The allure of the luxury cruises and what goes on behind the scenes

Supplying provisions, spares, documentation and co-ordinating passengers and a crew change for such a ship is an enormous task entrusted to SGM. We went behind the scenes to see what it takes to ensure the operation runs smoothly

The allure of the luxury cruises

On an early Friday morning this majestic ship docks alongside Cape Town Cruise Terminal. The ship is two hours behind schedule due to a photo shoot of the spectacular port approach of the Queen to our beautiful city.

As passengers start disembarking for their outings in and around Cape Town, a hive of activities takes place in the port with containers and forklifts lining up goods to be loaded into the ship through two doors in the hull.

Our agents, Guinalda and Matthew, have been preparing for this visit for more than a month. It is a complex and intricate process to manage 14 containers of goods arriving by sea, considerable amount of air freighted parcels as well as all deliveries from local suppliers. It requires meticulous planning and attention to details.

The containers contain dry food and bar stores, general hotel stores and reefers with frozen food. Ingredients for fine dining, such as fresh salmon and delicate crustaceans, that is extremely sensitive and need to be kept at the correct temperature at all times. There are also spares, technical parts, documentation and equipment, for example gym gear. Local suppliers provide stores and provisions, amongst other things – water, wine, fresh produce, fruit and vegetables, soft drinks, flour and rice.

The trucks and loading vessels are running constantly and the cruise line’s Technical Stores Manager is working closely together with our agents to make sure it all happens according to the schedule.

Customs documents are required in order to avoid penalties and our agents liaise with transport companies, co-ordinators and port security to ensure that every part of this operation also runs according to schedule.

It is of utmost importance that there are no delays or disruptions, as this will have huge repercussions; the ship will not receive the cargo on time, and in turn this will cause a shortage of goods on-board (such as food, stores, spares and medical supplies). Furthermore, having containers forwarded to next port of call is risky as you might encounter delays at other ports relating to wind, berthing, and port congestion for the container vessel.

After loading, the cargo is distributed to the various departments on-board while at intervals, baggage is also loaded for embarking passengers. The passenger baggage takes priority. After the baggage is screened via the Port x-ray machines, stevedores transfer it to the vessel for loading on conveyor belts.

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The disembarkation procedure moves fast when the baggage is discharged from the vessel via a colour coding system. Colour codes are attached to the bags according to deck sequences. The baggage is separated at the terminal, the sniffer dogs arrive and thereafter the passengers identify their luggage and depart for their hotels or the airport.

SGM’s Cruise Team is experienced, innovative, efficient and dedicated and each one of them goes above and beyond their regular duties to accommodate our clients and their guests. Despite technology and digitalisation playing an increasing role in our lives and assisting in streamlining and automating the ships agent’s processes and role, there are times when human interaction is invaluable.

In the event of severe injuries or life-threatening illnesses on board that require hospitalisation and comprehensive treatment, our team is ready to assist and support what can be a traumatic experience; especially if the ship has to sail without them on-board and other arrangements have to be made. In situations like these, our agents go to the hospital, visit the patients, bring something to brighten their day and provide the assurance that they are taking care of all arrangements. It makes a world of a difference for the unfortunate traveller.

When Queen Mary 2 left Cape Town 48 hours later, most people would not have been aware of the complex and extensive logistical processes, planning and management that enables her to sail off safely to her next destination. SGM is proud to have a played an instrumental role in ensuring that the ocean liners visiting our shores continues to embody the allure of luxury cruise travel.