MSC Cruises has signed a deal with the Mozambique government for the exclusive use of Pomene Bay - a Unesco World Heritage Site - by visiting passengers.
MSC will be putting up temporary wooden structures to accommodate passengers, who will start arriving on the island in November, and who will initially arrive on the MSC Sinfonia.
Then, from the following cruise season, they will be able to get to the new destination on the cruise itinerary from a new cruise liner plying local waters, the MSC Musica, which will replace the 12-year-old MSC Sinfonia, which has been operating from Durban - her South African home port-of-call - for several years.
MSC Musica, which has 300 extra cabins, is capable of accommodating an additional 750 passengers, increasing the number of passengers on any given cruise to 3200.
The ship, which is 8 years old, had been brought in to meet the increased demand for cruising, said Ross Volk, the managing director of MSC Cruises South Africa.
About 104000 passengers have already experienced cruising aboard the MSC Sinfonia since the current season started last November.
And 60% of those passengers were previously disadvantaged Africans, who have more disposable income than they previously had, and who are now enjoying cruising.
“It is still early days, but we are expecting some to return as repeat customers,” Volk said.
Details of the new destination and the new ship were announced in Johannesburg this week, and it was so important to MSC and the local market that Luca Biondolillo, MSC’s chief communications officer, flew out from MSC’s head office in Geneva.
MSC Cruises is the biggest privately-owned cruise brand in the world, with its 12 liners going to 150 global destinations.
Biondolillo said MSC Cruises was in the middle of a E9billion (R131bn) investment plan to build 11 new mega-ships - four were currently under construction - and, as a result, the workforce would increase by another 55000 in the next 10 years. “Not only have we many more ships than anyone else, but we have a capacity like no one else,” he said.
MSC cruiseliners welcomed 1.8million passengers last year and, by 2026, the fleet projects it will carry five million passengers a year.
The company has 53 passenger terminals around the world. MSC Cruises, together with a Durban-based BEE partner, has also tendered to build and operate the proposed Durban passenger terminal.
The company is committed to employing 120 South Africans on its ships around the world, although last year it exceeded that target, Volk said.