The Cruise Examiner for 26th December 2011: Viking Ocean Cruises Orders Two Ocean-Going Cruise Ships – Other Cruise News: Passat Revives the Delphin – Saga’s Plans for Quest for Adventure


          by Kevin Griffin

     The Cruise Examiner for 26th December 2011

There is some really good news to end 2011. A new company called Viking Ocean Cruises has just ordered two 41,000-ton 888-passenger cruise ships from STX France in St Nazaire, who are also now building Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ Europa 2. This is the same shipyard that produced the Queen Mary 2, Crystal Serenity, Seven Seas Mariner, the eight “R” clas ships that now work for Azamara, Oceania, P&O, Princess and, as of next spring, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises as well, and Celebrity Cruises’ Millenium class. As well as having built many mass market ships for its biggest customer, MSC, the famous St Nazaire shipyard that built the Normandie and the France, has managed to get a corner on the bespoke cruise ship market as well. Although the new Viking Ocean ships will be built to a more human scale than man y of today’s behemoths, questions remain as to whether they will have proper forward-facing observation lounges, walkaround promenade decks and tiered decks aft, all marks of a comfortable ship. Meanwhile, an Indian entrepreneur will place the Delphin back into service in the German market after a year of lay up in Venice and Britain’s Saga has some interesting plans for the Saga Pearl II, which will become sister brand Spirit of Adventure’s Quest for Adventure next spring with the delivery of the Saga Sapphire, now trading as Bleu de France.

Note dated April 4, 2012: It now appears that the pending order from Viking Ocean Cruises with STX France has collapsed and the work may go instead to Fincantieri in Italy.

Note dated April 19, 2012: It has now been confirmed that a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Fincantieri to build two, option three, ships and they will now carry 998 passengers as opposed to the originally planned 888, and they will be about 10% larger at 45,000 tons.

THIS WEEK’S STORY                                          (See previous columns)

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