Growth in Canada sailings from N.Y. leaving Caribbean in wake

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Cruises to Canada have come a long way since the Cunard Princess rerouted to Saint  John, New Brunswick to avoid a tropical storm in Bermuda in 1989.  

That diversion helped open the cruise community to what is now the second-biggest cruise destination on Canada's Atlantic coast.

Last spring, the New York City Economic Development Corp. said that in 2007, sailings to the Canadian Maritime Provinces will make up 51% of New York's cruise passenger traffic, compared with the 39% going to the Caribbean. In 2005, those numbers were flipped; 45% of cruise passengers departing from New York went to the Caribbean, 32% went to Canada.

"At the end of the summer, people are tired of the heat. They may not want to go to the Caribbean," said Jill Rosenberg, manager of group and corporate travel for AAA New York. "They can experience cooler weather and leave right out of New York."

Rosenberg said the most popular cruises are fall foliage sailings that also call in New England.

She added that cruise lines now send their newest and biggest ships to Canada. In the past, most would only send their "dinky" vessels north.

Princess Cruises will increase its 2007 capacity to the region by 20%. Holland American Line offered 22 sailings to Canada this year, up from 17 in 2005. Royal Caribbean has six sailings this year to Canada; in 2007, it will have 16.

"It is a popular cruise region, particularly for families," said Mimi Weisband, spokesperson for Crystal Cruises. "The convenience is a big factor; one can see something different without going very far.

According to Crystal, bookings to the Maritimes were up 27% in 2006 over 2005. The line will increase its cruise days to the region in 2007.

This year, Crystal added calls at St. John and La Baie des Ha! Ha! in Quebec.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, has invested $4.2 million in cruise infrastructure development over the last 10 years. St. John will invest $21 million in a waterfront development project that includes a new terminal.

Local officials estimate cruise traffic to St. John will peak at 144,000 people and 59 ships in 2007, up from 87,000 this year. 

"The biggest challenge is getting recognition," said Paula Small, spokesperson for the St. John Port Authority.

To contact reporter Johanna Jainchill, send e-mail to [email protected].

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