Cruise ship Madagascar sold to SA company – new cruise venture planned

Apr 2, 2007
Author: P&S



MADAGASCAR arrives in Durban 29 October 2005. Picture Terry Hutson. CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Remember the Madagascar – the small cruise ship that arrived in Durban about 15 months ago amidst much hype and promise of an all-year-round cruising operation out of Durban? The project failed shortly after the ship’s arrival, leaving the Madagascar to become a long-time resident of the port of Durban.

Readers may recall that the ship had been involved with not one but two ventures aimed at launching a purely South African owned cruise business based in Durban. The first venture involved the company Royal African Cruises and did not progress as far as having acquired the ship, although the Madagascar, then under the name Viking Bordeaux, was at one time given some serious consideration.

Later a second company, Indian Ocean Cruising, with the backing and support of a well-known property developer and a leading hotel group, went so far as to have the ship renamed and brought to Durban where several cruises actually took place, with rather mixed fortunes. Shortly afterwards the venture collapsed and the ship was placed back on the market, while taking up a berth in Durban harbour.

Now a Johannesburg based company says it has agreed to buy the ship and intends introducing cruising as from 31 August 2007. Johannesburg businessman Ian Powell told Ports & Ships at the weekend that the ship will transfer into the hands of Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises on 1 May after which she will undergo a refit at the ship repair jetty and be renamed Razzmatazz in preparation of her planned cruise operation.

Mr Powell’s company, Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises has begun advertising cruises on the internet (www.razzmatazzoceancruises.co.za) which reveals an itinerary not unlike those of the successful Starlight Cruise setup but with subtle differences. There will be two-night cruises to nowhere, three and five-night cruises to Inhaca Island near Maputo and the Barra Lodge area of Mozambique and a three night cruise to Cape Town followed by a similar length return cruise back to Durban which is scheduled for September. The itinerary also lists a number of feature cruises – diving charters, Zest for Birding cruises to a remote and seldom visited Mozambique Channel island, and other niche-type cruises such as for Afrikaans-speaking passengers and cruises with a poker club theme.

Details are obviously fairly fluid at this stage but Ian Powell claims to have done his homework and is confident he can make a success of the venture. He says he will be the sole owner of the ship having purchased it outright and he intends crewing the ship locally with South Africans where possible – no foreign accents on this ship, he says.

Powell also says prices on board the ship will be kept to affordable levels – no R14 for a coke (based on dollar each) as with foreign ships nor any outrageous dollar prices in the on-board shop!

From an earlier inspection and having sailed on the soon to be renamed Razzmatazz, the ship is surprisingly spacious given her mere 92m length. Cabins are extremely generous in size and are due to be completely refurbished by the time the ship sails in August on her inaugural two-night non-stop party cruise. The spacious public lounge and entertainment area runs the entire length of one of the decks ending in the pool area at the stern but the dining room is situated deep within the vessel where it can be disconcertingly noisy with a heavy sea running.

Fares will be in the region of R1000 per day – much the same as for the Melody but this does not include port tax (R300) or optional insurance. Included are all meals and all entertainment as is found on most cruise ships.

This becomes the latest attempt to launch a purely local cruise ship operation with a South African-owned ship. Given the unfortunate history of several other ventures attempting to establish themselves on the local market and in the face of what will no doubt become stiff competition from the Starlight/MSC operation, interesting times may lie ahead - particularly as it involves a ship that some knowledgeable seafarers consider to be on the small side for local waters. But as Ian Powell points out, it’s going to be a lot easier to fill a 220-berth ship than one that carries 1500.

Razzmatazz Ocean Cruises can be contacted at 011 477 2994 or email them at info@razzmatazzoceancruises.co.za


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