South Africa has become a hot cruising destination for 2015, as an unprecedented number of world-class international cruise lines will visit South African ports as part of their cruise itineraries during the next year. By adding South Africa to their itineraries, cruise lines are responding to the increasing demand from international cruise travelers for South African destinations, according to Imagine Cruising Managing Director Robin Deller.
In 2015, South Africa will see ships from Cunard, MSC, Costa, Seabourn, Crystal, Oceania, Holland America and Silversea visit its most popular ports, including Cape Town, Durban, Richards Bay, Port Elizabeth and East London.
Thaybz Khan, marketing executive at Cruises International (South Africa’s largest seller of cruises), explains South African ports are increasingly included in world cruise itineraries. “Three of the luxury cruise brands are returning either for the second or third time to South African shores. Crystal will be returning to South Africa for the third time in 2015. Oceania will be returning to South Africa for the second time in 2015. Seabourn will be in South Africa for the second time in December this year.”
Peter Shanks, managing director of Cunard Line, agrees that more lines, such as Cunard, P&O, HAL and Seabourn, have started touching South Africa on their world cruises. “Queen Mary 2 first came to South Africa in March of 2010 and will now be back in 2015. In 2016, both the Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth will be visiting South Africa, which is an exciting opportunity for South Africa.”
Nikki Forster, director of the hospitality sector at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Southern Africa, explains in PwC’s “Hospitality outlook: 2014-2018” that until recently, cruise lines were reluctant to expand into Africa, citing poor infrastructure, safety concerns, limited shore excursions and the large distances from their major markets and the leading destinations. This trend has changed, and major cruise lines have now started traveling to South Africa as a port of call on long trips. Forster said South Africa expects a 70.4% increase in cruise capacity for the 2015-16 season.
Forster said the country is in the process of soliciting and evaluating proposals for new cruise terminals in Durban and Cape Town.
“The construction of world-class cruise terminals will improve boarding, which will enhance the cruise experience and encourage cruise lines to increase the number of cruises they offer in South Africa,” Forster said. “We expect that the addition of several cruises will raise seasonal capacity by the 2018-19 season.”
Cape Town has indeed recognized its potential as a world-class cruising destination, and the city is investing heavily in the construction of a new dedicated cruise terminal, which is set to include arrival and departure facilities and be located closer than the current terminal is to tourist attractions, such as the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront retail, dining and entertainment area.
Cruises International said a new terminal will be hugely beneficial to the city and to the cruise and tourism industry in South Africa, as Cape Town has become a flagship port in the international cruise calendar.
John Stoll, vice president of land programs for Crystal Cruises, said research shows the most popular ports are the ones that offer the best opportunities to experience African safaris, which include Maputo, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Cape Town has been a hit with U.S. travelers, as they view the destination as a world- class city and a perfect gateway to experience safaris.
Stoll said Crystal has seen a great demand of interest in cruises that have South Africa in the itineraries.
“In 2014, South African destinations were part of our world cuises and will be featured again in 2015, which is Crystal’s 20th world cruise as we celebrate our 25th anniversary,” he said. “Next year, we are offering a 21-day Perth/Fremantle-to-Cape Town cruise followed by a 15-day Cape Town-to-Rio de Janeiro cruise.”
Shore excursions in South Africa have done well in 2014, according to Stoll.
“We feature 10 to 14 African safari programs in six African countries, including South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania,” he said. “These adventures are highlighted by visits to some of most luxurious safari camps available. They are generally two- to three-night programs where guests depart in one port and rejoin the ship in another port. These conveniently positioned overnights are a staple in the Crystal experience.”
River cruising in South Africa also has grown in popularity over the years. Rudi Schreiner, president of AmaWaterways River Cruises, said AmaWaterways feels strongly about the growth of travel to South Africa, especially as safari travel continues to emerge as a forerunner in luxury travel.
“South Africa is a popular bucket list item, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon,” Schreiner said.
Correction: This insight was corrected on Nov. 1, 2014 to correct the attribution on comments from AMA Waterways to the company's president, Rudi Schreiner.