The economic impact of cruise ships to St. John’s is set to double next year when the Newfoundland and Labrador city goes from 20 calls to 40.
“It permeates into the whole economy,” said Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, who also chairs the local cruise committee as well as Cruise Newfoundland and Labrador.
More ships are finding St. John’s as a marquee port on transatlantic runs using a northern crossing route. The mayor makes a big deal out of each call, and first-time callers get a host of inaugural activities, including a Freedom of the Seaport ceremony.
“2017 is going to be a very good year,” O’Keefe told Cruise Industry News. “It’s all a result of the experience we provide.”
Inaugural callers include ships from Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn, Royal Caribbean and the first call by Disney Cruise Line.
“Traditionally what we normally have is an uncrowded port. The cruise lines like to be the only ship in the port,” he said. “With one ship a day we can roll out the red carpet and provide A-plus service not only to the ship, but also to the crew and passengers.”
Berth reservations are done on a first-come, first-serve basis, and plans call for dredging Pier 17, a possible third pier, to provide more options to bigger ships.
O’Keefe, a former high school teacher, said he takes the cruise industry seriously and it is among his passions.
“When we miss a ship here for whatever reason, it could be weather conditions here or elsewhere, I take it personally,” he said.
A building transatlantic call portfolio is backed up by Adventure Canada, which uses St. John’s as a homeport. As the expedition market explodes, the port could be a key turnaround point for voyages heading north.
“There have been discussions,” O’Keefe added. “We’re here, we’re a marquee port in the North Atlantic and, when passengers arrive, we make sure the experience they have is so terrific they want to come back.”
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