The TUI Group-owned ms Europa (operated by TUI's subsidiary Hapag-Lloyd) docked in Cape Town (South Africa) on Tuesday, November 30. The ship's arrival was expected to mark the official start of the season, the first since the COVID crisis hit.
However, international travel restrictions imposed on South Africa, where the Omicron COVID variant was first identified, blew away expectations of a bumper tourist season.
MS Europa is the first vessel to dock at Port Cape Town since South Africa banned all cruise ships from entering its seaports in March 2020, after the country's first Coronavirus case.
Now Omicron-related travel restrictions are imposed on the country by the EU, the UK and the USA.
The ultra-luxury ship carrying hundreds of passengers was sailing from Luderitz (Namibia) to Cape Town when news of the Omicron broke and raised the possibility that the boat could be re-routed.
Some of the passengers disembarked to fly back home, whilst others stayed onboard for the return trip. Those heading to the airport have to do a PCR test before leaving. ~157 guests, who disembark in small batches, are to be processed by immigration services until today according to their flight schedules.
MS Europa was originally scheduled to stay in port until December 2 but will now leave on Friday (tracker), a day later, as tourists are being tested in a state-run laboratory at the terminal.