Cape Town is going ahead with plans to become the top cruise destination in Africa with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be signed soon for the creation of a ‘Cruise Cape Town’ project.

Wesgro says a draft MoU has been circulated to and is currently being considered by key stakeholders in the Western Cape cruise industry.

The MoU outlines the agreement, commitment and contributions of the stakeholders who will become the steering committee of Cruise Cape Town. The broad objectives of the project are to increase cruise liner access and mobility in and out of Cape Town as well as to improve Cape Town’s competitiveness in the global cruise industry.

Wesgro says plans are afoot for Cruise Cape Town’s attendance at Seatrade Cruise Global 2020, the largest cruise industry gathering in the world, taking place from April 20-23 at Miami Beach, Florida.

The Cruise Cape Town initiative emulates the collaborative development model that has made the Cape Town Air Access so successful in developing direct air links to the city. Initial meetings last year involved Transnet, the V&A Waterfront, the Western Cape government, Wesgro, The City of Cape Town, the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) as well as international and local cruise industry players.

The V&A Waterfront’s R59m redevelopment of the Cape Town Cruise Terminal is credited with having stimulated much of the growth being experienced. Since its opening in 2015, 150 ships have docked in the harbour, some on multiple visits, and customs officials at the Cruise Terminal processed 266 149 passengers, including crew.

V&A Waterfront executive manager marine and industrial, Andre Blaine, says this season (October 2019 to April 2020) 21 vessels representing 11 cruise companies are expected to make 57 stopovers in Cape Town. Although a dip was recorded in the 2016 and 2017 seasons as a result of the drought, by the close of the 2018-2019 season, passenger numbers had increased by 19% to 66 601.

During the current season, the AIDAmira, will return as many as 17 times, while the MSC Orchestra will return six times, the Azamara Quest four times, the Nautica three times and the MS Bremen and the Albatross will each make two visits. This season will also see the arrival of the Norwegian Spirit, World Odyssey and AIDAmira on March 23. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 returns on March 31.

Andre says Cape Town is fast becoming known as the ‘turn-around’ port for inbound and outbound international arrivals and departures. “There has also been a significant increase in interest from international cruise operators in adding Cape Town to their itineraries. These include TUI Cruises, AIDA Cruises, MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean. We are also seeing growth in local cruising along the coast between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.”

Cruise specialist Lisa Pinkney of Sure Giltedge Travel believes there is a market for regular cruises between Cape Town and the UK, similar to the old Union Castle Line that operated passenger liners on the route until 1977.

“There are a lot of people who don’t want to fly but would rather cruise. It would have to be seasonal and reasonably priced.” 

She also believes speciality bird-watching cruises to Walvis Bay, or golfing cruises stopping off at courses along the coast, could be popular.