MSC Cruises’ intrepid little cruise liner MSC Sinfonia docked this week in Durban and began her 2017/18 summer cruise season out of South Africa.
We say little, but Sinfonia has in fact been ‘stretched’ and now boasts a passenger capacity of more than 2,300 thanks to a multi-million dollar refit undertaken last year.
Compared to the larger cruise ships in the MSC Cruises fleet, however, MSC Sinfonia is relatively small, and with demand for South African cruises continuing to grow, she’s no longer able to keep up.
For this reason, the ship’s current season will be her last in South Africa, with MSC Cruises planning to send the much larger, much newer and far more luxurious MSC Musica to South Africa for the next cruise season.
To mark the beginning of her final season, MSC Sinfonia was welcomed at the Port of Durban with a traditional tug spray, a marimba band on the quay as lines were cast and a throng of traditional dancers to welcome her largely international cruise tourists to the country.
“It gives us great pleasure to welcome MSC Cruises and MSC Sinfonia back to her South African home port each year,” said Transnet National Ports Authority’s Port Manager for the Port of Durban, Moshe Motlohi. “We are also delighted to welcome some new operators and vessels to the port this season. These 13 vessels represent 11 cruise line companies that have shown confidence in Durban as a route this season – up from seven in 2016/17.”
It’s worth noting that of those 13 cruise ships docking in Durban during the current season, only two are actually using it as a turnaround port (Sinfonia, of course, and Fred Olsen’s Boudicca).
The 13 passenger liners scheduled to call at the Port of Durban this season are: Albatros (Phoenix Reisen), Boudicca (Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines), Crystal Symphony (Crystal Cruises), Europa 2 (Hapag-Lloyd Cruises), Insignia (Oceania Cruises), Le Lyrial (Compagnie du Ponant), Nautica (Oceania Cruises), Seabourn Sojourn (Seabourn Cruise Line), Serenissima (Noble Caledonia), Seven Seas Navigator (Regent Seven Seas Cruises), Silver Spirit (Silversea Cruises), MSC Sinfonia (MSC Cruises) and Seven Seas Voyager (Regent Seven Seas Cruises).
Durban is a popular destination owing to its pleasant climate and beaches, close proximity to the two World Heritage Sites (Isimangaliso Wetland Park and Drakensberg), shore excursions, land programmes and promotion of wildlife experiences at nearby luxury game lodges.
Because of this, passenger numbers at the Port of Durban have grown from 171,510 in 2015 to 209,712 in 2016. The port witnessed an increase of 22% in 2016 compared to 2015, underscoring the desperate need for its embarrassingly outdated cruise infrastructure to be redeveloped.