Cautious optimism surrounds the return of cruise ships to the Atlantic region

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Anticipation is growing with the return of cruise ships to Atlantic Canada.

Port Saint John announced this week that its first ship is scheduled to call on May 4.

READ MORE: Port of New Brunswick forecasts busy season for cruise ships after two-year hiatus

At least one business owner is optimistic about an economic windfall – eventually.

GayeAnn Walsh, owner and operator of Walsh luggage, said her business had suffered greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic, to the point where she said she was considering shutting down permanently after nearly four decades in business.

She said the return of cruising is extremely important to her business, especially during the months of the season when cruise traffic is heaviest in the community.

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Cruise passengers have their favorite items when they frequent her store, she said.

“T-shirts,” she laughs. “They love my handbags because I’m a bit crazy about handbags.”

But those busy months aren’t until September and October – still six months away – which dampens his enthusiasm.

“You can’t run a business on what’s going to happen in six months because of what’s happened in the last two years,” Walsh said. “Our (financial) cushions are all gone, so we still need our local support to enable us to get into the cruise ship business.”

Walsh said the cruise months are busier than the holiday season in December.

READ MORE: Cruise industry outlook ‘optimistic’, but questions about COVID-19 passenger testing remain

Port Saint John said 69 ships are expected to call at the city in 2022. Before the pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 season, port officials expected 90 ships and more than 200,000 passengers.

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The port said the industry injected about $68 million into New Brunswick’s economy each year, before the pandemic.


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David Duplisea, CEO of The Chamber Saint John Region, said businesses are excited and optimistic about the return of cruise ships.

“To see a lot of people walking out, people walking through the (city of Saint John) market,” Duplisea began. “It brings a sense of vibrancy and I think it will bring (the community) back to somewhat more normal times, maybe celebrating a bit of economic recovery that we’ve been looking forward to.”

The Port of Halifax has yet to officially release a schedule, but one should be released in the coming weeks, according to Lane Farguson, media relations and communications manager for the Halifax Port Authority.

Farguson said the Port of Halifax is expecting “over 150” ships – about 85% of pre-pandemic shipping traffic – starting April 26.

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He said staff were making all necessary preparations, but there were lingering questions about COVID-19 protocol and potential restrictions.

“Will passengers still be able to take their own self-guided tours or will there be restrictions on what passengers can do when they arrive at port?” Farguson asked. “And that’s the piece that we’re still trying to find a little more information on.”

The Port of Charlottetown is expected to receive its first ship on April 22, making it the first ship to arrive in an Atlantic port.

Sydney Harbor has a tentative date of May 1 for its inaugural visit.


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