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Has Pictou County’s ship come in? An overlook of where the county stands in the cruise business

The Pearl Mist cruised into Pictou today to for a day-long visit carrying 200 passengers from the United States and Canada. The guests will visit various locations in Pictou County before sailing out at suppertime tonight.  A second cruise ship will visit Pictou County October 25.
The Pearl Mist has made Pictou a permanent part of its itinerary-FILE PHOTO

The Pearl Mist will be sailing into Pictou Harbour eight times between 2019 and 2020, and the Pictou cruise committee is working to attract more of these small luxury liners.

In a presentation to Pictou Town council on Dec. 3, the cruise committee co-chair Michelle Young provided Town Council with a snapshot of the committee’s work so-far and a forecast of where they’re headed.

The Pictou County Cruise Committee formed in 2007 in partnerships with many stakeholders including municipalities of New Glasgow, Pictou town and county and Stellarton.

Since the first ship sailed into the Pictou Harbour in 2012, 22 cruise ships have docked on the Pictou Waterfront. That’s a total of 5,675 passengers. 

A 2017 industry study of Canada's large ports indicated passengers spent an average of $79.85 during  port-visits, while crew members spen an average of $87.70. 

“You can tell when the ships are in,” said Kayla Sutherland at Seaside Treasure Trove in Pictou. “A lot of people get the fudge on the nautical stuff.”

A 2017 industry study of Canada's large ports indicated passengers spent an average of $79.85 during  port-visits, while crew members spen an average of $87.70.

“The small cruise ship industry is a growing industry,” said committee co-chair Geralyn MacDonald in a phone interview.

The popularity of small, luxury vessels like the Pearl Mist is on the rise.

According to an industry news site, 39 vessels with a capacity of under 1000 passengers are expected to hit the seas over the next 3 years.

“The people that take the smaller cruise lines have already done the big ships,” said MacDonald. “They want to see areas that they haven’t heard of. They want the on-shore experiences that expose them to the culture, the food and the people.”

Visiting cruise companies hire Ambassadors tours to transport passengers inland to sites like the Museum of Industry and the cruise committee arranges for locally guided walking tours along Pictou’s waterfront and cultural sites.

“They’ll get a taste of the area for three hours. They like it, and they want to do more.”

It’s the passengers who ‘want to do more’ that the cruise committee is hoping to capitalize on the most. Tourists who have had a three-hour taste of Pictou County, and who then return without a time-constraint are more likely to spend more time and money in the area.

Three-hours at port affords enough time for the culture, but what about the food?

Roxanne Heighton is the owner of the Harbour House in Pictou. She said that, unlike souvenir shops, her restaurant does not see much of an increase on ship-days, unless the ship stays overnight.

“Cruise ships already have everything on board,” she said. “When the ship is here overnight, then we’ll usually get more people.”

Committee chair, Michelle Young says that there’s no reason why Pictou County shouldn’t be capitalizing on the growing industry, and putting Pictou on the map for  repeat visitors.

“The two embarkation ports for the Pearl Mist are Quebec and New York, or Quebec and Portland Maine,” said Michelle Young who co-chairs the cruise committee with MacDonald. “So, we’re right in the middle.”

Through their partnership with the Atlantic Canadian Cruise Association, the Pictou Cruise Committee has put Pictou on the map for the growing cruise industry.

The cost of membership with the ACCA is $5,000. Larger ports like Halifax and Sydney pay $50,000 for the benefits that the association affords its members: marketing expertise, port readiness meetings, and most importantly, opportunity to meet face to face companies planning their itineraries.

Young could not say which companies are interested, but did hint strongly that there are two other cruise companies that are looking at Pictou.

“We’re positioned really well to capture more cruise traffic,” said Young.

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