Grand dame of the seas arrives in Cape Town

20 November 2019 - 08:35 By Claudia Stagoff-Belfort
Cruise liners provide a boost to Cape Town's economy.
Cruise liners provide a boost to Cape Town's economy.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

“Nothing compares! The ship is like a seven-star hotel!” 

That was the word from South African Abdullah Jacobs when he stepped off the Queen Elizabeth cruise liner when it docked in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Hundreds of passengers lined up on the deck of the majestic liner, many still in their dressing gowns, as it arrived.

For Briton Diane Lucas, arriving in Cape Town was something of a return to her home-from-home. As a dental hygienist, Lucas spent three years in Cape Town in the 1970s, living for six months at a time in Sea Point, Wynberg and Gardens. 

“I’m going to go back and see the flat I stayed in when I came to Cape Town in 1973, in the Gardens on Queen Victoria Street. I want to see how much has changed.”

Lucas was among the hundreds who were whisked off on a tour of the city. 

The Queen Elizabeth is one of many cruise liners expected to visit the city during the 2019-20 cruise season, which port authorities expect to be busier than last year.

“This season we’re looking at 130,000 passengers through the terminal and 57 vessels visiting, some of them multiple times,” said V&A Waterfront executive manager of marine and industrial Andre Blaine. 

The port saw 266,000 people arrive between the opening of the terminal in 2015 through to the close of the last cruise season in March 2019. Port congestion means that authorities have to plan efficiently to manage berthing slots for liners so that passengers can maximise their time in the city.

“On a day like today, you will get off the vessel and to the outside of the terminal within three minutes, ready to get on the bus and go away on your tours,” said Blaine. 

Another cruise liner, the Aidamira, will visit Cape Town 17 times this season. At the end of it, in March 2020, three vessels are scheduled to arrive on the same day — the Norwegian Spirit, the World Odyssey and the Aidamira. 

“It’s when we have two or three vessels that we have the congestion,” said Blaine. But the development of phase 3A of the terminal will ease matters. The new area will have additional processing space for onboarding passengers and a holding area will have a food emporium.

Blaine said the luxury cruising industry has a positive impact on SA tourism. People fly from all around the world to meet their vessels in the country. The vessels use local companies for technical services and for the provision of food and beverages.

James Vos, Cape Town mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, said Cape Town Tourism figures put the projected value of the cruise tourism industry between 2017 and 2027 at around R220bn. 

He said the average daily tourist spend of between R501 to R1,000 (excluding accommodation) was a boost to the local economy. The average spend by an international tourist per trip was R8,400 in-destination (while in Cape Town) and a R10,600 prepaid spend (before a traveller arrives).

“It’s no secret, this industry holds tremendous economic opportunities,” said Vos.