Cruise Industry: Popularity of South Africa as a cruise destination growing

The South African cruising public could be forgiven for thinking that the South African cruise industry is dominated by MSC Cruises, and in fact they would be correct, MSC Cruises have been pioneering the local cruise market through their partners Starlight Cruises (now MSC Starlight) for several decades.

Popularity of South Africa as a cruise destination growing with greater diversity of cruise ships

However, South Africa is actually visited by a large number of cruise ships every year, many of them offering cruises out of the regional Cape Town cruise hub. Even more important in terms of the development of the South African cruise industry is the fact that several cruise lines are offering roundtrip South African cruises out of Cape Town in the coming 2014/15 cruise season.

They have been doing so for some years, but because the cruises are primarily marketed at the international cruise market, many South African may not be aware that MSC Cruises account for less than half of the roundtrip Cape Town cruise departures in the coming season (this does not take into account MSC’s Durban roundtrip cruises).

During the whole of next year, ten Cape Town to Cape Town cruises will be available and in 2016, this number increases to 11, primarily thanks to Silversea Cruises who are basing their luxury cruise ship Silver Cloud out of Cape Town on four departures at the beginning and end of the year.

MSC Armonia refit complete, South African sisters MSC Opera and Sinfonia to follow

Between the time this article was written (late November) and the end of 2015, there will be seven roundtrip cruises out of Cape Town with six different cruise lines. Seabourn Sojourn will depart Cape Town on the 21st of December for a two-week ‘South African Holiday’, with Nautica of the rival luxury cruise line Oceania Cruises departing on a similar itinerary (except its 15-nights instead of 14) the very next day.

MV Voyager of the British cruise line Voyages of Discovery will explore the ‘Magic of South Africa’ on a 14-night cruise from Cape Town to Cape Town on the 17th of January, with Nautica returning at the end of the year for another 15-night ‘South African Explorer’ cruise departing Cape Town on the 24th of November.

The 24th of November will also see Seven Seas Mariner, sister ship to Seven Seas Voyager, depart Cape Town on her own roundtrip 15-night South African ‘Coastal Adventure’.

Hapag-Lloyd expands focus on South African cruise market amid new global strategy

December sees two newcomers to the roundtrip sector of the South African cruise market, with Europa 2 of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and Aegean Odyssey of British line Voyages to Antiquity offering 17 and 19-night cruises out of Cape Town. Both cruises depart on December 19th, making them a fantastic close to home Christmas and New Year holiday option.

The attraction of South Africa as a cruise destination is therefore growing steadily, and with it the local cruise market and the available cruise offerings for the South African public. As with everything, however, there is a catch.

While these cruises offer diversity against the long-standing three and four day cruise itinerary provided by MSC Cruises, they are significantly more expensive, with the average price of these cruises starting at around R55,000, which is around ten times more expensive than MSC.

This may perhaps be the beginning of a new period of development for the South African cruise market, and hopefully in the years ahead we’ll see more mass market cruise lines (such as MSC’s rival Costa Cruises or Royal Caribbean) bringing some of their smaller cruise ships out to South African for a series of ‘test cruises’ aimed at the local market.

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