GET READY AS THE MSC SINFONIA BEGINS ITS JOURNEY HOME TO DURBAN.
PASSENGERS ARE SET TO EXPERIENCE A WIDE RANGE OF EAST AFRICAN DELIGHTS AS THE MSC SINFONIA LEFT GENOA ON MONDAY ON ITS 25-NIGHT JOURNEY
BACK TO ITS HOME PORT OF DURBAN IN TIME FOR AN EXCITING 2015/16 SUMER SEASON.
On Sunday, the MSC Sinfonia left Genoa to begin its Southbound Africa Grand Voyage along the East African coast to return to local waters in time for the 2015/16 summer cruise season. Over the 25-night duration of the voyage, MSC Sinfonia will be calling on the ports of Civitavecchia, Katakolon, Port Said, Suez Canal, Safaga, Aqaba (Petra), Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, and finally arriving in Durban on 19 November 2015.
Says Allan Foggitt, Marketing and Sales Director for MSC Cruises: “It is the first time in 6 years that MSC Cruises has voyaged down the East coast of Africa. It is a great cruise that really epitomises what cruising is all about – discovering the gems of a unique continent, visiting exotic destinations, cruising in comfort, admiring the views and making the most of every moment in dream surroundings.”
However, he notes that this itinerary is not the only industry first for the local cruise season, but explains that there are a plethora of other exciting new developments: “The new developments will allow us to accommodate the fact that cruising is becoming such an extremely popular local pastime. Our figures are growing at an incredible rate, when all others seem to be showing a decline. According to the Tourism Business Index, South Africa showed a dismal performance in the third quarter of 2015. But MSC has never performed better – to date, over 80% of our annual budget has already been achieved, and we are sitting on an occupancy rate of 70%, with many of our local cruises already sold out.”
One of the afore mentioned developments that is causing a lot of excitement, is the fact that MSC Sinfonia will be returning to Durban for the first time since it underwent ground-breaking enlargement and enhancements as part of MCS’ Renaissance Programme. Foggitt explains: “The €200-million Renaissance Programme was undertaken to refit and extend four ships of the MSC Cruises fleet. It involved a process of bisecting the ship before inserting a new 24-metre section into the space. The renewed MSC Sinfonia now has more balcony cabins, more spacious public areas, a greater choice of restaurants and new clubs dedicated to younger guests, including the outdoor Spray Park with exciting waterfalls and splashy water slides.”
However, it is not only the MSC Sinfonia that has been improved – the N-Shed Terminal in the Port of Durban has also recently undergone major refurbishments. To cater for increased demand, MSC Cruises entered into a joint initiative with Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) to upgrade the existing N-Shed Terminal, says Foggitt: “N-shed was initially a warehouse that was used as a terminal when MSC Cruises first started cruising local waters in 1989. It was upgraded a few years back, however, of late, it required further upgrades to accommodate more passengers in a more comfortable and efficient manner. To make this a reality, MSC Cruises entered into a joint initiative with TNPA to improve these facilities.”
The new and improved N-Shed Terminal boasts many new improvements, with the most noticeable being added signage, balustrades, turnstyles and sail shades, as well as new ramps, a new Fast Track Lounge, Immigration and Check-in desks, new baggage scanners and conveyor belt, an air-conditioning system, extra seating, and a back-up generator and UPS to cater for the eventuality of load shedding.
Mozambique’s Portuguese Island, South Africa’s favourite cruise destination, has also seen major upgrades. The quintessential tropical island paradise – Portuguese Island is an uninhabited nature reserve, boasting pristine beaches, dense vegetation, pleasant lagoons and small patches of mangrove. Says Foggitt: “MSC Cruises has invested heavily into further facility upgrades on the island to better equip it for the increased volumes of passengers. Over the last 2014/15 cruise season, MSC cruised to Portuguese Island a total of 35 times, and carried over 43 800 passengers to its shores. For the 2015/16 season, MSC Cruises expects to increase visits to Portuguese Island by escalating landings to 40, with the aim of carrying in excess of 72 000 passengers ashore during the course of the new season.”
The essential upgrades made to the infrastructure on the island comprised improvements made to the entertainment, bar, dining, and VIP areas, as well as the excursion centre. New builds included a new furnished entertainment area, dining deck, a fully equipped excursion centre, additional storage area and the beach kitchen has been enlarged. A cooler spray system and extra shade sails have been installed, and extra indigenous palm trees have been planted. As part of the upgrade project, MSC also invested in three additional ship-to-shore Zodiac vessels, which will offer passengers easier and quicker access to the island. Each Zodiac has been purpose designed to carry 80 passengers at a time.
Allan concludes: “With all the developments mentioned above, the 2015/16 cruises season promises to be an eventful one!”