Cruising along West Africa

By | Category: Travel destinations

One of the surprises of the return to travel this year has been the cruise industry.

Some of the masks worn at carnival time in the Bissagos Islands. Image – Guinea Bissau tourism

At a time when many thought people might object to being in a metal tube on the waves for day-after-day, the willingness of the industry to bring so many ships to offer holidays around the British coastline proved a winner.

I thought cruising might be one of the last parts of the travel industry to return to busy schedules; shows how much I know!

I think eighteen ships are currently cruising and many are as full as they can be. International cruising is starting up and, although some destinations are still reluctant to let ships dock the future looks brighter than when all those cruise ships were lying off Dorset a few months ago.

But can the industry continue with just a staple diet of cruises in the Med or around the UK? I know there are cruises up the fjords and towards St Petersburg but what new is on offer.

Tunisia is popping up as a destination to break the monotony of the usual Med destinations but, so far, only MSC has said it will dock in Tunis.

More exciting is the decision of Hurtigruten to add cruises to West Africa as well as a familiar destination, Cape Verde. Usually thought of a a coastal ferry serving remote coastal Norway towns and cities as well as a Polar cruise company, the decision by the shipping line to include places such as Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal are bound to appeal to two sorts of people at least. All cruises will start from Dakar in Senegal

The first will be those adventurous types who are always looking for somewhere new and the second is those who might have been put off visiting Africa but who will now change their minds because of the opportunity of visiting with a high security comfort factor.

Just as countless holiday makers returned from spain with donkeys in the 1970’s, in the not too distant future, cruise passengers might return from the Bissagos Islands off Guinea-Bissau with examples of Bidyogo art such as zoomorphic masks representing cows, sharks and hippos.

It also opens up an area of the world where cruise ships have been few and far between.

There are so many other destinations that could be opened up not the least of which are Ivory Coast, Guinea and Sierra Leone all of which have potential for a range of different tours such as heritage, landscapes  (waterfalls in Guinea)  beaches (Sierra Leone) and village visits.

Are other companies eying routes down the coast of West Africa but waiting to see how Hurtigruten fares? Will we see a flurry of tours – just as we have seen around the UK coastline this year?

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