Strong Winds Trap Cruise Ship in Cape Town

December 4, 2012
(10:56 a.m. EST) -- MSC Cruises' Sinfonia was trapped in Cape Town harbor from November 28 to December 1 after 75-mile-per-hour winds forced authorities to close the port. The wait transformed the ship's planned five-night cruise to a two-night cruise to nowhere.

According to the Southern Africa online news site News24, the ship was due to leave for Walvis Bay in Namibia on November 28, the same day passengers had embarked, but was unable to depart before the Port of Cape Town shut down due to strong winds.

MSC Cruises confirmed the delay.

"The comfort and safety of passengers will always be the top priority for MSC and when the conditions are severe enough for the local port authorities to close the entire port to all shipping, it's a clear message that those conditions pose a significant safety risk and/or extreme discomfort levels for those at sea," Allan Foggitt of MSC Starlight Cruises, the general sales agent for MSC Cruises in South Africa, said.

Yvette Batalla, a U.S.-based MSC Cruises spokesperson, told Cruise Critic the ship departed Cape Town on December 1 at 4:45 a.m. local time, sailed a two-night cruise to nowhere and returned to Cape Town December 3.

During the wait, during which passengers were not allowed off, Sinfonia crew kept all onboard activities going though News24 reported that the onboard shops and the casino remained closed due to immigration and custom laws. The 1,273 passengers onboard were given free drinks at various times, a 30 percent discount on bar purchases for the rest of the cruise, and offered a 50 percent discount on a future cruise, combinable with the best promotional fare on offer for a cruise of their choice on Opera or Sinfonia, Batalla added.

Passengers were also given the option to remain onboard for the next cruise departing December 3 and returning December 7 for approximately $170 extra.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor