capital, formerly known as Cidade Velha, has been renamed Ribeira Grande de Santiago, which was its name when it was an important port in the infamous slave trade. Dating from 1466, it was the first European colonial settlement in the Tropics, and there is a cluster of well-restored colonial-period houses, as well as a monument to the original pelourinho, or pillory where slaves were both punished and sold in this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Sao Vicente is home to Mindelo, which originally thrived as a coal depot for steamships plying the Atlantic. The town has replica of Lisbon’s Belem Tower, located near the fish market, in an interesting part of the city where a uniquely lilting CapeVerdean form of fado music was born.
After the Cape Verde Islands, Seabourn Sojourn will cruise on to Las Palmas and Lanzarote in Gran Canaria, another cluster of Atlantic islands off the coast of West Africa. Las Palmas played an important part in the early exploration and exploitation of Africa and the New World, some of which is recounted in the Casa de Colon Museum. For shopping, strolling and general local interest, head to La Vegueta, the oldest quarter and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After two nights at sea, Seabourn Sojourn will call in Casablanca, Morocco’s largest city, and possibly the most famous city in Africa thanks to Hollywood. Built on the site of ancient Phoenician Anfa, it was a small fishing village until the French arrived in 1912 and features a blend of oriental-style, white cubic dwellings with modern Moroccan quarters as a result. It’s beaches and hotels make the city a popular year-round holiday resort, but to understand Moroccan culture, a visit to the Medina, the quaint old Moorish quarter, is a must for all visitors.
Its then two nights and three days at sea for Seabourn Sojourn as she transits the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, bound for Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, where the cruise will end on May 27th, 2023. Barcelona is said to have been founded by the Phoenicians, and was once the rival of the powerful states of Venice and Genoa for control of the Mediterranean trade. The medieval atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter and the elegant boulevards combine to make the city one of Europe’s most beautiful.