Around Canada/New England, ports are working hard to keep their cruise line customers happy, and Cruise Industry News caught up with some of the major players in Corner Brook at the 2014 Cruise Canada New England Symposium.
In Corner Brook, the destination is selling its nature experience, said Nora Fever, business development manager for the port. A new zip line and high ropes course blend a number of soft adventure activities for cruise passengers anchored around a major national park. The port will have nine calls this year, and is included on longer Canada/New England itineraries and can fit easily into a Northern Atlantic crossing.
Some big news comes from the St. Lawrence River, where power lines being moved in Montreal will let ships up to 49 meters tall call at the cruise terminal. Vessels with a higher air draft will be able to call just before a bridge, with a accessible port road to the terminal.
“It allows another category of vessels to call,” commented Tony Boemi, vice president of growth and development at the Montreal Port Authority, which last year completed a $200,000 terminal facelift and is in the early stages of a new facility being planned for 2017.
Up the river in Quebec, the port expects six ships on October 3, and has set up a strategic committee to deal with the day and make sure the city and its stakeholders are properly ready to accept a record number of passengers.
The city is, in addition, undertaking an ambitious program to install free WiFi for tourists. With cruise passengers often avoiding expensive onboard internet, and coming off the gangway to find international roaming charges, this could be the start of a new, and much-needed trend.
In Trois-Rivières, four calls this year are expanding to six next year, with new visits from Oceania and Phoenix Reisen, and previous callers such as Fred. Olsen and Saga returning, said Yolaine Masse, director of tourism.
It’ll be a banner year for Saguenay as well, with 33 calls and 35,000 passengers booked.
The city just accredited its fifth group of official tour guides, who all went through a 225 hour, eight-month training program through the local college.
Records continue in Sept-Illes, with ten calls scheduled for 2014, and the Maasdam calling in May marked the port’s 25,000th cruise passenger. First time callers will include the Pearl Mist and Silver Whisper later this year.
Said Mario Sevigny, executive director of tourism: “We have created eight new shore excursions to offer to the lines to show them we can handle a bigger ship.”
In Boston, new hire Michael Vanderbeek, deputy port directory, sales and marketing, said Massport was updating its strategic plan and cruise was a significant part of it.
ECA blowback has Boston traffic down to 330,000 passengers for 2014, from 382,000 in 2013, but Vanderbeek expects a bounce back in 2015.
The bigger Liberty of the Seas will help Boston’s numbers in 2015, and Holland America will add a few Bermuda runs back to its schedule from the Massachusetts port.
In the longer term, new international airlift into Boston's Logan Airport from Turkey, Dubai, Panama City, Bejing and Tokyo may play into Boston’s Canada/New England cruise picture.
With current fuel prices, Vanderbeek said a Caribbean program from Boston would need to be at least 10 days.
In progress is a $3 million upgrade to the port’s Warehouse berth, scheduled for completion later this year.
A bit further north, tourism and cruise officials from Bar Harbor, Maine, are still eyeing an existing U.S.-Canada ferry facility as a permanent cruise berth – but said the process is ongoing as the terminal and land are still owned by the Canadian government.
Overall, Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaineUSA, noted a 2.6 percent increase in passenger growth in Maine for 2014, and the first year ever with 400 ship calls.