Bucket list experience lives on as ship to remote St Helena gets a 1yr reprieve – but you’ll need 3 weeks
One of the world’s great bucket list travel experiences is getting a year-long reprieve – all thanks to an ill wind.
The 6,767 gross tonne cargo liner RMS St Helena, one of only two remaining Royal Mail Ships, is to continue serving the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena, where Napoleon was exiled from 1815 after the Battle of Waterloo to his death in 1821.
She was due to be decommissioned once the island’s £285million airport – paid for by the Department for International Development – opened for commercial flights last spring, a scheme aimed at making the 47 sq mi British Overseas Territory self-sufficient and boosting tourism.
But that has been delayed indefinitely because of concerns about dangerous weather conditions known as wind ‘shear’, which make it unsafe for large jets to land.
Scheduled British Airways services from Johannesburg were due to start on May 21 last year but have been suspended, meaning the RMS has had a reprieve from the breakers’ yard so she can remain as the 4,000 islanders’ (they are known as Saints) essential link to the outside world.
It may be an ill wind for the airport, but now travellers with three weeks to spare can still make the voyage by ship up to next February; they will need to travel to South Africa, spend 10 days at sea and eight days on the island, which is 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa and known for its isolation, scenery and rare wildlife.
The 155-berth, 344ft RMS takes six days to reach St Helena – and besides carrying vital cargo, passengers are well looked after with two bars, a full service dining room, sun deck, shop, swimming pool, gym and library.
The journey is a world away from the modern cruise ship, with traditional deck games (including cricket!), talks, quizzes and race and film nights.
A spokesman for St Helena’s tourist board said: ”The news that this venerable institution will continue to sail the high seas throughout 2017 has been warmly welcomed far and wide, and I urge anyone who can make the time to come by sea to do so.”
They hope once the wind ‘shear’ problem is resolved and commercial air services start, there will be an opportunity for a limited period to go one way by ship and the other by plane.
In the meantime, tailor-made travel specialist Discover the World is offering 18-night trips to St Helena in 2017 by RMS from £3,234 per person, based on two sharing and including a 10-night return sailing from Cape Town, eight nights’ B&B accommodation on St Helena, seven days car rental, a full-day 4×4 excursion a half day wildlife cruise. Flights from London to Cape Town are not included, but can be arranged for an additional cost.
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