The 92400 gross ton ship is considerably larger than her predecessor, MSC Sinfonia, which sailed here in recent summers. By comparison, Sinfonia is a mere 65000 gt, but big enough compared to the early era of cruise ships, which were so lacking in capacity to meet an apparently insatiable demand by a worldwide public that has taken to cruising.
This year an estimated 27.7 million people will have taken a cruise somewhere in the world - that’s an increase from the 17.8 million that went cruising 10 years ago in 2009. Few other business “niches”, especially those in the travel industry, can claim such growth and it explains why so many new cruise ships are coming into service every year.
Another factor is that only a few of the older vessels are retired and some continue in service with the smaller cruise companies even when they have reached 40 years or more, before eventually finding their way to the ship breakers. The capacity continues to grow and cruising has become big business, everywhere.
In 2016 the economic impact of cruising globally amounted to $126billion, generating $41bn in wages and salaries. With the demand increasing by 20.5% in the past five years, cruising has long remained the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market.
That is also the case here in South Africa and it is one reason why MSC Cruises has replaced an already large ship with another almost 50% bigger in terms of gross tonnage. The new ship’s passenger capacity doesn’t reflect that statistic however, as MSC Musica carries around 3200 passengers compared to the 2600 of MSC Sinfonia.
As a result of having the bigger ship in our waters, MSC Cruises intends expanding its business and the indications are that even more people will cruise with them from either Durban or Cape Town this summer.
Plans are at an advanced stage for a new cruise terminal in Durban that will better cater for this increasing traffic. On top of these numbers, there are more cruise ships calling in South Africa this summer than before.
And while the new cruise terminal in Cape Town has already opened, the construction of the new Durban terminal has yet to get under way, and passengers will have to continue making use of the old N-Shed Cruise Terminal.
On Thursday, MSC Musica’s first group of passengers embarked, ahead of a cruise along the Zululand coast to destinations in Mozambique.
A common complaint by cruise ship passengers across the world concerns the boarding process, with passengers impatient to board, find their cabin and get settled.
According to unofficial reports, passengers in Durban had to pass through immigration and other official procedures on that day, taking an average of about 15 minutes each which is considered a big improvement by everyone concerned on previous years.