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I have always thought of Cape Town as the most beautiful port in the world, certainly, when coming into Table Bay from the north, after a lengthy voyage on the open sea. With Robben Island on your port side, Table Mountain and the Lion's Head on your bow, surely there is no sight anywhere to match this on a clear day?

Sydney Harbour would perhaps come a distant second.

The photos of the three cruise ships dominating Duncan Dock saddened me a little bit. In the 1970s, when I was a regular caller into Cape Town aboard Union-Castle and Clan Line ships, it would not be unusual to see two or three passenger liners in the dock, but their scale was so much smaller than these ships.

Union-Castle's biggest vessel, the Windsor Castle, carried about 850 passengers and 475 crew. The three ships pictured are the MSC Sinfonia (2,546 passengers), Norwegian Jade (2,882 passengers) and the Azamara Journey which at 30,277 grt and a capacity for 781 passengers is more in line with the scale of passenger liners calling into Cape Town fifty years ago. Nonetheless, that is 6,000 passengers and probably another 3,000 crew potentially taking a stroll down Adderley Street and testing the resilience of the local resources.

It does make you wonder how smaller cities than Cape Town, particularly in the Caribbean, handle multi-cruise ship calls where each vessel often carries 5,000 plus passengers.

I know that these days Cape Town's commercial port traffic is largely centred around the container facilities in Ben Schoeman Dock, but there's a tinge of sadness when I think back to how busy Duncan Dock used to be with almost all its berths occupied by an endlessly rotating collection of sometimes beautiful, sometimes plain ugly ships destined for every corner of the earth.

Sandy G
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