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Friday, October 22, 2010

Promoting tourism in Ghana: Story of the Dodi Princess

BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
The Cruise Boat - Dodi Princess

Ghana’s only cruise boat on the Volta Lake – the Dodi Princess, has since its conversion from a cargo vessel to a cruise boat in 1991, provided relaxation and fun for holiday makers, groups and individuals from all over the world.

Yes, from all over the world, because it always plays host to tourists and people from sister African countries such as Cameroon and Nigeria among many others, who have desired to cruise on the large Volta Lake.
According to one of the captains of the boat, Captain Edward Nyarko, the boat has since 1991 ferried a lot of people “over thousands of thousands” across the Volta Lake.

In an exclusive interview aboard the boat last month during a cruise, he intimated that the boat was converted into a tourist boat because it “was abandoned at the port doing nothing and when former President Jerry John Rawlings came here, when he saw the boat (he was moving with a man called Hans Heins and he asked him (Heins) if he could put the boat into good use and he said yes.”

Captain Nyarko continued that the boat was converted for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) conference and after that it was turned into a tourist boat. He disclosed that former Liberian President Charles Taylor, Former Ghanaian President Jerry Rawlings and other Leaders attending the NAM conference used the boat as their meeting rendezvous.

For his part, the second captain on the cruise boat, Captain Garibah said that although the boat is a very fast one, the cruise speed that they use is 8.5 knots which is equivalent to 16km/hr for the 27km distance to the Dodi Island.

He disclosed that the boat had a six-member crew, made up of two captains, two navigation officers, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer for every trip or cruise.

The cruise boat was formerly a cargo vessel called Grains Maid, originally built at the Tema Shipyard in 1977 and was used mainly to carry dry cargo, especially fertiliser from Akosombo to Yeji and Buipe in the Northern part of Ghana and return with yam and grains down south.

As a cargo vessel, it enjoyed great patronage until the late 1980s when its operation was severely handicapped due to financial difficulties, which resulted in it being abandoned at the Akosombo port.

However, it was not until 1991, when a German engineer named Hans Heins was given approval by the then Head of State of the Republic of Ghana, Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings to convert the hull of the vessel to a tour pleasure boat, which was done with the help of some staff of the Maritime Services Unit (MSU) of the Volta River Authority and commissioned in 1991 and renamed Dodi Princess, according to an official of the Volta Hotel, which now manages the boat.

The boat was formerly managed by the Marine Division of the Volta River Authority, which transferred the Dodi Princess to Akosombo Hotels Limited (Volta Hotel) in 2005, for the latter to own and manage as part of its assets, since tour business is one its core objects.

The hotel therefore took over management of the Dodi Princess, which made its maiden cruise to the Dodi Island on July 1, 2005.

According to the new managers of the boat, the maiden voyage of the Dodi Princess was arranged to coincide with the celebration of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) conference which was hosted in Ghana in 1991.

Up close with the Dodi Princess

The MV Dodi Princess has three decks – lower, middle and upper. The first deck (lower), is a fully air conditioned cocktail bar, which is a strictly non-smoking area reserved for guests/persons who want to stay away from the music and have time for some introspection whiles they enjoy their favourite beverages.

The other two decks are mainly airy areas full of activities, where guests are treated to live band music and other fun-filled activities to sustain their excitement as they cruise on the second largest man-made lake in the world.

The cruise boat, which has one propeller and two engines, also has a sick bay on the middle deck, as well as a large gridiron for grilling of any kind of meat or fish on the upper deck, with a staff on board who are very friendly and highly trained to provide for guests’ comfort and satisfaction.

Facilities on board the boat include four washrooms (two on lower deck and two on middle deck), a kitchen on the lower deck, the captain’s bunker on middle deck, captain’s bridge on the upper deck and a mini swimming pool for children on the lower deck.

Cruise on the Volta Lake
The pleasure boat cruises on the Volta Lake, which is not salty but fresh water, to the Dodi Island and undertakes a cruise distance of approximately 27 kilometres, which takes about two hours to the island.
Ghana’s huge Volta Lake is sandwiched between Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Central, Greater Accra and the Eastern and Volta regions and covers an area of 8502 km2 and has a capacity of over 400*1012 litres which stretches over 400km in length.

It extends from the Akosombo Dam in south eastern Ghana to the town of Yapei, 520 kilometres (325miles) to the North. The lake generates electricity, provides inland transportation and is a valuable resource for irrigation and inland fisheries.

About nine (9) rivers join the lake before it enters the sea at Ada, as it trickles down south. These are the White Volta, the Black Volta, River Afram, River Sene, River Dayi, River Dwiia, River Pru, River Oti and River Obosom.

Security and safety on board
The carrying capacity of MV Dodi Princess which is insured with the State Insurance Company, is 350 and it has enough life rafts, lifebuoys and life guards on board to ensure that its cruises are safe and secured.
What’s more, navigation services, technical and maintenance services on board are handled by competent and certified personnel from the Marine Division of the Volta River Authority who are all products from the Regional Maritime University.

Sales and marketing
Tickets for boat cruises can be purchased from the Volta Hotel’s Accra Sales offices and at the Akosombo port or reservations made on line.

According to the hotel’s management, the boat which cruises on weekends and public holidays is also available for hiring on days other than weekends at GH¢1,000 per hour for churches and schools, GH¢1,100 per hour for Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and GH¢1,200 per hour for corporate organisations.
Side View of the Dodi Princess

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