THE Port of Port Elizabeth’s 2018/19 cruise season was officially launched with the arrival of the MS Amadea to its shores on Sunday, November 18. The Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) celebrated her entry into the port with a tug ballet – tugs spraying water with their fire monitors. The season recently opened with the arrival of the first cruise liner, MS Europa 2 on November 6. Phoenix Reisen’s MS Amadea sailed into the port fully booked, carrying a total of 630 German passengers and 323 crew members. The 27-year-old, 29 008 ton cruise ship was built in 1991. Her current cruise includes 65 days, one-way from Hamburg in Germany to Villefranche-sur-Mer in France. She arrived at 07:00 having called at the Port of Mossel Bay. Port manager, Rajesh Dana, said that the port was scheduled to receive a total of 18 cruise vessel calls this season between November 2018 and April 2019, operated by 12 different companies. “Cruise liner tourism is aligned with TNPA’s vision of transforming the port into a ‘smart people’s port’. “The cruise season provides a big boost for Nelson Mandela Bay’s economy, allowing tourists to access recreational, leisure and wildlife experiences in and around our city. “We’re delighted that cruise liners continue to show confidence in our city,” Dana said. The passengers were welcomed by traditional dancers on the quayside as they disembarked at 08:30. The port officially welcomed the cruise ship with a few special guests on board. Dana and Michael Wilhelm, Captain of the MS Amadea, exchanged welcoming messages and gifts. The captain courteously took the guests on a guided tour through the grand old lady. “We are very excited to welcome another cruise liner in our midst during our PEople’s Port Festival over the weekend of December 1 and 2. “The MS Europa will grace our festival with her presence in the port,” Dana added.A highlight to look forward to this season is the brief return call of the Australian cruise ship, Ocean Dream. She is chartered by Peace Boat, a Japan-based international non-governmental and non-profit organisation that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment. Another highlight is the much-loved favourite Saga Pearl II, operated by Saga Cruises. She will arrive at South African shores in March as part of an epic 54-night cruise. Our country will represent her final voyage ahead of her retirement. She will make way for Saga Cruises’ first new-built ship, Spirit of Discovery. Saga Pearl II’s scheduled calls will include Cape Town, PE, East London, Richards Bay and Durban. South Africa’s six cruise ports have begun welcoming thousands of passengers to the country’s shores as the 2018/19 cruise season got underway.Provisional schedules indicate that at least 24 luxury cruise ships operated by at least 17 international cruise lines are scheduled to call at the country’s six cruise ports this season.Operators that have included South Africa on their routes this year include: Semester at Sea, AIDA Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Cunard Lines, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Peace Boat, Phoenix Reisen, Ponant, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Saga Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Silversea Cruises and Viking Cruises.Operators with multiple vessels on the local route include Silversea Cruises, with four vessels – Silver Discoverer, Silver Spirit, Silver Cloud and Silver Whisper – and Cunard Lines with its impressive liners Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria.