Bumper cruise season ahead

Apr 15, 2005
Author: P&S

The coming summer has all the markings of becoming a bumper cruise season for South African ports. So far no less than 257 individual port calls have been identified, including 38 calls extending to late April 2006 by the Durban-based Rhapsody, another 41 by a new introduction on the local scene, the former Stella Maris II, now renamed Madagascar, and 85 calls at the ports of Cape Town, Luderitz and Walvis Bay by RMS St Helena.

That still leaves 93 port calls by ‘international’ cruise ships, which is a considerable improvement on recent years. The fact that some visiting ships will make multiple calls at various local ports, in effect adopting a South African cruise schedule while here, suggests a new approach by these operators and increasing opportunities for South Africans to go cruising in home waters.

Among the ships expected during the coming summer months are Saga Rose, Saga Ruby, Silver Wind, Deutschland, Pacific Princess, Prinsendam, Crystal Serenity, Hanseatic, Europa, Alexander von Humboldt, Van Gogh, Royal Star, Oriana and Vistamar.

Some of these will make multiple calls at several of the ports such as Durban and Cape Town and several are ending and starting new cruises from both ports. Hermanus becomes a stopping point for a cruise ship for the first time, at least in recent years.

Ships based in South African waters during 2005/2006 are MSC Rhapsody and a newcomer to the scene, m.v. Madagascar.

Full details of the cruise ship schedule will be available on Ports & Ships within the next few days.

There will be strong interest in the news that the former Viking Bordeaux, better known in earlier times as Royal Olympic Cruises’ Stella Maris II, will be arriving in Durban in October after which the ship will operate permanently from Durban, although she will ‘migrate’ to East Africa during the southern winter. Although crewed by Ukrainians, the entertainment staff will be South African.

This ship has been renamed Madagascar and will undertake cruises throughout the year along the southern and East African coasts and among Indian Ocean islands (dates will be available in the cruise schedule section within a few days). This is one of several ships that featured in the ill-fated ambitions of Royal African Cruises, but be assured that the company now involved in her purchase has no connection whatsoever with the Cape Town-based company that is now the subject of a court case.

The new operators and future owners of the ship are an identifiable Durban-based property, hospitality and investment company, the éLan Group. According to Trevor Boynton, managing director of the éLan Group subsidiary Indian Ocean Cruises, Madagascar will shortly depart on charter on a number of cruises in the Black Sea throughout the South African winter after which she will re-position to Durban for fitting out before cruising locally from Durban along the Mozambique coast from October.

These cruises will follow closely on the formula successfully adopted by Starlight Cruises with the MSC Rhapsody, including two-night cruises to nowhere, three nights to Portuguese Island, separate four-night cruises to Bazaruto and to Barra Lodge, a six-night cruise to Barra peninsular with calls at Richards Bay and Maputo (sounds particularly enterprising) and a seven-night cruise to Mozambique Island including a visit to Barra peninsular.

From April (2006) the ship will relocate to Mombasa where a variety of 4, 6, 7, 8, 11 and 18-night cruises among the Indian Ocean islands will be undertaken, including visits to several less-well known places in Madagascar, and of course the Mascarenes (otherwise known as Mauritius and La Reunion).

Pictures of the ship with some advance details of this venture can be found at www.elan.co.za/cruise.php although no doubt some of these plans may have changed by the time the ship finally arrives.

The ship, formerly Viking Bordeaux and before that Stella Maris II, is by ocean cruising standards a small one, and will no doubt raise some debate among the aficionados of cruising concerning her suitability for these waters. Being small – a length of 88m, a beam of 14m and a draught of 4.4m to go with her 3,008 gross tons - the 1960-built ship nevertheless has the advantage of accessing many small bays and harbours denied to bigger ships. And of course, that’s not overlooking the many cargo ships working along the Mozambique coast and among the islands which are of a similar size – but then it will be argued that they don’t carry passengers.

Something, and a cruise season to watch with great interest in the coming months.


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