11 December 2005

Kenya Navy Now Escorting Cruise Ships

Nairobi — The Kenya Navy has stepped up patrols on the Kenyan coastline to stave off pirate attacks on the country's territorial waters.

The increased surveillance follows cases of piracy on the Somali coastline, executed by rag-tag armies of warlords in the neighbouring country, still grappling with the effects of years of war.

With a government that is yet to stamp its authority, Somalia's coastline is providing fertile ground for pirates and lawlessness.

Journalists spent time with a team of military officers overflying the deep sea to witness the activities of naval ships mv Nyayo and mv Shujaa, which are escorting one of the world's largest cruise ships, which docked in Lamu on Friday.

Secured with life jackets and with helicopter doors slid open to enhance the view, the military officers and journalists overflew Kenyan territorial waters for about two hours to watch and take pictures of the cruise ship and the security escorts as they approached Lamu.

Military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said: "We are offering the vessel security escort. Its last port of call was the Seychelles before they began approaching our waters. We haven't had any incidents of piracy on our waters but you have heard of them in neighbouring countries. We shall give an escort to any vessel that gives us time schedules."

"Our coastline has radars which can detect approaching vessels. We are alert and the Navy has intensified patrols so that we avoid ugly incidents. As long as there is exchange of information with other countries ... we have the capacity to fully secure our waters," Mr Ongeri told reporters.

The ship docked a few kilometres off the Lamu coastline at 8am on Friday and the 407 tourists on board were taken to the island aboard smaller boats, also carried by the cruise ships.

It is proceeding to Cape Town via Mombasa and Zanzibar.

Mv Europa's chief of security Kai Spelters said: "We left the shore in September with our European travellers and we have made many stops. On board, we have 300 passengers and 217 crew members. We haven't had any problems so far."

Ms Isabel Morgen, a German photojournalist on the cruise, said: "It is fascinating to go around the world and it's nice to be in Africa for the first time."

Mr Holger Schleenhain, also German, said: "This is a pleasure trip and we get to see the countries and the peoples of the world."

Once on shore, it was time to savour the Coastal Swahili island with a history rolling back for generations.

The tourists were fascinated to visit an island where the main means of transport is the donkey.

They visited the museum and admired the 19th century architectural design and the Lamu Fort, which dates back to 1813. The museum was completed in 1892.

Due to its rich cultural heritage, Lamu town was designated a World Heritage site in 2001.

The attributes used then include its architecture and urban structure and cultural influences from India, Europe, China and traditional Swahili.

Mv Europa offers five-star accommodation for pleasure lovers going around the world, is 196.8 metres long and has five decks.

It has a maximum of 408 passenger suites with separate living and sleeping quarters.

Each of these has a walk-in cupboard and almost all have a private veranda. One extra detail: Once on board, each passenger receives his or her own e-mail address.

In the Europa restaurant, with its wide panorama windows, all passengers dine at a single seating and feast a la carte.

The more speciality restaurants - Oriental and Venezia - serve Euro-Asiatic or Italian cuisine.

In the Europa Lounge, the concert and ballroom, international stars perform on stage.

Various bars and lounges, the library with Internet access and an auditorium for lectures and seminars guarantee relaxation in an exquisite atmosphere.

A golf simulator, hairdresser and beauty salon, fitness room, sauna, massage facilities, wellness area and swimming pool are on hand to enhance the travellers' comfort.

On the promenade, the exclusive boutique and the jeweller Wemper tempt you to do some shopping.

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