Shock for thousands of passengers as MSC Monterey cruise season cancelled

Oct 2, 2006
Author: P&S

Thousands of passengers have had to be re-accommodated after the cancellation of MSC Monterey’s extended Southern African cruise season.

Clifford Foggit of Starlight Cruises, which markets the Southern African cruises operating out of Durban and Cape Town, said the ship, which was due in South Africa later this month, had encountered boiler problems which prevented the vessel from developing a normal operating speed. While the ship had been able to complete its Mediterranean cruises at reduced speeds, the seas around South Africa require the ship to have full power available at all times and for safety reasons MSC was withdrawing the ship until repairs have been completed.

However, given the age of the ship and the complexity of repairing an aging boiler it is highly possible MSC Monterey may be withdrawn completely and scrapped. New maritime regulations coming into force make it doubtful that Monterey would have remained in service much longer anyhow.

The 20 046-gt, 600-passenger Monterey was built as a US Maritime Commission C3 freighter in an American shipyard in 1952 and converted a few years later to a passenger ship for Matson Navigation. After successive ownerships she has been in MSC hands since 1990 shortly when MSC acquired StarLauro Lines and since then has spent a number of summer seasons cruising out of Durban on behalf of both MSC and Starlight. The ship became highly popular with local passengers partly because of her large public areas, accommodation and deck space and was only replaced when her popularity bred success and with it a requirement for a larger ship.

As recently as early September Monterey, while cruising in the Mediterranean was described as being in pristine condition.

Monterey was due in Durban later this month (October) and was to remain in local waters until May 2008, undertaking all-year-round cruises from both Durban and Cape Town. These included the longer cruises to Mauritius and Madagascar and from Cape Town to Walvis Bay. It would have been the first time in several years that a cruise ship had operated here throughout the winter and was also the first time that Starlight had offered regular cruises as an option from Cape Town. Thousands of passengers had already booked for the Cape Town cruises and have had to be re-accommodated or reimbursed.

During December another MSC cruise ship, MSC Melody is due to cruise locally during the summer months only. Her summer season may be extended slightly.

Foggitt said that MSC had offered to replace Monterey but this was not considered viable as the only available ship – MSC Rhapsody - was too large for the smaller number of passengers expected in winter.

He said that Starlight has refunded those of the Cape Town passengers who particularly wanted to cruise along the southern Cape coast or to Namibia. Many other Cape Town-based passengers had agreed to transfer to cruises operating from Durban.



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