Australian couple, Robyn and Graham Taylor, finally landed in their dream holiday destination, albeit for a few hours.
The couple, who worked in the education department in Australia, were all smiles when on Christmas Day, while holding hands, disembarked from their ship cabin and walked straight into the amazing architectural masterpiece – Mombasa Port Cruise terminal.
They were part of the 1,000 passengers and crew whose vessel, MS Nautica, a regular caller at the Port of Mombasa, docked at berth number 1 on Christmas Day.
The vessel flying the Marshal Island flag had sailed into the warm Kilindini waters from Port Victoria, Seychelles, for a 14-hour stopover before embarking on its Indian Ocean cruise to the spicy island of Zanzibar.
"We have always wanted to come to Kenya. This country has been our top priority nation to visit. Each time we tried, we would not get through, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic when international travel was banned," Graham said.
He said they grabbed the opportunity after seeing what MS Nautica had lined up in its Indian Ocean cruise itinerary for 2022.
"We saw Mombasa, Kenya, on the list of destinations where this beautiful ship would call and made the decision to book to be on the voyage. Here we are today in your beautiful port city of Mombasa," he said.
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He said that though their stay was limited to only a few hours, they were excited and delighted to spend Christmas Day in Mombasa.
"Ours is a lifetime dream. We are setting out on a short city tour to visit places of interest here," he said as they passed through the terminal's immigration desk.
The master of the vessel, Captain Sasa Milosavljevic, a native of Croatia and a veteran of the world oceans with over two decades of experience at sea, said, "It was fulfilling getting out of the ship to meet genuine smiles."
"You have an important asset in the way people here can afford a smile. It was a very welcoming Christmas for my passengers and fellow crew to have landed in your country."
Captain Milosavljevic said they had visited many ports of the world during their port calls but the kind of reception in Mombasa was unmatched.
"We were received by a minister (Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage CS Peninah Malonza) and her entourage, which included government officials and port executives here," he said.
As the visitors set out on their 12-hour excursion to different parts of the Coast region, Malonza was laying the ground for more efforts to help make the new cruise terminal at the port of Mombasa more attractive to cruise liners.
She said the visit to Mombasa port and subsequent travels to various places of interest by both passengers and crew from MS Nautica had injected close to Sh100 million into Kenya's economy.
The CS announced plans by the government to empower the local tourism marketer, Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), to come up with a dedicated department to handle cruise tourism.
"As a government, we intend to grow cruise tourism as a niche product. We expect to have at least three more cruise ships call at the Port of Mombasa by end of March 2023," she said.
Malonza said her ministry will engage with relevant stakeholders, including the Transport ministry and tour operators, to ensure the industry benefits from relevant infrastructure.
Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) General Manager for marine operations Godfrey Namadoa said they were delighted at the prospects of having a world-class cruise terminal at the Port of Mombasa.
He said KPA was happy to receive the second cruise vessel this year in a span of one month during the post-Covid-19 period.
"We have invested a lot in this terminal and want to assure stakeholders of our continued support to see this kind of tourism boost the local economy," Namadoa said.
International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) ship inspector based at the port, Betty Makena, called for a more collaborative approach between various government agencies to help put Kenya and the Port of Mombasa on the cruise ship map.