Although many major tourism source markets around the world have begun to ease travel restrictions imposed on South Africa due to the emergence of the Omicron variant, the current cruise season is all but lost.
Cape Town, South Africa’s primary cruise port for international cruises and homeporting cruise lines, is now looking to the future, and hoping for a strong rebound during the 2022/23 cruise season.
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There are just three cruise ships scheduled to cruise from Cape Town during the remainder of the current cruise season (not including MSC Orchestra), and these itineraries may yet be cancelled due to the Omicron variant.
Europa 2 of Hapag-Lloyd is meant to cruise from Cape Town on February 14th, on a two-week roundtrip voyage visiting various South African ports. She’ll then depart on a 16-night cruise to Gran Canaria on February 28th.
Silver Whisper of Silversea Cruises is scheduled to sail a 21-night Cape Town to Mahe, Maldives cruise on February 24th, and Insignia of Oceania Cruises has a 45-night Cape Town to New York grand voyage planned for May 21st.
The Omicron variant has thrown everything into flux, however, and with several cruise lines having already cancelled cruises all over the world, it remains to be seen whether these four itineraries will go ahead.
Norwegian Cruise Line cancelled its South African cruise season aboard Norwegian Jade, and Hapag-Lloyd cancelled its roundtrip departure from Cape Town aboard Europa earlier in January.
Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have cancelled several departures from North American ports, Hong Kong has temporarily shut down its cruise industry, and MSC Cruises has suspended operations in Brazil.
All of these moves are in response to the spread of the Omicron variant, which is making international travel, and cruising in general, extremely unpredictable at present.
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Despite this, cruise tourism officials in Cape Town are optimistic about the city’s prospects for the coming year, and especially the next cruise season, which starts in November, 2021 and runs until March, 2022.
Cape Town’s 2022/23 Cruise Season:
There are 13 cruise ships scheduled to sail from Cape Town between November, 2022 and April, 2023 for the 2022/23 cruise season, with 7 of them operating 43 roundtrip cruises.
AIDAaura, AIDAmira, Mein Schiff 3, Azamara Journey, Nautica, Norwegian Jade, and Seven Seas Voyager will all sail 12-, 14- and 15-night roundtrip cruises from Cape Town, visiting Namibia and various South African cruise ports.
In addition to these vessels, Cape Town will also be used as a turnaround port by Artania of Phoenix Reisen, MSC Sinfonia and MSC Orchestra, Queen Mary 2, Silver Shadow and Seabourn Sojourn.
All six of these ships will cruise from Cape Town on longer grand voyages to Asia, Europe and North America.
In an op-ed for the Cape Times, James Voss, the Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Growth, said that cruise tourism was an essential part of the city’s wider tourism industry, and that despite the current challenges, it is fast gaining recognition as a prime destination for cruise lines.
“The Mother City is fast gaining recognition as a prime destination for cruise lines and I want to capitalise on this. This is a market that has potential for huge economic spin-offs, both in terms of passenger and crew spend, and for maintenance of cruise ships,” Voss wrote.
MSC Orchestra resumed operations in South Africa this week, sailing from Durban to Cape Town to commence a series of roundtrip cruises from the city, before returning to Durban in February. She is the only cruise ship sailing roundtrip from Cape Town this month.
“MSC’s return gives confidence and good news for the tourism sector that we may still have a cruising season left of our summer,” said David Green, CEO, V&A Waterfront. “The cruise industry is one of the last sectors to resume operations and we’re excited and ready to safely welcome back local and international guests and crews to Cape Town.”
Looking ahead to the next cruise season later this year, he said there was potential for a recovery to pre-pandemic passenger volumes.
“We expect that we can look forward to more operators resuming their operations to call into Cape Town for the 2022/23 season, with a real prospect of us returning to our pre covid growth,” he told Cape Town Etc.