Canada New England Cruise Symposium: Building Summer Traffic

Canada New England must work to become better known for all the region has to offer before cruise traffic will grow significantly, according to cruise line itinerary planners who spoke at the recent 12th annual Canada New England Cruise Symposium in Saint John, New Brunswick, June 8 - 10.

While fall cruise traffic is strong, only a few ships sail regularly during the summer months when there is a variety of attractions and activities that could attract families. The fall concentration of cruises also causes some congestion, with most ships sailing similar length voyages partially due to the need to be able to sell consistent products.

A keynote speaker was Rob Moore, Canadian minister of state (for small business and tourism), who articulated Canada’s support for the development of tourism products, including helping tourists from around the world reach Canada; streamlining of customs and border procedures; promoting Canada as a destination of choice; and enhancing the visitor experience through all facets of services and hospitality.

Shawn Graham, premier of New Brunswick, also expressed the province’s support of the cruise industry.

Saint John

Saint John hosted the first cruise symposium 12 years ago, according to Betty MacMillan, manager of business development for the Saint John Port Authority. Since then, cruise traffic in Saint John has grown to 200,000 passengers a year, and projections call for 300,000 by 2015. The port opened its new $19 million Marco Polo terminal in 2009.

Bernie Wood, marketing manager, for Cruise Atlantic Canada, an association of the Canadian Atlantic ports, said that altogether there will be 467 calls and more than 900,000 passengers in 2010, generating a direct economic

Rene Trepanier, executive director of Cruise the Saint Lawrence, outlined the development of six new ports in his region and said that the message to cruise lines is: “We want your business.”

Carol Sheedy, director general for Eastern Canada for Parks Canada, said that Parks Canada has been diversifying its product experiences, developing what she called “menus” for cruise passengers ranging from authentic and cultural explorers to those who don’t want any hassles.

“We have untouched and at times raw, wild nature that people can visit safely. Places that are mindboggling,” she said. “At the same time, close to the national parks are communities offering contemporary cultural experiences, routed in strong historical backgrounds.”

Melanie Colpitts, director of Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence, and a local tour operator, said that her company has also built what she called “world-class experiences and packages” for cruise passengers.

More destination awareness and product development are needed to build traffic, said Joanne Salzedo, director of shore excursions and product development for Norwegian Cruise Line. “People must be made aware of all you have to offer. Create active experiences and get the message out there, especially for the summer market, when people want to come with their children – be generational friendly.”

Building Summer Traffic

Among the lines sailing to Canada New England during the summer is Holland America Line. Said Captain Simon Douwes, director of deployment and itinerary planning: “We have sailed one-week cruises between Boston and Montreal (with the 1,258-passenger Maasdam) for the past 10 years. We add a second ship for fall foliage cruises.”

Celebrity Cruises sails five, seven-day Canada cruises from Cape Liberty during the summer with the 2,038-passenger Summit, alternating with cruises to Bermuda, and Marc Miller, manager of deployment and itinerary planning for Celebrity, as well for sister brands Royal Caribbean International and Azamara Club Cruises, said that for more summer capacity to be introduced into the market, “these cruises need to be as profitable as alternative deployments.” In September, the Summit shifts to 14-day Canada cruises.

Next year, however, Celebrity will not be sailing to Canada New England during the summer, while evaluating the performance of the 2010 season, before deciding on 2012, according to Miller. The Summit will sail fall cruises also in 2011, however.

Royal Caribbean sails two nine-day cruises from Baltimore during the summer with the 2,250-passenger Enchantment of the Seas, alternating with cruises to the Caribbean, and five-day sailings to Bermuda, and will sail three summer cruises in 2011.

During the fall, Royal Caribbean also sails the Jewel of the Seas from Boston and the Explorer of the Seas from Cape Liberty to Canada New England.

Speaking for MSC Cruises, Albino Di Lorenzo, operations manager, said that MSC is testing the fall market in 2010 and is also committed to 2011, while studying 2012.

Tom Spina, director of cruise operations for NY Cruise, said that 17 percent of the passengers sailing from New York were from international sources and another 17 percent were from New York City. In addition to MSC, AIDA also turns around in New York and will have two ships sailing to Canada New England from New York in the fall of 2011.

ECA

Effective as early as August 2012, south of the 60th parallel north and 200 nautical miles out, the seas around Canada and the U.S. will be designated Emission Control Areas (ECA), limiting the amount of NOx, SOx and PM that can be released, according to Paul Topping, manager of environmental protection for Transport Canada.

“The ECA will have a very dramatic cost impact,” said Thomas Dow, vice president of public affairs for Carnival Corporation. “This is particularly threatening for the Canada trade as the ships will be within the ECA all the time. We are looking forward to working with you to come up with solutions,” he told the audience of mostly representatives from regional ports.

Tim Moore, tour manager for Fred. Olsen Cruises, said that the ECA was a real concern and would increase the line’s fuel costs by $16,000 a day, at which point the line “would not be here,” he added.

According to Richard Pruitt, director of environmental programs, safety and the environment for Royal Caribbean Cruises, the ECA will require capital improvements to the engines and fuel costs will double. “We think the EPA has underestimated the cost impact by half. We estimate the fuel costs to be an extra $15 to $20 per passenger, per day,” he added.

John Heylen, senior manager of fleet operations for Carnival UK, estimated the extra cost would amount to $4.40 per passenger day for the Queen Mary 2 and $2 on the Aurora.

Future

In terms of future planning, Heylen said ports should benchmark ship lengths of about 320 meters as the new standard, with a minimum of 2,000 passengers, and a minimum draft of 8.5 meters.

Crystal Morgan, director of marketing planning for Princess Cruises, said that ports must be commercially attractive in order to optimize revenues and minimize costs to support the company’s financial goals and brand position.

For 2011, Morgan said that in terms of passenger days, Princess will have 4 percent of its capacity in Canada New England and expects to carry 62,155 passengers, compared to 46,574 this year, and 25,516 in 2005.

The cruise symposium was well attended, including a record turn-out from cruise lines with some 24 executives from the U.S., Canada and Europe, in addition to representatives from regional ports, tour operators, other service providers and government bodies; and covered a variety of topics and issues.

Full reports follow in Cruise Industry News, the Newsletter, and in the Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine.