An Italian cruise ship, Costa Marina, docked in Mombasa on Saturday, with more than 800 tourists and 350 crew members on board, boosting the already vibrant tourism industry in the Coast Province.
Mr Khalid Shapi, the managing director of Pollman’s Tours and Safaris Limited, who did the ground handling, said the tourists were supposed to spend a day sampling Kenya’s tourist attractions in the Coast region.
Their sea voyage began at Genoa port in Italy via Seychelles to Mombasa.
Speaking to the Nation on Sunday, Mr Shapi said some of the visitors went to Tsavo National park, Shimba Hills game reserve, Diani, while others engaged in interesting excursions in Mombasa island.
Some of the tourists hailed from Italy, Germany, France, Spain among other European countries. The Pollman’s boss said the ship, which is based in Mauritius, normally does a two-week cruise of the Indian ocean coastline and islands. The vessel is the second out of eight cruise ships expected to dock in Mombasa in the next four months.
Mr Shapi said cruise tourism had boosted the tourism industry in the country and urged the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to improve the harbour facility to create room for more ships to dock.
“In the next four months, we are expecting the cruise ships docking at the Mombasa port to shoot from two to eight. This is evidence that cruise tourism is on the rise in the country,” he said.
He added: “We hope that KPA will improve the port facilities to enable more cruise ships to dock there and therefore boost the industry further. So far, cruise tourism is doing well.”
A tourist from the cruise ship, Latrui Lle, 76, said this was his fifth trip to Kenya from Monaco. Mr Lle added that he loves to visit Kenya through the sea voyage, saying the country “swept him off his feet” owing to the abundance of wildlife and beautiful beaches.
“I am in Kenya for the fifth time on a cruise ship. I love Kenya because of wildlife safaris, nice beaches and friendly people,” added the tourist.
Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers (KAHC) Coast branch chairman, Mohamed Hersi said cruise tourism had played a big role in boosting the tourism sector in the country.
Mr Hersi noted that for the past two years, the country had witnessed a rise in the industry and called on concerned parties to find ways of enhancing the cruise sector.
Hawkers made roaring business at the port as the tourists bought curios as souvenirs.
A curio dealer, Emmanuel Kinyume, said they did good business as tourists from the ship poured in large numbers to buy artifacts.
Mr Kinyume added that whenever cruise ships dock at the port of Mombasa, they enjoyed a boom in business since the visitors like to purchase curios, especially the wildlife ones.