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.

Advertisements

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)

Crystal’s 7-Night September 2012 Round Trip From Montreal Revives an Old Format – Plus Canada New England Cruises

The five-star all-inclusive (in 2012) Crystal Symphony in a night shot at Montreal

Crystal Cruises has decided to pick up on a formula that has not been used now for twenty years, a 7-night round trip cruise from Montreal on Crystal Symphony on September 30, 2012. By this time she will be all-inclusive for the first time, with wines, bar drinks and on board beverages, as well as gratuities, included in the fare.

Canada New England cruises date to 1894, when the Quebec Steamship Company, with Thomas Cook as its agent, offered the first such cruise in its Orinoco. Typically, these have started in either New York or Boston and ended in Montreal or Quebec, or vice versa. But another type of cruise that was also offered for many decades was the round trip cruise from Montreal, something that was first offered by the Quebec Steamship Company even before Canada New England cruises, and is now being revived by Crystal Cruises.

Quebec’s magnificent Fairmont Chateau Frontenac

Indicative of the gradual progress being made by new cruise ports in the Gulf of St Lawrence, three of the four ports of call, Sept Iles, the Magdalen Islands and the French Atlantic islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, will be first time calls for Crystal. The fourth, Quebec, has recently been voted the most popular cruise port in North America.

Sept Îles is a new and upcoming port, having only opened a cruise terminal in 2010 after Holland America’s Maasdam became the first modern age cruise ship to call there on May 19, 2009. Cruises had once before been operated to Sept Iles, but not since the North Shore highway was extended from Baie Comeau and the last coastal passenger ship cleared for Montreal at the end of 1961.

The new wharf extension at Sept Iles allows cruise passengers to take a new train to visit a native Innu summer camp on the Moisie River. This river is famed for its salmon and has been fished by prime ministers. The Innu themselves are descended from the Montagnais tribes that used to spend their winters in the bush trapping and come down the rivers in their canoes to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and others on the St Lawrence in the summer.

Cruising to the North Shore and Labrador was most popular with the Clarke Steamship Co, founded in 1921 by what up until then had been a family involved in publishing and pulp and paper. Below is a typical scene from 1935, with Clarke’s North Voyageur, the first of three ships to carry that name, berthed at Clarke City wharf at Pointe Noire, now part of the Port of Sept Iles.

Meeting the ship is the Gulf Pulp & Paper Company’s locomotive number 20, a unit that had been built for the Intercolonial Railway in 1900 and acquired by Gulf Pulp & Paper in 1924. Behind her are a combination passenger and freight car and a number of flat cars. The bell-mouthed smokestack was to prevent sparks from starting forest fires along the nine-mile railway line that linked the wharf with the pulp mill  town of Clarke City.

Cruises on the North Voyageur, which had berths for 62 overnight passengers, ran 12 nights round trip  from Montreal and started at $100. Ports of call included Quebec, Godbout, Clarke City, Havre St Pierre, Natashquan and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, returning via Natashquan, Sept Iles and Franquelin. Today, ships as large as the Queen Mary 2 call at Corner Brook, which has also seen a revival in cruising.

In 2013, Crystal Symphony will repeat her 7-night Montreal round trip itinerary on September 26 and will add yet another new port, Havre St Pierre, where she will make calls on two other cruises.

Slowly, it seems, cruising the Gulf of St Lawrence is making some progress. Some people have even tried to describe these Gulf and Labrador cruises as a new Alaska.

Here is a summary of all five of Crystal Symphony’s autumn 2012 cruises to and from Montreal.

New York to Montréal, September 19 – 30, 2012 (13 nights). Calls: New York, Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John, Halifax, Québec City, and Montreal. From £3,439. (*)

Round-trip Montréal, September 30 – October 7, 2012 (9 nights). Calls: Montreal, Sept-Iles, Magdalen Islands, St-Pierre et Miquelon, Québec City. From £2,623. (*)

Montréal to Boston, October 7 – 14, 2012 (9 nights). Calls: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor and Boston. From £2,478 (*).

Boston to Montréal, October 14 – 21, 2012 (9 nights). Calls : Boston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Québec City and Montreal. From £2,307. (*)

Montréal to New York, October 21 – 31, 2012 (12 nights). Calls: Montreal, Québec City, Halifax, Bar Harbor, Boston, Newport and New York. From £2,807. (*)

(*) All fares are per person in double occupancy and include return economy flights and port taxes. Hotels & transfers are additional. Number of nights given for each cruise applies to fly/cruise package from the UK..

For further details on any Crystal cruise, please call Gay Scruton at The Cruise People Ltd in London on 020 7723 2450 or e-mail cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk.

Cruising Returns to the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence

Cruising has slowly  been returning to the North Shore of the Gulf of St Lawrence, with Baie Comeau, Sept Iles and Havre St Pierre all having hosted modern cruise ships for the first time in the past few years. The first international cruise ship to visit Sept Iles was Holland America Line’s Maasdam, which called on May 19, 2009, on a voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Montreal. The Maasdam berthed at the Monseigneur Blanche Wharf, where until 1961, the Clarke Steamship Company’s North Shore had offered weekly cruises from Montreal as far as Havre St Pierre and Natashquan. That service also carried regular passengers and freight but was closed down fifty years ago after the highway was extended along the North Shore from Quebec City and Baie Comeau. The North Shore then went to cruise in the Greek islands. Recently, however, a $20.4 million 124-metre extension has been added to the wharf to allow cruise ships of up to 985 feet to dock.

Cruising to the North Shore and Labrador was most popular with the Clarke Steamship Co, founded in 1921 by what up until then had been a family involved in publishing and pulp and paper. To the right is a typical scene from 1935, with Clarke’s North Voyageur, the first of three ships to carry that name, berthed at Clarke City wharf at Pointe Noire, now part of the Port of Sept Iles.

Meeting the ship is the Gulf Pulp & Paper Company’s locomotive number 20, a unit that had been built for the Intercolonial Railway in 1900 and acquired by Gulf Pulp & Paper in 1924. Behind her are a combination passenger and freight car and a number of flat cars. The bell-mouthed smokestack was to prevent sparks from starting forest fires along the nine-mile railway line that linked the wharf with the pulp mill  town of Clarke City.

Cruises on the North Voyageur, which had berths for 62 overnight passengers, ran 12 nights round trip  from Montreal and started at $100. Ports of call included Quebec, Godbout, Clarke City, Havre St Pierre, Natashquan and Corner Brook, Newfoundland, returning via Natashquan, Sept Iles and Franquelin. Today, ships as large as the Queen Mary 2 call at Corner Brook, which has also seen a revival in cruising.

A new cruise terminal has gone into service at Sept Iles, with ships now calling regularly from New York and Europe. And the new wharf extension allows cruise passengers to board another train that takes them to visit an Innu summer camp on the Moisie River, a famed salmon river that has been fished by prime ministers.
.
In 2012, Crystal Cruises picked up on a formula that has not been used for twenty years now, a 7-night round trip from Montreal on Crystal Symphony, departing September 30. Indicative of the gradual progress being made by the new Gulf of St Lawrence cruise ports, three of her four ports of call, Sept Iles, les Iles de la Madeleine and the French Atlantic islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, were first time calls for Crystal. The fourth port, Quebec, which was visited before returning to Montreal, has recently been voted the most popular cruise port in North America. The 51,0440-ton Crystal Symphony carries 960 guests in great comfort and will be going all-inclusive in 2012.  This Montreal round trip itinerary will be repeated on September 26, 2013, while other Crystal Symphony itineraries will include Havre St Pierre.
.
Saga’s Quest for Adventure also offered a new 14-night itinerary last September. Sailing for its Spirit of Adventure brand, she departed Halifax on the 17th for St Pierre et Miquelon, then called on les Iles de la Madeleine, Havre St Pierre, Sept Iles, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Saguenay, Baie Comeau and Gaspé before returning to Halifax. This 18,591-ton vessel can accommodate 446 passengers.
.
For further details of opportunities to cruise the Gulf of St Lawrence in particular or Canada/New England in general please call The Cruise People Ltd on 020 7723 2450 or email us at cruise@cruisepeople.co.uk