Cruise tourism has started off the year on a positive note after a luxury passenger ship arrived in Mombasa with 1,050 visitors.
MS Nautica, which is operated by Oceania Cruises, docked at the port at 7am from Zanzibar with 654 passengers and 396 crew. It was the first cruise ship to arrive in the country this year with more expected between this month and March.
In December last year, MS Nautica brought in 991 visitors and crew while MS Silver Cloud came with 438 passengers and crew.
Since November when the cruise tourism season began to date, at least 2,479 visitors have arrived in the country compared with 6,000 last season.
Normally, the cruise tourism season begins from November and ends in March, bringing to Mombasa tourists from across the world.
Majority of the holidaymakers who arrived Thursday were from the United States while others were from the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Hong Kong, Mexico, Ireland and Jamaica.
Others were from New Zealand, the Netherlands, Japan, Romania, Sweden, Colombia, Bolivia, China, Switzerland, Hungary and South Africa.
American tourist Shirley Shackelford and her husband Perry said they were over the moon after arriving in Kenya for the first time.
“We came to Kenya to see wildlife in their natural habitat as well as to enjoy the warm weather, we come from Philadephia which is a very cold place,” she said.
Canadian tourist Helena Elly and her partner Pauls Ernest said they were glad to be in Kenya for the second time.
“In 2010, we came to Kenya for a two-week holiday. We had a fun-filled safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve as well as Amboseli,” she said. Ms Shackelford said they have a connection with Kenya since her friend adopted an eight-year old Kenyan girl.
They were heading to Shimba Hills Game Reserve. “We also love Kenya because of the warm weather, culture and friendly people,” she explained.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) senior principal communication officer Haji Masemo said the arrival of the ship was a boost to cruise tourism.
Rise in passenger arrivals
The KPA official noted that more passenger ships were expected to arrive in Mombasa before the season ends.
“This season alone we have received almost 2,500 visitors who arrived by sea and we expect to receive more in the first quarter of 2017,” he said.
Last month, KPA launched the construction of the first ever cruise ship terminal at the port at a cost of Sh350 million. KPA managing director Catherine Mturi-Wairi said construction of the terminal comes at a time when the port was experiencing a rise in passenger ship arrivals.
Last season, she said, the port received 10 cruise ships which brought in more than 6,000 tourists.
She said the terminal will offer a range of facilities including a lounge for passengers, reception counters, restaurants and souvenir shops.