A technical malfunction at Cape Town’s cruise passenger terminal on Friday, January 27th left almost 2,000 passengers stranded at the Cape Town Convention Centre, unable to board Queen Mary 2 for her cruise from South Africa.
It is unclear what exactly caused the delay, neither Cunard or Transnet have replied to a request for comment, but an official at the convention centre has said that the internet link between the ship and the centre failed, resulting in Cunard having to manually check-in passengers boarding the ship.
Passengers reportedly queued for up to 3 hours due to the slow nature of manual checking in and then sat for up to an hour more while buses shuttled the passengers from the convention centre to the ship.
Although the ship was docked at a commercial berth in the harbour, just a few hundred metres from the convention centre, busses had to take a longer route through the city centre and Cape Town’s rush-hour traffic to enter the port and reach the ship.
Little was communicated to passengers, many of whom were furious, frustrated or both, according to reports on Twitter.
The first sitting dinner at 6pm was delayed as passengers were still coming on board and the lifeboat drill had to be repeated at 8:30pm to cater for the late arrivals.
As Queen Mary 2 finally prepared to depart Cape Town, her captain Christopher Wells reportedly made an announcement apologising for the day’s events.
A bottle of wine was later delivered to passengers state rooms with a note from Captain Wells.
“I would like to extend our since apologies for the delay in embarkation this afternoon,” the captain wrote.
“Due initially to the failure of our check systems we had to revert to a manual check-in process. This situation was exacerbated by the adverse weather conditions experienced in Cape Town this afternoon, and then traffic congestion within the city, which resulted in further delays in the transfer from the Convention Centre to the ship.”
The majority of passengers who boarded the ship in Cape Town are booked for the Cape Town to Perth leg of her World Cruise.
The ship docked at Port Elizabeth on Sunday, and will visit Reunion Island this Friday and Port Louis, Mauritius on Saturday 4 February after which it will spend eight days at sea crossing the Indian Ocean. The ship will arrive in Fremantle on Sunday 12 February 2017.
The incident has once more brought attention to Cape Town’s outdated and poorly-equipped cruise facilities. Cruise ships the size of Queen Mary 2 frequently experience delays because of the need to conduct check in a security procedures at the Convention Centre rather than the cruise terminal itself.
Because of her size, Queen Mary 2 cannot dock at Cape Town Cruise Terminal. In the 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 cruise seasons, more than 100,000 cruise tourists visited Cape Town, but further growth in the South African cruise market is hampered by a lack of facilities.
This is a situation that tourism officials are trying to rectify.
“There has been significant investment into Cape Town’s Cruise Terminal. Initial upgrades, including baggage handling services, and reception and waiting areas, have dramatically improved our capacity to process cruise liner passengers,” Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde insists.
“The V&A Waterfront have committed R50 million in the first two phases of its upgrades to the terminal, and they are ensuring this is a year-around world-class facility. Through our Project Khulisa growth strategy, we have prioritised growing the size of our tourism sector. Cruise tourism delivers significant economic benefits to our province,” Winde added.