The big Queen need no longer give Cape Town a wide berth
V&A's new cruise liner terminal is now officially complete and open for business
And to think it used to be a derelict oil tank farm. The V&A Waterfront, already Africa’s most popular source of cold beer and cappuccinos, on Tuesday revealed plans to establish one of the world’s top cruise liner destinations in Cape Town on the back of a 20-year lease agreement with Transnet.
The V&A’s new cruise liner terminal is now officially complete, featuring an airport-style arrival hall, a viewing deck, and iconic Cape Town restaurant Panama Jacks which recently relocated to the site from the bowels of the harbour. Instead of arriving to a make-shift customs desk inside an industrial warehouse, disembarking passengers are now ushered past enticing images of elephants and proteas on their way to awaiting luxury buses.It’s a turnaround expected to pay dividends in terms of more regular cruise liner visits, according to V&A chief executive David Green, who hosted a media function at the terminal on Tuesday to coincide with a visit from iconic cruise liner the Queen Elizabeth. “It’s the fastest growing space in tourism,” said Green of the cruise liner business. “Cape Town is in a sweet spot from a tourism perspective.”He said the company had recently secured an additional cruise liner to berth in Cape Town, adding a further five visits to a schedule that delivered 65,000 visitors this past summer season.
“It’s a bucket-list thing to do,” said Green, who attributed the success of the terminal project to constructive engagement with government stakeholders. Embarrassing customs bottlenecks had been resolved – one of several improvements to the visitor experience, he said. “What was a nightmarish experience has been transformed,” said Green. “It’s not as friendly as I’d like it to be, but it is manageable.”A media tour of the cruise terminal revealed a slick embarkation service, with well-heeled tourists queuing to board the Queen Elizabeth. The 294m, 70,000-ton vessel easily dwarfed adjoining vessels and drew a small crowd of onlookers. It sailed just before 5pm.
In a statement issued on Tuesday Green said: “The cruise ship industry is an important part of Cape Town’s economy and of our city’s proud marine heritage. As beautiful as Cape Town is, if a passenger’s experience on arrival is unpleasant, it can affect their entire perception of the city. From international experience we know that the cruise line industry offers enormous potential for tourism growth, so we are determined to extend the world-class experience the V&A Waterfront is known for to the Cruise Terminal.”