The Port of Halifax is saying bon voyage to another successful cruise season which brought floating heavyweights AIDAmar and Serenade of the Seas to Halifax on Friday, October 28, as the last ships of 2016.
Final passenger numbers are yet to be tallied, but port officials believe close to 240,000 cruise ship visitors passed through Halifax in 2016, a slight increase on last year’s 222,000 tourists.
“We are projecting a slight increase this year in terms of that overall passenger count, but fewer ships,” Port of Halifax spokesman Lane Farguson told the Chronicle Herald.
He said that the Anthem of the Seas could carry a maximum load of 4,180 passengers, making it the biggest ship overall to put in at Halifax in 2016.
Farguson said that cruise ships, like airliners, tend to sail as close to full capacity as possible.
“They do run a business,” he said.
And business is booming in Halifax. A report compiled two years ago revealed the cruise ship industry brings in $104.3 million each year in economic benefits.
This figure includes the money that tourists spend in local shops, restaurants, museums and galleries when they disembark in Halifax, as well as money spent on resupplying docking cruise ships.
Arriving vessels are stocked with supplies sourced locally, Farguson said, including Nova Scotian wines and seafood for passengers to enjoy, as well as more basic provisions such as bathroom and bedroom items.
“One of our mandates as a port authority is to create conditions for businesses to grow,” said Farguson. “We are certainly pleased.”
The Halifax Port Authority is also helping to power Nova Scotia’s tourist industry. Cruise passengers can spend the day in Halifax where they can take in sights such as Pier 21 or Citadel Hill, as well as explore the seafront boardwalk and walk through a revitalized downtown core.
“I know that the Citadel tour is very popular,” said Farguson.
However, many disembarking passengers opt for guided coach tours further afield, visiting the coastline at Peggy’s Cove or the historic town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“We are very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to live in a place where people come to spend their vacations,” said Ambassatours Gray Line CEO Dennis Campbell, in a release Thursday.
“It is our privilege to provide our cruise guests with a service that helps make their time in our region even more memorable while supporting the local tourism economy.”
Attractions like Lunenburg are within a 90-minute travel ‘comfort zone,’ allowing cruise passengers who typically arrive in Halifax at 8 a.m. a full day to experience a taste of Nova Scotia, according to Farguson.
“All of these pieces are coming together when our cruise ship guests come to visit us.”
Peak time for tourists is September and October, as many come to see Nova Scotia’s fall colours as well as enjoy the numerous festivals, cultural attractions, mild climate and rugged Atlantic coastline.
But Farguson said there was also room for growth in summer, when Halifax hosts major cultural events such as Canada Day and the Lebanese Festival, as well as the Ribfest, Beerfest and Oyster Festival.
“There is room in the summer market and we are working toward that goal,” he said.
Planning for the 2017 cruise season is already underway and Halifax could expect a similar number of tourists as it did this season.