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Cruise Ship Days

An unusual hive of activity

blank [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

With so many spectacular destinations to explore, no two days will be the same
Cruise Ship Brochure

When a cruise ship arrives, St Helena is an unusual hive of activity.

This page is in indexes: Island Activity, Island Detail

Cruise Ship Days [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Ways to get here [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Other ‘getting here’ pages:

• Getting Here

• RMS St Helena

• Yachting

• Fly here?

• Fly Yourself Here

• Visitor Information

Go to: ToursCruise Ship MarketsVisitors’ CommentsCruise Ship Schedule, 2015/16Failure to land - what to doEarly cruise ship visitorsRead More

Let’s be honest - on a normal day in St Helena not much happens. That’s why our newspapers are only published weekly. But when a cruise ship is in the harbour St Helena, and particularly Jamestown, comes to life, as if woken from hibernation. Town{1} can be busier even than on days when the RMS St Helena is in port, the extra activity focussed on meeting the visitors and making sure they go away with the best possible impression of our island.


Rober Peters’ tour brochure [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

As the passengers disembark they are usually whisked away on tours, covering the usual places of interest: Jacob’s Ladder, Longwood House and Napoleon’s Tomb, Jonathan at Plantation House and some of the more scenic view of St Helena. Nobody can hope to really understand St Helena after such a quick tour, but if you only have a few hours on the island, as most cruise ship passengers do, these provide a useful introduction to this extraordinary place.

Some tours are run by larger companies, using buses seating twenty or thirty passengers. But for those who prefer the personal touch there are also smaller vehicles, equipped to carry up to ten people (often in the back of a flat bed truck!) - here you get the driver’s own experience of living on St Helena, many of them for all of their lives. The image illustrates one of these (details from{2}). You could even see the island from the back of a 1929 Chevrolet Charabanc!

At the end of the tour passengers are normally left in Jamestown; it’s only a short walk back to the Wharf and this gives time to explore the shops, buy souvenirs, and participate in the many activities that will have been laid on especially for the visitors, including school choirs, arts and crafts displays and a ‘Market’.

An interesting approach…

When the MV Amadea called on 1st November 2015 they did not book any per-arranged tours. All 600 passengers were delivered to Jamestown, where they either made their own arrangements with local taxi drivers, or just wandered around Jamestown.

It has been suggsted in the past that this might be the best way to see St Helena. Pre-arranged tours operate to a tight schedule and lead to the critcism that “If it’s 2pm this must be Napoleon’s house”. It will be interesting to see if the MV Amadea’s alternative approach catches on.

Cruise Ship Markets

Queen Mary II market [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Coffee Shop at the Seaside [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

For all but the smallest ships, the Tourist Office arranges a street market in Jamestown for the benefit of the visitors. Stalls will display a variety of local crafts and other produce, most of it for sale. Most things on display at the market are also available in the local shops but it’s convenient to have them arranged all in one place. Market size varies according to the capacity of the ship - for smaller ships it may be as few as half a dozen stalls; for the Queen Mary II, which visited in March 2010, the whole of Grand Parade was filled with probably 30 stalls.

Interestingly, locals who are not directly involved in cruise ship activities also come out to shop in the markets, turning them into a social occasion. But then the people of St Helena will take any excuse to meet somebody new or chat with friends and exchange gossip!

Queen Mary II visited in March 2010 [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Queen Mary II visited in March 2010

Visitors’ Comments

Here are some quotes from cruise ship visitors:

Visitors on Jacob’s Ladder [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Visitors on Jacob’s Ladder

We’ve had a wonderful morning thus far. We’ve had a bit of a strenuous walk up Jacob’s Ladder. We took it slowly. It was good because it wasn’t so hot here; looked around and took photographs and then made the walk back down which was a lot easier. I think the island is beautiful, very peaceful, and definitely something very different to what we’ve experienced before.
- - - - -
It was what I expected but a little bit more. Very peaceful, very relaxing. Everybody seems to go about their business and let the tourists do their own thing. Very interesting.
- - - - -
I’ve taken the walk up Jacobs’ Ladder and then met loads of people actually in their homes finding out how long they’ve been here. Most definitely would love to come back.
- - - - -
The people are so friendly. Thoroughly enjoyed our day.
- - - - -
I expected it to be more ‘backwater’ but it’s not. I think it’s wonderful.
- - - - -
It’s really nice. My first time for being here. Really tiny but amazing. The weather is amazing. I’m just sad that we cannot spend more time - we are just here for a few hours.
- - - - -
I’ve waited 17 years to get to St Helena and I wish we were here longer. I think 3 days is far too short.
- - - - -
I’ve been to so many beautiful places but this is extraordinary. I didn’t kind of know what to expect. I thought it would be much more arid; much less developed. I didn’t expect to see beautiful grown yards, homes, avocadoes growing and pomegranates and roses and all kinds of flowers.
- - - - -
There’s just so much to see with the natural history, with the archaeology, geology and marine life and I just feel that I have to come back.

Cruise ship visitors departing [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Cruise ship visitors departing

Cruise Ship Schedule, 2015/16

To illustrate how often ships call, here is the Cruise Ship Schedule November 2015 November 2016:

Please note: this list is for illustration purposes only - details may change and may not be reflected here.





MS Marina

6th December 2015

6th December 2015


MS Mariner

17th December 2015

17th December 2015


MV Albatros

11th January 2016

11th January 2016


MV Queen Victoria

27th April 2016

27th April 2016


MV Europa

27th October 2016

27th October 2016



1st November 2016

2nd November 2016

2 days






Persons arriving by cruise ship





SHG “State of the Island” report, 2015 (927.3Kb){3}

Failure to land - what to do

Alighting on St Helena [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Landing on St Helena, whether from a cruise ship or from the RMS St Helena, involves being ferried to the shore in a small boat (‘tender’) and then stepping onto the shore at the wharf (see picture, right, and you can also see a picture of HRH Prince Andrew doing just this).

The elderly and disabled manage this regularly, but how hard it actually is depends on sea conditions - if the sea has a significant swell, the tender can be moving up and down by a large amount, and often quite quickly too. Judging the moment to step ashore requires skill (which is why there are always experienced seafarers on hand to assist).

For some cruise ship captains, however, this is too much. Charged with the safety of their passengers, and doubtless with their company’s insurance premiums in mind, they sometimes decide the swell is too great and refuse to land passengers. This can be a big disappointment for those onboard, many of whom were particularly looking forward to seeing St Helena for themselves and are sadly relegated to looking it in the distance from the rail of their ship. It’s a disappointment to the islanders too, who were looking forward to welcoming visitors and showing off the many wonders our island has to offer. Often the swell seems, to us, to be mild compared with that with which RMS passengers regularly cope.

Headline from The Independent [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Ultimately, whether or not to land passengers must be the captain’s call. However, passengers can themselves influence that decision. In January 2013 the MS Sinfonia arrived. The captain reviewed sea conditions and declared that nobody would be put ashore. But the passengers did not accept his decision. After a stormy meeting onboard{4} the passengers persuaded the captain that he should land them after all. They arrived and enjoyed a great time on St Helena. The St Helena Independent lead with the headline ‘Mutiny on the Sinfonia’.

So we suggest that if you are scheduled to visit St Helena on a cruise ship, before arrival impress on the ship’s captain how much you are looking forward to seeing the island. Although he is charged with your safety, your happiness is also his concern. That way you are more likely to actually land rather than just seeing St Helena from across the bay.

Cruise ship with heavy seas [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Early cruise ship visitors

The very first cruise ship

The Records{5} show that the very first true cruise ship arrived in Jamestown on 10th February 1930, the ‘City of New York’. However the only ship listed on the Wikipedia with this name is the SS City of New York which was scrapped in 1922. It is more likely that the ship was actually the SS New York City.

An earlier visit by an ‘American Luxury Liner’ is also noted, in May 1928, but no details are recorded of her visit - not even the name of the ship.

If you can provide more details, please contact us.

The Viceroy of India

One of the world’s first cruise ships, the Viceroy of India was launched on the 15th September 1928 and entered service on 7th March 1929. She had capacity for 415 1st class and 258 2nd class passengers (total: 673), with 413 crew. Viceroy of India was Britain’s first large turbo-electric passenger ship. She made leisure cruises every year until the outbreak of World War 2 in September 1939.

She toured the South Atlantic in 1939, becoming the first ever cruise ship to call at Tristan da Cunha. She also visted St Helena, though we don’t know exactly when or details of any of the passengers who came ashore. And we only know where they visited from a collection of photographs held at the Museum of St Helena; it seems just Longwood House.

Jamestown from the bay [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Jamestown from the bay

At seaside with ship [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
At seaside with ship

Jacob’s Ladder [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Jacob’s Ladder

Transport! [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Jamestown from Sidepath [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Jamestown from Sidepath

Jamestown from The Briars [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Jamestown from The Briars

At Longwood House [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
At Longwood House

… [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

As can be seen by the transport provided, the facilities for tourists on St Helena in 1939 were not as developed as they are today{6}.

The Viceroy of India never returned to St Helena. When World War 2 broke out she was requisitioned as a troop-ship and was sunk on 11th November 1942 by U-Boat u-407 while off Algiers.

Read More

Article: “The most surprising place we’ve been…

Published in the St Helena Independent 3rd February 2012{3}

Cruise ship in James Bay [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]
Cruise ship market [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

This was just one of the comments made by visitors from the two cruise ships that visited last week. Visitors from the Seabourn Quest and Silver Whisper were most vocal in saying they enjoyed themselves during their stay, with many of the visitors from Silver Whisper stating they wished they had had a longer time ashore.

A visitor survey undertaken by St Helena Tourism showed that 99% of visitors questioned rated their visit Excellent or Very Good - in fact 92% rated it Excellent. Many visitors commented that their whole visit far exceeded what they had anticipated - one visitor from the Silver Whisper said: “Your island has far surpassed any expectations we might have even thought about giving it”, and another from Seabourn Quest said that St Helena was “So much nicer than the Caribbean.

Most people (94%) were visiting the island for the first time, but everyone said they would recommend the island to other people. There was a fairly even split between those taking pre-arranged tours and those who did their own thing, and the amount spent by visitors (over above the cost of pre-arranged tours) varied from £5 to £60.

The highlight for many people was seeing the whole island and meeting local people. In addition visiting Longwood House was rated very highly, along with seeing the tortoises at Plantation paddock and walking the Ladder.

It is clear that this mix of Britons, Americans, Swiss, Canadians, Belgians, Australians, Hungarians and other nationalities had a great time, and it is a real credit to the whole island that they left with such a positive experience and impression, with many wanting to return in the future. The fact that everyone said they would recommend the island to others means we have several hundred ambassadors working for us to boost interest in St Helena right across the world, particularly when they felt - as one couple said - “this is the most surprising place we’ve been on a cruise in years”.

More stories [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

More stories on our page Read articles about St Helena.

closinghumourimage [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]

Laugh at funny cruiseshipdays humour - LOL [Saint Helena Island Info:Cruise Ship Days]


{1} Local term for Jamestown

{2} See more blogs.

{3} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged

{4} A lot more stormy than the sea conditions, by all accounts

{5} The St Helena Records is a collection of documents dating back to the earliest days of St Helena, held in the Government of St Helena Archives. The Archives can be accessed in person or via email - see our Family And Friends page for more. You can search our events database, extracted from the Records, on our Chronology page.

{6} And some would say they still leave a little to be desired!


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