Cruise ports across Atlantic Canada enjoyed a gangbuster 2023 season, continuing a robust post-pandemic rebound and setting several new records in ship calls and cruise guest arrivals.
Two ports in particular achieved remarkable gains, as cruise lines showcased Eastern Canada destinations on popular Canada/New England itineraries.
Ports Make Major Gains in Ship, Guest Arrivals
Statistics newly released on November 27, 2023 by the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association (ACCA) show several of its member ports, including Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Halifax, Saint John, and Sydney, reached milestone arrivals numbers in 2023.
The Port of Sydney smashed earlier records, posting an extraordinary 74% increase in cruise passenger visits in 2023 versus the previous year. The Port of Corner Brook also had a remarkable and record-breaking arrivals spike, of 58%.
The Port of Sydney, Nova Scotia, is the gateway to charming Cape Breton Island, and has two ship piers, both of which can accommodate most of the industry’s largest ships, with a capacity for vessels up to 1,184 feet.
Corner Brook is a deepwater port in Western Newfoundland, and its cruise ship berth is 1,200 feet. (For context, Royal Caribbean’s new Icon of the Seas, which will debut in early 2024 as the world’s largest ship, is 1,198 feet long.) Corner Brook is known for its Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
All five ports together welcomed 600-plus cruise ships, representing a 28% increase versus 2022, and hosted nearly 870,000 cruise arrivals. Some of the region’s smaller niche ports attracted about 34,000 cruise guests.
“We applaud the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association on yet another successful cruise season. The dedication to providing an exceptional experience for cruise guests showcases the strength and vibrancy of the region’s cruise industry,” said Kelly Craighead, CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
The number of cruise arrivals from April to August grew from 157,454 in 2022 to 235,962 in 2023; that timeframe does not include the busy high season of late summer/early fall Canada/New England cruises.
Designed with leaf-peepers in mind, the Canada/New England itineraries are offered from New York, Boston, and other East Coast cities, and typically include some US ports such as Portland, Maine, in addition to ports along the Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland coasts.
ACCA noted that Port Saint John was a finalist in 2023 for “Port of the Year.” Earlier this month, the New Brunswick port reported that 74 ship visits delivered 172,193 cruise guests and 71,824 crew members to the destination. The port had predicted 86 ship calls for this year, but even with fewer having arrived, the port still saw a 16% increase compared to 2022.
Port Saint John also recorded its largest single ship day in 2023, when Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas called on May 30, with 5,931 guests and 2,113 crew members onboard. Saint John is known for its easy access to the Bay of Fundy, its historic city center and old town market, and adventure tours like sea cave exploration and jet boating.
Regional Impact Delivers Revenue, Many Local Jobs
Regional economic impact figures for 2023 are not yet available, however, ACCA noted that pre-pandemic seasons show that cruise tourism accounted for $347 million annually and more than 2,000 jobs.
“The dedication of our ports, partners, and the local community have contributed to the success of individual ports and reinforces the overall economic importance of cruise tourism in Atlantic Canada,” the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association said.
Other, nearby regions in Eastern Canada also are expecting strong cruise tourism results in 2023. The marketing agency Cruise the St. Lawrence early in 2023 predicted a 35% increase in ship calls versus 2022.
The group, which has not yet announced its results, represents nine key ports, including the major cruise destinations of Montreal and Quebec, along with Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gaspé, and the Magdalen Islands.