The Queen Victoria in Boston.From New York and New Jersey to Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Saint Lawrence River, cruise traffic is on a growth course, along with infrastructure development and marketing efforts to accommodate and attract more ships and passengers.

The Cruise The Saint Lawrence port and destination association wrapped up a record 2009 season with its annual meeting in November where all nine member ports took part, to review the season and discuss how they can serve the cruise lines and passengers even better, Rene Trepanier, executive director, told Cruise Industry News.

“Our focus is on destination development,” he said. “We discussed ground transportation, training of multi-lingual guides and more.” Participants also included the Canadian ministry of transportation as well as Canadian customs.

In 2009, all nine member ports hosted more ships for a total of 166,000 passengers and 63,000 crew members, compared to 126,000 passengers and 45,000 crew members in 2008. Trepanier said he expects further growth in 2010, with the cruise traffic from last year continuing, plus a new ship from MSC Cruises.

Quebec welcomed nearly 87,000 passengers and 30,000 crew in 2009, a 6 percent increase over 2008. The increase was largely attributed to turn-around cruises, according to Anne-Marie Nadeau, cruise market coordinator, who told Cruise Industry News that turn-arounds accounted for 30,329 passengers in 2009, an 88 percent increase over the previous year.

For 2010, Newfoundland and Labrador expects 176 calls, according to Yvonne Power, executive director of the Cruise Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, compared to 121 calls last year. “Two dozen ships from 17 lines are scheduled to call at 50 different ports,” she said, noting the islands’ 29,000 kilometers of coastline, but also its population of less than half a million.

The third Exploration Cruise Forum is slated for St. John’s in October, “bringing cruise executives together with the local communities that host the ships,” said Power. “It has become an exchange of ideas and experiences and helps drive product development. The forum has also stimulated growth.” Over the last seven years, cruise traffic in Newfoundland and Labrador has grown from 35,000 to 83,500.

In New Brunswick, Saint John expects to reach the 200,000 passenger mark this year, two years ahead of its original plan, following 186,495 passengers last year – which was more than expected in light of the economic downturn, according to Betty MacMillan, manager of business development for the Saint John Port Authority.

Last year, Princess Cruises PresidenFt Allan Buckelow opened Saint John’s new $20 million cruise terminal, which MacMillan said has given a lot of credibility to the cruise industry with the local community.
 
This summer, Saint John will be hosting the Canada/New England cruise symposium at the Saint John Hilton from June 8-10, featuring a whale theme, MacMillan said, noting that the port has adopted right whales in the names of cruise line executives.
 
In Boston, Port Director Mike Leone said: "We have just completed our best year ever with 105 calls and almost 300,000 passengers.”  This year, Massport is expecting 110 calls, including an inaugural call by MSC Cruises, while both AIDA and Costa are returning, having made their first calls last year. In addition, NCL will start its Bermuda season a week earlier, on April 23. NCL also sails to Canada in the fall.  In addition, the Maasdam sails to Montreal from Boston.

Work is underway on the Black Falcon Cruise Terminal to improve the aesthetics and will be completed by the time the 2010 season starts. There are also plans for further upgrades.

Meanwhile, Massport is committed to improving passenger services, which will include public service managers available to advise passengers who do not take shore excursions on what there is to see and do. The port has also joined forces with the local travel agent community, Leone said, further underscoring his commitment to the industry. "Everyone here is committed to servicing the cruise ships," he said, "from security to longshoremen to the police controlling the traffic. We are all focused on passenger service."

New York is expecting its second best year ever in 2010, said Thomas Spina, director of cruise operations for the city’s Manhattan and Brooklyn terminals. Spina is expecting more than 1 million passengers, which he said was a conservative estimate, based on 80 percent occupancy, when most ships sail full or better than full, he added.

Across the harbor in Bayonne, New Jersey, Anthony Caputo, port director, said he expects 425,000 passengers this year, up from 320,000 passengers for 2009.

Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas sails year-round from Cape Liberty – to the Caribbean during the winter and alternating cruises to Bermuda, the Caribbean and Canada/New England during the summer and fall. Celebrity’s Summit sails Bermuda cruises during the summer season.

“We are finally selling New York as a destination,” Spina added, “and we have the advantage that New York City is a huge draw, especially for Europeans. They bring empty suitcases and go shopping, as do crewmembers.”

Foreign passengers are also sailing from Cape Liberty. Caputo said that during the winter, 60 to 70 percent of the passengers on the Explorer of the Seas were non-U.S. citizens. “Passengers are from Britain, Germany and Sweden and combine the cruise with pre- and post-stays in Manhattan. There are also significant numbers of French Canadians who drive or arrive by bus.
 
“During the summer, the drive-to market comes from as far away as Ohio and Texas,” Caputo added. The port has on-site parking for some 1,500 cars.

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Winter 2009/2010