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Cruise News & Reviews


March 25,  2010
Author: Terry Hutson
 


 

Maiden voyage of QUEEN MARY 2 to a South Africa port – Durban’s does her proud


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Coming out of the the early morning mist, QUEEN MARY 2 approaches her first ever South African port of call, at Durban on Tuesday, 23 March 2010. To welcome the Cunard flagship are five harbour tugs which made liberal use of their water cannons, while a number of small craft paid homage nearby. Large crowds lined the North Pier, beachfront and other vantage points to witness her arrival and even greater numbers watched her departure later in the day. Full credit goes to the Port of Durban management for organising a temporary ’handover’ of the north breakwater to provide the public with convenient access. Later that evening the pier reverted to being a construction site, until the formal handover on 31 March. Picture by Trevor Jones

It was a day of which Durban can be proud. People turned out in their thousands to welcome the ship and visit vantage points around Durban Bay simply to gaze in awe and admiration on the largest cruise ship ever to visit Durban and a South African harbour.

It was all made possible by the timeous completion of the harbour widening and deepening project, which has widened the port entrance by a further 100 metres and deepened the channel to 19m, shallowing to 17m further into the harbour. Not that her draught was a problem – Queen Mary 2 draws just on 10m but the ship’s width of 41m would have exceeded the old entrance channel limitation of 32m.

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Queen Mary 2 alongside the fruit terminal on Durban’s T-Jetty and in glorious sunshine. Picture by Trevor Jones

Queen Mary 2 is on her 2010 World Cruise which has taken the Cunard flagship from New York to Southampton, through the Mediterranean to Dubai and on to India, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore before visiting Vietnam, Hong Kong and Shanghai and then to Japan. From Yokohama the ship visited several Pacific island destinations before reaching New Zealand and Australia.

From Fremantle the ship began her crossing of the Indian Ocean for Mauritius, where something like a hundred South African passengers joined her for the voyage to Durban and Cape Town. Among them is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on board to deliver several lectures on the future of South Africa which have been to fully packed theatres on board ship.

Queen Mary 2’s arrival in Durban is her first visit to a South African port and Durban didn’t let the side down. Transnet National Ports Authority rose to the occasion by making arrangements for a premature opening of a section of the North Pier which enabled the public to greet and bid farewell to the ship. That they did in their thousands. Other vantage places such as the nearby uShaka Beach also felt the weight of large numbers of people, while Festival Island and the Wilson’s Wharf waterfront complex saw considerable numbers of visitors. The ship was berthed alongside berths O and P, next to the fruit terminal, which was about the best position that Queen Mary 2 could have had for onlookers and admirers.

Purists may argue that the ship is not the most elegant or beautiful of a long line of Cunard vessels, and they may be right. But Queen Mary 2 has just the same pulling power to attract attention no matter where she sails of any predecessor, and Durban proved this week that South Africa is no exception. No doubt Cape Town will later today provide exactly the same welcome as the ship arrives for a two-day visit to enable a segment change. Some 500 South African passengers are joining the ship in Cape Town for the next leg of the journey across the South Atlantic to the island of St Helena and then on to Rio de Janeiro, before heading back into the Northern Hemisphere to Barbados and Port Everglades and finally to New York and the completion of this year’s ‘World Cruise’.

Queen Mary 2 will revisit Durban and Cape Town in reverse order in February 2011.

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Queen Mary 2 arriving off Durban in the early morning. Picture by Trevor Jones