Friday, 19 February 2021 18:55

Staff Reporter.

MSC Cruises, one of the largest privately-owned cruise ship companies in the world, will not be sailing to South Africa until at least November 2021. Passengers due to board its ships before November are being offered vouchers for the next sailing season, which runs until April 2022.

Cruise ships have been banned in South Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cruise operator has decided to not operate here for the time being.

In November a ban on passenger ships entering South African harbours was adjusted to allow small craft, while large cruise ships remained explicitly prohibited from operating.

MSC said it had been working with South African authorities since March 2020 on coronavirus safety protocols. After an inspection in late December, it believed it had satisfied various departments and regulators that it could operate safely, but a month and a half later it is still waiting for approval to sail.

Now it can wait no longer, it said, and it had made the "difficult decision" to shut down until next summer.

At the end of 2021, MSC plans to have two ships in South Africa, the MSC Lirica sailing out of Cape Town, and the MSC Musica out of Durban. Between them the ships can carry more than 5,500 guest at a time, with two-night cruises starting at about R3500 per person.

MSC is also the lead investor in a R200 million development of a passenger terminal in the Durban Harbour.