MSC Cruises says the decision to deploy the larger MSC Splendida in South Africa for the 2023/24 cruise season is a strategic decision intended to help mitigate the slow growth in cruise passenger numbers amid the country’s economic challenges.
Speaking to eNCA, Ross Volk, Managing Director of MSC Cruises SA, the local subsidiary of the MSC Cruises Group, said that MSC Splendida would enable the cruise line to cater to all segments of the local South African cruise market, which averages 125,000 to 170,000 passengers annually.
MSC Splendida will homeport in Durban and Cape Town, sailing roundtrip to Portuguese Island and Pomene, and Walvis Bay respectively.
“Our strategic aim was to bring a vessel to South Africa that targeted a broad spectrum of guests, so not only ultra-high luxury but also the three-star area so the cabin allocation on this new vessel can cater for that wide disbursement,” said Volk.
Refering to the global cruise industry, he said it was seeing a “wonderful” recovery post-pandemic, but South Africa has lagged behind with much slower growth in passenger numbers.
“South Africa has struggled a little bit but I think that’s got more to do with the current economic conditions of South Africa than it does with COVID,” he said. “I think people are really struggling at the moment with increased electricity prices, increased fuel costs, and a flagging economy.”
Volk said this has a direct impact on the ability of the South African cruising public to buy holidays.
“I do think however that at the end of the day a cruise holiday provides a better opportunity for people because it’s an all-inclusive holiday and it allows you to cap your spend at the beginning rather than have to have all this ancillary spend when you’re on holiday,” he added.
“Cruising is a value for money holiday and it’s one of the best opportunities to to lock in the price, but the economy of South Africa has obviously dented some of our recovery.”
MSC Splendida is the largest cruise ship MSC has ever deployed in South Africa, offering 1,637 staterooms for up to 3,929 passengers across five broad categories, from the cheapest inside cabins, to outside cabins, balcony staterooms, suites, and even the MSC Yacht Club.
The luxury ship-within-a-ship enclave marks the first time a Yacht Club vessel has cruised in SA waters. The MSC Yacht Club has 71 cabins, its own sundeck, pool area, dining room, lounge area and comes with a range of perks, such as concierge service and priority boarding.