New cruise ship for South Africa

Jun 13, 2003
Author: P&S

A South African-owned and registered cruise ship crewed by South Africans and operating year-round cruises from South African ports!

Hard to believe? Not if you accept the credentials of a Cape Town based company called Royal African Cruises, who say they have purchased a 4,600-gt former Greek ferry/cruise ship named Vergina Sky, which has been laid up in harbour at Eleusis for several years.

According to several brokers the estimated value of Vergina Sky was in the region of USD1 million, although it is believed Royal African Cruises may have paid somewhat more than R20 million for the ship. Either way it seems a bargain price, assuming the condition of the ship is good.

The condition based on broker reports is quite favourable despite the ship having been laid up for some time. Built in Japan in 1971 as the ferry Yofu Maru, the ship received a complete rebuild in 1992 before being sold to the since closed Greek cruise company Vergen Cruises in or about 1994. The latter company operated the vessel until their closure in 1999.

According to Sam Dodgen, managing director of Royal African Cruises, the ship to be renamed African Princess will be registered in South Africa and crewed with South Africans while operating year-round cruises from Durban and Cape Town. These will include visits to Walvis Bay, other South African ports, Mozambique destinations and the Indian Ocean islands – “similar to those of Starlight Cruises.”

He told Ports & Ships that a sightseeing submarine and a helicopter had been purchased. “The African Princess is unlike any other cruise liner the world over, in that it has its own helicopter and submarine for use by the ship’s passengers. Passengers can enjoy helicopter flips from the ship to remote areas and will also be able to sip champagne whilst viewing shipwrecks, beautiful undersea coral and the wonderful sea life of the Indian Ocean through the large panoramic viewports of the submarine.”

Some of the destinations listed include: Walvis Bay, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London, Durban, Sodwana, Ponto da Ouro, Maputo, Beira, Inhaca Island, Bazaruto, Portuguese island, Benguerre Island, Bassas da India, Paradise Island, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Comores, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius.

Hopefully other beauty spots such as Pemba (the old Porto Amelia in Mozambique) and Mossel Bay can be included in this itinerary.

The fully airconditioned ship has accommodation for 300 passengers in 98 cabins. Holidays on board are being offered at Peak, High and Low periods with the flexibility of changing these as required. Marketing of the operation is being done from offices in Cape Town although it is understood the ship will be based for much of the time at Durban. Operations are due to begin in December 2003.

Contact Royal African Cruises at 27 21 418 5660 or fax 27 21 418 5827. Emails to Please mention Ports & Ships as your lead.

Technical detail of ship:

African Princess was built in Japan in 1971, with a rebuild in Greece in 1992.
LOA : 97.8m
Beam : 14.6m
Draft : 4.49m
Gross tonnage: 4,668. Net tonnage 1,717
Engines: Two Pielstick 8,400bhp
Twin screw
Bow thruster
Three 500 kW Daihatsu generators.
Class HRS. Complies with SOLAS 97.
Speed and consumption: 16 knots at 3.5 tonnes MGO.
Public areas : Two lounge areas, one restaurant, three bars, casino, duty free shop, disco, swimming pool.

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