International cruises on the Saint Lawrence: Recovery successfully under way

Cruise the Saint Lawrence groups the 9 ports of call on the Saint LawrenceIn 2023, 43 different ships spent over 450 days in port in the nine Saint Lawrence ports of call, representing a total of some 460 000 passenger-days, a figure just shy of the 2019 count of 489 000 passenger-days.

Readers will recall that the 2022 season wrapped up with a total of 266 000 passenger-days, prompting Cruise the Saint Lawrence officials not to anticipate a return to prepandemic levels of performance before 2025.

Although autumn, from September to November, remains the most popular season, Destination Saint Lawrence attracts ships from early spring and continues to post steady increases in summer traffic. In 2023, in the period from April to late June, port visits totalled 61 spread out across the nine Saint Lawrence ports of call, compared with 37 for the year previous. During the July and August summer season, port visits jumped from 20 in 2022 to an impressive 57 in 2023.

Trends point to a growing diversity of ship categories, with notable increases in expedition and luxury vessels stopping in at member ports of call. Backed by a greeting policy dubbed the ‘Best Bienvenue in the World’, Destination Saint Lawrence features all requisite port facilities and infrastructure to be able to welcome larger premium or contemporary class vessels. Our destination ports of Montréal and Québec provide for the embarkation and disembarkation of cruise ship passengers, 90% of whom arrive by air from international points of origin. A great many of these travellers also book pre- and post-cruise tours in Québec, thereby boosting the overall economic impact of the international cruise sector.

In 2025, as readers will wish to note, Destination Saint Lawrence will officially become a four-season destination. The Commandant Charcot, PONANT’s hybrid electric polar expedition vessel powered by liquid natural gas, with a capacity of 200 passengers, is indeed scheduled to operate four 12-night sailings between late January and early March 2025. The planned ports of call include Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Gaspé, Sept-Îles, Saguenay, Québec and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Embarkation and disembarkation operations will be shared between the ports of Québec and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.

“The popularity of Destination Saint Lawrence continues to advance by leaps and bounds as we develop new niche market segments with the capacity to drive sustained growth in passenger traffic to prepandemic levels and beyond. Although autumn remains our busiest season, cruise lines are constantly discovering promising new attributes, not the least of which is the four-season potential of the Saint Lawrence region,” stated René Trépanier, Executive Director of Cruise the Saint Lawrence.

Demonstrating a strong interest in the region, 2023 will be the longest ever Saint Lawrence cruise season, extending from April 23rd to November 5th when the last cruise ship departs from the Port of Québec. “The Saint Lawrence offers a tremendous introduction for cruise passengers to the history and unique ports of la belle province”, commented Kelly Craighead, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cruise Lines International Association. “CLIA and our member lines welcome every opportunity to work with ports, local communities and Cruise the Saint Lawrence to ensure optimum cruise experiences along with sustainability and environmental protection.”

Over the years, Destination Canada New England, which includes the ports of the Saint Lawrence, has secured a position of choice in the rapidly expanding international cruise industry. Given the breadth of destination offerings, Cruise the Saint Lawrence is well poised to cater to the needs of a diversity of traveller profiles. Going forward, our association will continue to provide for sustained, soundly managed growth. Destination officials are currently focused on pursuing implementation of the organization’s sustainable development strategy through concrete action that comprises the elimination of single-use plastics in local ports of call, connection to shore power and initiatives intended to raise cruise line awareness of the importance and benefits of local procurement.

Cruise the Saint Lawrence is a sectoral organization which groups together the nine ports of call located along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River. The mission of the organization is to grow cruise market activities in Québec and across Destination Canada New England through the provision of marketing and development services to members. Cruise the Saint Lawrence enjoys the support of partners Tourism Québec, Québec Tourism Industry Alliance and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

(International cruises on the Saint Lawrence: Recovery successfully under way – Cruise the Saint Lawrence)