Huge and friendly, a pack of Newfoundland dogs wait to greet passengers as they step off the ship in St. John’s. It’s a joyous atmosphere with music in the air and good food and drink a few steps away downtown, said Debbie Hanlon, the city council’s cruise ship liaison.
“They’re beautiful and they love waiting dockside to meet the guests,” Hanlon said.
Far from just fall-foliage tours, St. John’s hosted 29,882 passengers aboard 32 ships from early May to late October 2019, with calls in June and July as well.
The season was supposed to start a month earlier but Oceania Cruises had to cancel the Marina’s April call due to weather conditions. It was one of eight cancelled calls, some due to winds that make the 61-meter-wide St. John’s Narrows too harrowing a navigational risk, some due to less-than-optimal conditions at adjoining ports of call.
“Our harbor is really sheltered. Sometimes it can be a really windy day but it’s fine in the harbor. Other times it’s this calm beautiful day but out beyond the harbor it could be difficult,” she said.
On the flip side, however, P&O Cruises extended the Arcadia’s stay on Oct. 21. Most ships arrive in the morning and leave in early evening but the 1,968-passenger Arcadia remained in port a full 24 hours, as did the Silver Whisper on Oct. 3.
It’s a bit of a guessing game, with north Atlantic hurricanes and other less-than-optimal weather possible, Hanlon said. “Right down to the last minute.”
The good news is St. John’s pilots, port staff and associated businesses are flexible and good-natured about potential schedule changes.
In all, AIDA visited the port six times in 2019 – five times with the AIDAvita and once with the AIDAluna. Silversea and Princess called three times each, including with the year’s largest vessel, the 2,670-passenger Sapphire Princess.
In 2020, the Island Princess, Le Champlain, Empress of the Seas and Disney Magic will make maiden calls in St. John’s. The Magic arrives Oct. 2 from Cork, Ireland, on her way to Halifax. She had previously scheduled to call in September 2017 but Tropical Storm Jose and Hurricane Maria forced her to spend an extra night in New York instead.
Overall, the port has 39 ships scheduled for 2020, carrying 48,000 passengers.
“We are a convenient first port of call to Canada for ships coming from Greenland and Iceland, or from the UK. We are a full-service port and can offer anything the ships need,” Hanlon said. “For visitors, we offer a unique experience that combines rich history, urban convenience and accessible adventure tourism. Passengers disembark steps from the heart of downtown and are greeted with a warm welcome from traditional performers, Newfoundland dogs, and city ambassadors providing visitor information.”