Some 78.5 percent of travel agents said that Canada/New England represents 10 percent or less of their business, but some 75 percent also believe there is moderate or significant potential for growth, according to a Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) survey.

At the 15th annual Cruise Canada New England Symposium in Boston, a state of the industry panel addressed ports, with executives noting the growth potential and various challenges.

Starting off with the destination as a typical fall foliage offering, Holland America Line has built up in the region, with two ships now sailing in the summer.

“This is a destination that understands that collaboratively working together can extend its appeal on a broader basis,” said Stein Kruse, president and CEO, Holland America Line.

A strong shore excursion offering all-important to onboard revenue has also contributed to the Seattle company’s deployment decision, said Kruse.

But, if Holland America continues as is, 2015 will see a 30 percent operating cost increase due to the 2015 Emissions Control Area and low-sulfur fuel requirements.

Thus, 2015 may bring changes, implied Kruse, and prompted ports to think about solutions – pointing to the fact Boston is a terrific turn-around port but has some of the highest port fees in the world.

And the customer profile in the region is slowly starting to change, explained Steve Riester, vice president of planning and analysis at Norwegian Cruise Line. He added that today there are more younger passengers on Canada/New England sailings.

However, Riester said that load factors for families on cruises to Canada/New England leaving from New York was much lower compared to sailings to the Caribbean at the same time of the year, also from New York.

Charles Robertson, CEO of American Cruise Lines and Pearl Seas Cruises, said that Canada/New England scores the highest in passnenger surveys, and “load factors in the fleet are the best in the region.”

“The ports here do such a great job it makes it easy for us,” Robertson continued.

At Carnival Cruise Lines, Chief Marketing Officer Jim Berra said that the brand has seen a strong response to short sailings from Boston and New York; however, with shorter itineraries, port calls are rather limited.

“Fall foliage is too limited (for the region),” Berra noted, “and not its calling card.”

Underscored was the diversity of ports on an itinerary and shore excursion offerings, but executives noted underlined that Canada/New England was still behind Alaska, Europe and the Caribbean in the summer in terms of demand looking at the big picture.