MSC sails from New York on Canada/New England routes in the fallWith six cruise line presidents attending, the Cruise Canada New England Symposium has reached a new level, according to Tom Spina, director of cruise for the New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The Symposium takes place in New York, June 14-16, and features various panel discussions, terminal tours, and various social functions. A private cocktail reception at Ink 48 (a trendy Manhattan hotel) kicked off the Symposium today, June 14, and was followed by a trip to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

The function is organized and supported by NYCruise, Intercruises and Ports America.

“All our participating port directors will have opportunities for one-on-one meetings with executives, and also hear it right from the top how the ECA will affect the region. And we have this unique opportunity, because we have not let the symposium grow too big,” Spina continued.

Participating cruise line bosses include: Richard Sasso, president and CEO, MSC Cruises; Kevin Sheehan, CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line; Dan Hanrahan, president and CEO, Celebrity Cruises; Charles Robertson, president, American Cruise Lines; Gregg Michel, president and CEO, Crystal Cruises; and Peter Shanks, president, Cunard Line.

Speaking for the Cruise the Saint Lawrence Association, Executive Director Rene Trepanier, added: “It is a good sign that we are attracting high caliber executives. Our objective is to build more cruise business in the summer. We have a very good summer product and we need to convey that to the cruise lines. And the ships are coming, slowly but steadily.

“The symposium is one of the best means of talking directly to the lines. At the larger events, we compete with everyone, but not here,” Trepanier continued.

Next year, Quebec City will host the symposium.

The Cruise the Saint Lawrence Association is also promoting roundtrip cruises from Quebec and Montreal, which, Trepanier said, will start in 2012, using the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon to satisfy Canadian cabotage regulations.

Crystal Cruises will be taking advantage of that, sailing roundtrip from Montreal, in September of 2012, confirmed Gregg Michel, president of the company.

New callers on the Saint Lawrence this year will be Oceania Cruises, which will turn around in Montreal, Ponant’s Boreal and the Regent Seven Seas Navigator.

While 2011 ship and passenger counts are expected to be in the range of last year, 2012 is expected to be a “really good year,” according to Trepanier.

Disney Cruise Line will sail in the region for the first time in 2012 with the Disney Wonder.

By that time, most of the infrastructure in the new ports will also be ready, including shore excursions. A five-year plan has some $150 million being invested in six new ports, with one third of the funds coming from local stakeholders. Launched in 2008, the plan is now two-thirds accomplished and on track, according to Trepanier.

“All of our nine ports will have cruise calls in 2012,” Trepanier added. “We are working closely with our most important cruise line partners, and we are focusing on the cruise lines that come here or are likely to come.

“It takes time to build up a product,” he continued, “and Holland America understands this. They have built up their Canada New England cruises over time and now have a very profitable product here.”

In New York, shorepower will be offered to cruise ships at the Brooklyn Terminal starting in June 2012. Cunard and Princess ships are expected to plug in.

“We are breaking new ground,” said Spina. “It has taken us longer than anticipated as we had to build the infrastructure from the ground up. You also have to realize there are no ships yet on the East Coast that have shorepower capability.”

Carnival will benefit from a fixed and discounted electricity rate for a period of five years, valued at $2 million per year.

The onshore installation cost is estimated at $15 million and cost to the cruise lines about $2 million for each ship.

Shorepower will also allow what the city calls the elimination of nearly 1,500 tons of carbon dioxide, 95 tons of nitrous oxide and 6.5 tons of particulate matter annually.

While New York has gained the Disney Wonder next summer, it lost the Caribbean program of the Grand Princess as she will head to Europe. The port, however, is building European traffic with more calls by AIDA and MSC, according to Spina.

He noted the three-day turn-arounds of the AIDA ships, allowing passengers to spend more time in New York City.

Boston is studying the feasibility of shorepower for cruise ships and is already offering it to fishing vessels. New next year will be calls on four- and five-day cruises by Carnival out of New York.