Eastern Canadian Ports Expect Robust Cruise Season

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The growing popularity of Canada/New England cruising is paying big dividends to the eastern Canadian ports that hug the mighty St. Lawrence River.

Nine cruise ports in the region will see an overall 35% spike in the number of ships making port calls in 2023 compared to last year, according to the cruise marketing agency Cruise the St. Lawrence.

Ports Are Poised to Welcome 460,000 Cruise Guests

Cruise the St. Lawrence (CSL), the development and marketing organization that represents nine ports of call along the eastern Canadian coast, said on April 7 that 43 cruise ships will call at the region’s ports this year, a substantial and welcome increase from the 28 ships that visited the ports in 2022.

The number of individual port calls will rise in 2023 to 300-plus, up from 248 last year, bringing a total of roughly 460,000 cruise visitors to the Canadian ports.

“Last year, we set our sights on a return to 2019 levels of performance by 2025. We are now confident that we will achieve this goal earlier than initially anticipated,’’ said CSL Executive Director René Trépanier.

Cruise Ship in Montreal, Canada
Photo Credit: Firefighter Montreal / Shutterstock

CSL represents the ports of Montréal, Trois-Rivières, Québec, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Sept-Îles, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.

Quebec is the largest and most-visited port in the region, and now has a greater capacity to accommodate larger numbers of cruise visitors. A new cruise terminal, Terminal 30, opened in the summer of 2022 and provides the Port of Quebec with the capacity to handle about 2,500 cruise passengers at a time. 

The CSL statement said, “Given the breadth of destination offerings, Cruise the Saint Lawrence is well poised to cater to the needs of a diversity of traveler profiles. Going forward, our association will continue to provide for sustained, soundly managed growth.”

Major Cruise Lines Feature Canada/New England Sailings

Several major cruise lines sail Canada’s eastern coastline in summer and fall, typically combining the Canadian destinations with popular New England ports such as Boston, Portland, Maine, and other Canadian ports like Halifax and Cape Breton Island, both in Nova Scotia, and St. John’s, in Newfoundland, as ships head north or south via the St. Lawrence River. Fall cruises to the region are particularly popular for their fall foliage and leaf-peeping opportunities.

The St. Lawrence season opens this year on April 23, when Viking Cruises’ Viking Octantis, the line’s first expedition ship, calls at the Magdalen Islands, off Quebec, and ends with the November 5 visit by Silversea Cruises’ 388-guest Silver Shadow to the Port of Québec.

Cruise ship at the port in Montreal
Photo Credit: Firefighter Montreal / Shutterstock

The 16-day Canada and the Atlantic Coastline itinerary of the 378-guest Viking Octantis are new for the cruise line. Ports of call on the cruise, which is offered twice in September in addition to the April departure, begins in Ontario and calls at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec City, Cap-aux-Meules and Cape Breton. The April 23 cruise is sold out, the Viking Cruises’ website shows.

Other cruise lines with extensive Canada/New England itineraries include Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Celebrity Cruises.

Holland America, for example, offers a series of 7-day Canada and New England Discovery cruises that sail aboard the 1,432-guest Zaandam between Montreal and Boston, calling at such ports as Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Sydney and Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbor, Maine.

CSL also noted that members of the marketing organization met with roughly 100 cruise line representatives and decision-makers at the Seatrade Cruise Global industry conference, held in Fort Lauderdale in late March. Those conversations may lead to more future cruise line itineraries focused on St. Lawrence destinations.

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