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Record season for Sydney port

The 2019 cruise ship season at the Port of Sydney ended on Nov. 5 when the 1,200-passenger Riveria of Oceania cruise lines came to port. The port welcomed over 154,000 passengers this year.
The 2019 cruise ship season at the Port of Sydney ended on Nov. 5 when the 1,200-passenger Riveria of Oceania cruise lines came to port. The port welcomed over 154,000 passengers this year. - Greg McNeil

One hundred cruise ships carrying 153,797 passengers stopped in Sydney

SYDNEY, N.S. —

Whitecaps and seabirds made up most of the traffic in the port of Sydney on Wednesday, a stark contrast to a busy cruise ship season that ended the day before when the 1,200-passenger Riveria of Oceana cruise lines vessel dropped anchor.

All told, 100 cruise ships carrying 153,797 passengers stopped in Sydney, along with another eight ships and 1,105 more passengers in Louisbourg, contributing to a record year for the local cruise ship industry that began with the arrival of Holland American’s Zaandam in April.

“The industry itself is growing and ships are getting larger, so when they are looking at the deployment of their vessels, the ships are growing and so when they are redeploying vessels we are getting larger ones. They are the medium-sized,” said Nicole MacAulay, manager of cruise and administration, Port of Sydney Development Corporation.

“We went to the Maasdam to the Zaandam and the Zuuderdam, which is a real increase in the passengers on those Holland American vessels. It really is because the ships are getting so much larger that it is just impacting everyone in a good way.”

FEEDBACK

Generally speaking, passenger feedback gathered and tracked through conversations with clients is similar year over year. What cruise ship passengers do like are Cape Breton-wide excursions. Those who stay downtown while their vessel is in town tend not to rate their island stop nearly as high, though.

“Those passengers that are going on an organized excursion and getting to see the highlights of our island, we get really good ratings, but those passengers who choose not to go on an excursion and walk around then the ratings for those passengers are typically lower, but not always,” said MacAulay.

“If someone finds their way to Governor’s — and there’s a ceilidh almost every cruise ship day — they are going to have a good time. It depends, but investment into downtown is something we’ve been getting for quite a few years.”

People pose under the big fiddle in front of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney on Wednesday. The fiddle was a popular attraction for cruise ship passengers on board the Riveria of Oceania cruise lines that came to port Wednesday.
People pose under the big fiddle in front of the Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion in Sydney on Wednesday. The fiddle was a popular attraction for cruise ship passengers on board the Riveria of Oceania cruise lines that came to port Wednesday.

NICHE PORTS

This year’s record numbers were aided by a growth in smaller vessels in search of niche destinations such as Louisbourg, where visiting history has proven popular.

“They are smaller niche lines but some expedition vessels, as well. Some were between 75-175 passengers to those vessels. And very specific to the fortress for the most part.”

There’s growth potential for Louisbourg as a niche stop, as well as Baddeck and Cheticamp.

“I love niche ports. I just think it’s a unique experience. There was one day (this season) when a ship was in Louisbourg which was 156 passengers and then the next day I was on the Meraviglia with 4,500.”

INVESTMENT

Investments in infrastructure at the main dock expanded its capacity beyond 300 metres to accommodate larger ships, which allowed for large vessels like the Mein Schiff I and MSC Meraviglia to visit.

“The addition of new 150-ton bollards north and south of the main dock, along with first phases of dredging, is attracting larger vessels to our port,” said Port of Sydney Development Corporation CEO Marlene Usher, in a press release.

Spending $350,000 for new dock fenders is an example of new infrastructure, Usher noted.

“Having industry-standard quality fenders, or bumpers, is critical to continuing to welcome vessels safely to our port. They also protect our infrastructure by helping to prevent damage caused by vessels potentially striking the dock.”

NEXT YEAR

While many factors contributed to a record year for the local cruise industry, MacAulay said next season is shaping up to be an even bigger one. The number of ships and stops are being finalized but expectations are for the 200,000-passenger mark to be surpassed.


Port of Sydney 2019 season

  • 11 per cent growth in ship calls
  • 18 per cent growth in passenger counts
  • 30 per cent increase in tanker traffic over two years ago
  • 4,500 passengers on board Meraviglia
  • 10 cancellations this season mainly due to weather conditions
  • 21 different cruise lines; 27 different cruise ships
  • 18 double ship days; 6 triple ship days; 1 quadruple ship day
  • $240,000 annual revenue generated by retail activity at the Port of Sydney

Cruise season statistics

2016 cruise season:

  • Passengers - 82,186
  • Crew - 37,322
  • 54 ship calls

2017 cruise season:

  • Passengers – 118,361
  • Crew – 63,759
  • 82 ship calls

2018 cruise season:

  • Passengers – 130,379
  • Crew – 58,740
  • 90 ship calls

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