Anger after cruise tourists stuck on ship
Cape Town - Thousands of cruise ship passengers were stuck aboard their ship after it docked in Table Bay Harbour on Tuesday, because too few customs officials were deployed to handle the number of passengers who wanted to step ashore and tour the Mother City.
The owner of the cruise ship MSC Opera, MSC Cruises, reacted with anger and disappointment when pre-booked package tours and other tourism arrangements could not be completed because of the problem at the quayside.
And provincial Tourism and Agricultural Development MEC Alan Winde described it as a major setback for cruise ship tourism in the city.
Soon after the ship docked in Table Bay Harbour, it became apparent that most of the ship’s over 2 000 passengers would not be able to go ashore for tours, said MSC Cruises marketing director Alan Foggitt.
“Only four customs officials arrived to deal with the passengers and South African passengers who were supposed to board the ship for the cruise to Namibia were also held up for hours,” he said. “At least the passengers on the ship had the comforts of the ship… but the passengers on the quayside had to wait in the sun and wind. This was purely organisational, a staffing issue.”
Foggitt said the ship was due to set sail for Namibia at 3pm and that the ship’s crew had their hands full trying to work through the backlog to try and meet the sailing time as well as the arrival time at Walvis Bay.
“This is a major problem for the future. It obviously had a knock-on effect,” he said.
“We are going to have a meeting with the government. It is clear a lack of manpower at Customs was the cause of this disaster.”
Winde was clearly angry:
“This speaks of the recent visa debate we had. It should be important to remove blockages to business and tourism, not create them.
“The question is, are we really open for business in South Africa? It is the start of our tourism season and this sort of thing will do us much harm. It gives us a very bad name in the cruise industry and we cannot afford not to have the cruise liners come here.”
The vessel left Cape Town just before 5pm on Tuesday.