Holland America Line Single-Handedly Extends St Lawrence Season

Holland America Line’s Maasdam, a regular St Lawrence trader, passing under the Quebec Bridge

For many decades, in the days before air conditioning, the St Lawrence cruise season ran all summer long. From 1919 until 1965, Canada Steamship Lines offered weekly Saguenay cruises from Montreal, with a season that ran from June to September, even during the war. From 1921 to 1961, the Clarke Steamship Company offered longer “Round the Gulf” and Labrador cruises in a season that ran from May through October. After these services closed, Cunard Line, the Baltic Shipping Company, Polish Ocean Lines, Moore-McCormack Lines and the Greek Line, among others, began offering week-long cruises from Montreal or 10/11-night cruises between New York and Montreal.

The history of St Lawrence cruising goes back a long way. Under the auspices of Thomas Cook, the Quebec Steamship Company first sent its 1,864-ton Orinoco out from New York in the summer of 1894 to visit Saint John NB, Halifax, Charlottetown, Gaspé, Tadoussac, the Saguenay River and Quebec. Indeed, by 1904, the Plant Line was advertising its Gulf of St Lawrence cruises from Boston as follows:

Six Days’ Cruise 1400 miles for $18. From Union Wharf, Boston, every Tuesday and Saturday, 12 noon for Halifax, Hawkesbury and Charlottetown. Good board. Cheapest rates. Best trout and salmon fishing, and shooting. Beautiful scenery. This doesn’t half tell it. Send stamp for booklet “Looking Eastward,” maps, etc.

A pioneer of St Lawrence cruising from 1908 until the First World War, the s.s. Trinidad cruised the St Lawrence by summer and sailed from New York to Bermuda in the winter.

The Quebec Steamship Company’s 2,162-ton Trinidad followed in 1908, the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Quebec. In 1919, this line was acquired by Britain’s Furness Withy & Co, who cruised first the 5,530-ton Fort Hamilton and and then the 7,785-ton Fort St George from New York to Quebec. Between the wars, the Anchor Line, Canadian Pacific, the Clyde Line, White Star Line and others all offered cruises between New York, the Maritimes, Quebec and Montreal. These cruises were nearly always offered in the high season in July and August, when it was hottest in the cities, as a getaway from the summer heat.

More recently, however, the so-called Canada New England brand has suffered in that even The Sunday Times now tells people who want to cruise the St Lawrence to go in the autum. The question is, is this the propogation of a myth or is it simply because cruises only go there now in the autumn? This has been one of the biggest challenges facing St Lawrence and New England destinations in recent years, but things are slowly starting to change.

In recent years, Holland America has operated one ship, the 1,266-berth Maasdam, into Montreal between May and October. Starting this autumn, however, it brought a second ship to the St Lawrence, in the 1,348-berth Veendam, which it had previously been operating on the New York-Bermuda run. Next year, Holland America will operate the Veendam on a full season of St Lawrence cruises, from May through October, turning at Quebec while the Maasdam continues to turn at Montreal.

The Maasdam departing Montreal on a cruise. On the left is the Sailors’ Memorial clocktower on Victoria Pier. Behind here is where the Canada Steamship Lines and Clarke Steamship Company cruise ships used to sail from

Moving the Veendam to St Lawrence cruising is interesting in two ways. First, Holland America has already let it be known that it thinks it can make more money trading to Canada and New England than in what was once regarded as the lucrative Bermuda cruise market. Secondly, with the imposition of the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) this summer, the Veendam is actually going against the flow.

When sailing to Bermuda she spent most of her time outside the 200-mile ECA limit but by sailing to Canada she will always be within it. This means she will have to burn more expensive distillate fuel in order to reduce sulphur emissions, something that Holland America has already estimated increased their fuel costs by 40% in the Alaska trade, which is also completely within the ECA, for an  extra $200,000 on a 7-night cruise.

The Veendam will handle four embarkations and four disembarkations at Quebec, bringing more than 20,000 extra visitors a year over a three-year period. Under the new marketing agreement, Montreal will also see additional turnarounds from the Maasdam in July and August. This program, announced last month, is backed by $1.15 million in government funds, half from Tourism Quebec and half from Quebec City.

Included in the Veendam’s new program will be four 14-night round trips from Quebec that will call at Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston and the Saguenay. Equally, the Maasdam will offer seven 14-night round trip cruises from Montreal calling at Quebec, Charlottetown, Sydney, Halifax, Bar Harbor and Boston. Both itineraries will also be available as one-way 7-night sectors between Montreal and Boston and Quebec and Boston.

As part of this agreement, the 450-berth Seabourn Sojourn, operated by Holland America affiliate Seabourn, will also operate three St. Lawrence turnaround cruises from Montreal that will visit seven ports in Quebec: Montreal, Quebec City, Trois Rivières, Saguenay, Baie Comeau, Gaspé and the Magdalen Islands.

Holland America has become a bit of a pioneer in the St Lawrence. It was the first cruise line to visit Sept Iles, on the St Lawrence North Shore, when it sent the Maasdam there in May 2009. This in itself was an earlier season start than usual for the St Lawrence, the call having been made during a positioning voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal, something it will offer again in 2013. The new $20 million berth at Sept Iles now accepts cruise ships of up to 985 feet in length.

Compagnie du Ponant’s Le Boréal calls at the Magdalen Islands in the Gulf of St Lawrence

Fellow North Shore ports Baie Comeau to the west and Havre St Pierre to the east have also added cruise facilities and their proximity to Gaspé on the South Shore, Charlottetown in Prince Edward Island and Corner Brook in Newfoundland, offers a choice of half a dozen cruise ports in the Gulf of St Lawrence below Quebec. The Magdalen Islands, which has its own weekly cruise ferry from Montreal and is now also visited by Compagnie du Ponant and Crystal Cruises, adds a seventh.

Crystal Symphony seen here calling at Quebec, offers a round-trip Gulf of St Lawrence cruise from Montreal each September.

On September 30, Crystal Cruises operated  a 7-night round trip from Montreal with its 960-berth Crystal Symphony. Three of her four ports, Sept Iles, the Magdalen Islands and the French islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, were first time calls for Crystal. The fourth port, Quebec, has been rated as the most popular cruise port in North America. This Montreal round trip itinerary will be repeated on September 26, 2013. But in September 2014, the cruise will be offered by the Crystal Serenity from Quebec. A larger ship than Symphony, the Serenity can’t get under the Quebec Bridge to sail upriver to Montreal.

Royal Caribbean has also started operating turnaround cruises from Quebec with its 2,112-berth Brilliance of the Seas, with a typical 10-night cruise taking in Baie Comeau, Corner Brook, Halifax, Sydney, St Pierre et Miquelon and Charlottetown. Like the Serenity, the Brilliance is too tall to fit under the Quebec Bridge.

Other St Lawrence visitors this season have included the 3,114-berth Emerald Princess, 2,104-berth Eurodam, 264-berth Le Boréal, 2,476-berth Norwegian Dawn, the 2,620-berth Queen Mary 2, the 684-berth Regatta, 490-berth Seven Seas Navigator, 388-berth Silver Whisper and the Veendam, nearly all in September and October. Not to mention the Aida, Fred Olsen and Saga ships that cruise over from Europe.

The addition of the Veendam to the St Lawrence trade is good news for Quebec City, which in 2013 will see five Holland America calls each month from May to August and seven in June. The only other ship coming nearby in the summer months is Oceania’s 1,258-berth Marina, which will make an unusual June 1 call at Quebec while on a 16-night cruise from New York to Southampton. The other ships will all wait until September (21 calls) and October (27 calls), when they come flocking in for “the leaves.”

For more details on Cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence please call The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Holland America Extends The St Lawrence Cruise Season – Australian Consumer Protection – Two More Royal Caribbean Brands Go Blue

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 26th November 2012

Maasdam under Quebec BridgeFor some time now the Canada New England trade has been suffering from the misperception that it is best to go there in September and October for the “autum leaves,” when in fact the region enjoys a wonderful spring and summer season starting in May. This week, we look at how Holland America is leading the way to extending the cruise season at Montreal and Quebec, while others such as Crystal Cruises and Royal Caribbean are starting to offer round trip cruises from these ports. Meanwhile, after the demise of Classic International Cruises, the Australians are looking at phasing out their Travel Compensation Fund, but with what replacement? Elsewhere, two more Royal Caribbean brands, Azamara Club Cruises and Pullmantur, are adopting blue hulls and new colours.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

The Ocean Liner Society’s 2013 Annual Cruise On Board MS “Hamburg” – Hamburg to Kiel 27th-31st May 2013 Sold Out

In May 2013, the London-based Ocean Liner Society will cruise on Plantours’ MS Hamburg

In 2010, the Ocean Liner Society chose Croisières de France and its 37,301-ton Bleu de France (delivered 1982 as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ last Europa) for its annual group cruise. This cruise proved such a success that in 2012 the Society returned to Croisières de France in its 46,811-ton Horizon. In 2013, however, the Society will return to another former Hapag-Lloyd ship, this time the 15,067-ton MS Hamburg, which betwen 1997 and 2012 operated as Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Columbus.

The 2013 cruise will take in a North Sea itinerary, departing Hamburg on Monday, 27th May for a five-day four-night cruise to Sylt, Borkum and Helgoland, and a transit of the Kiel Canal before arriving at Kiel on Friday morning, 30th May.  Here are some things to do in Hamburg before sailing.

For more than two decades between 1991 and 2012, Plantours + Partner operated the 7,478-ton Vistamar, which had been rebuilt in 1989 from the Spanish ferry Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Indeed, several Society members have cruised in her. The MS Hamburg, which has replaced the Vistamar, carries 400 passengers compared to the 299 in the earlier ship – twice the tonnage but only one-third more passengers, for a respectable passenger space ratio of almost 38 tons per passenger, compared to 25 on Vistamar.

The MS Hamburg was built by Mathias-Thiesen Werft (MTW) at Wismar, Germany, in 1997 as the Columbus, a ship whose design originated from a desire by Hapag-Lloyd to re-introduce cruising into the Great Lakes of North America. Indeed in her fifteen-year career with Hapag-Lloyd, the Columbus completed eleven seasons in the Great Lakes. She also undertook a world cruise every winter. After Hapag-Lloyd acquired a larger ship to replace the Columbus Bremen-based Plantours took her over, renaming her MS Hamburg at a ceremony in the old Hanseatic port of Hamburg in June 2012.

Plantours is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Venice-based Ligabue Group, which was founded  in 1919 by Anaceleto Ligabue, who began supplying food to the Società Veneziana di Navigazione a Vapore, a company whose fleet was absorbed into Italia and Lloyd Triestino in the 1930s. Today Ligabue is active in shipboard catering and river cruising, with a total of fourteen managed vessels, and also supplies catering services on  board the cruise ships Aegean Odyssey and FTI Berlin.

OLS group fares are valid for a minimum number of cabins, and there is an allocation of cabins available for singles. Bookings can be made through the OLS group agent The Cruise People Ltd in London.  Fares include passage, full board and port charges. A special drinks package is available for €52 per person (very good value at only €13 a day).

Daily Itinerary

Depart HAMBURG 16:30 hrs Monday 27th May 2013

LIST / SYLT (home of the famous Sansibar club) from 06:00 to 17:00 Tuesday

BORKUM from 08:00 to 19:00 Wednesday

HELGOLAND from 08:00 to 16:00 Thurssday


Arrive KIEL 08:00 hrs Friday 31st May 2013

Ocean Liner Society Group Fares – MS Hamburg 27.05.2013 

                             Early Booking Fares Expire 31.01.13

Five days (4 nights)  27-30 May 2013 Brochure Fare HAM1613 Special OLS Fare
OLS Cabins Remaining
Category Euros Euros Cabins
Cat 2 Double Inside   €749 €710 Sold Out
Cat 5 Double Outside   €949 €900 Sold Out
Cat 7 Double Outside   €1099 €1045 Sold Out
Cat 9 Double Outside   1259 €1195 Sold Out
Cat 2a Single Inside €1199 €1135 Sold Out
Cat 6a Single Outside €1299 €1235 Sold Out

Fares are cruise only, per person in double occupancy or single as indicated, and include port charges. Drinks package available for €52 per per person. OLS Group fares include an allocation of single cabins. Extra cabins beyond our allocation will be subject to availability. A deposit of 25% will confirm a reservation.

Members of the general public can qualify to travel on this cruise by joining the Ocean Liner Society. Membership is £20 in the UK, £23 in Europe and £25 in the rest of the world. As well as the opportunity of joining OLS group cruises, this includes a subscription to their 48-page quarterly journal, Sea Lines. Further details can be found at http://www.ocean-liner-society.com.

For further information and availability for this cruise please contact The Cruise People Ltd at 020 7723 2450, Freephone 0800 526 313 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Cruising, Travel Agents and The Social Media – Vancouver To Gain While Victoria Loses – Boston Record – Houston To Gain Two Ships

           THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 19th November 2012

With Holland America Line’s appointment of a dedicated director of social media last week, we look at a survey of travel agents on this subject completed by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) earlier this year.  Not surprisingly perhaps, 76% of travel agents have booked clients cruises on line but only 15% think participation in social media is “essential,” and almost half as many, 7%, think they are a waste of time. But the ASTA survey did not include blogs, like the one you are reading. Here are the ASTA survey results: –


Elsewhere, with cruise seasons just finishing, the news is mainly from the ports. Vancouver will see a rise of more than 20% to more than 820,000 passengers next year, caused mainly by the return of the Disney Wonder. Boston set a record in 2012 with 380,000 passengers, brought about because of the arrival of the Carnival Glory for cruises to Canada. And Houston will be getting two new ships in 2013-14, with first the Caribbean Princess and then the Norwegian Jewel.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

A New Cruise Ship Lexicon: SunStone, FleetPro and Waterland – TUI Cruises Orders Fourth Ship – UK Cruise Market Stalls But Holds

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 12th November 2012

TUI Cruises’ first 2,500-berth newbuilding, Mein Schiff 3, will enter service in 2014, to be followed in 2015 by Mein Schiff 4

Last week came news of the formation of a new passenger ship owning company called SunStone Ships Inc, which will take over the shipowners’ representation functions presently performed by International Shipping Partners Inc of Miami. Included in this will be the promotion of ISP’s previous newbuilding project for eight 100-balcony-cabin expedition ships capable of carrying 200 passengers each, called Project Unlimited. At the same time came news out of both Miami and Basel of the formation of a new independent cruise ship management company. FleetPro Passenger Ship Management will have two branches, with ISP undertaking management of ocean-going ships from Miami and River Advice looking after inland vessels from Basel. Finance for the FleetPro organisation has come from Netherlands-based Waterland Private Equity, which already has a majority interest in A’Rosa River Cruises of Germany. Elsewhere, TUI Cruises has confirmed its option for a second newbuilding, Mein Schiff 4, from STX Finland in Turku, while the latest UK cruise statistics indicate a market whose growth has stalled, but is at least holding its own

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)

Cruising: What A Difference Thirty Years Makes – Other Cruise News: Classic International Australia Calls In Administrators – New Liner Service Between Europe and Australia?

          THE CRUISE EXAMINER at Cybercruises.com

          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 5th November 2012

The Port of Miami in 1982 (left) and 2012 (right), with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line ships in each view

For something different this week, we look back thirty years. Examining the third weekend of January, at the start of the Caribbean high season in the traditional cruise trades from Florida and Puerto Rico, we compare what is on offer now to the same weekend in 1982. Last week, we announced that Classic International’s Australian arm had succeded in finding a replacement ship for the arrested Athena. This announcement appears to have been premature, however, as only two days later Classic’s Australian went into administration. Finally, we look at what would normally be considered a hare-brained idea – a passenger liner service between Europe and Australia – although the design for the two ships is reportedly to be entrusted to one of the world’s pre-eminent naval architects.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                                       (See previous columns)