No cancellations: Sydney Harbor CEO remains optimistic cruise ships will return to Atlantic Canada in 2022

SYDNEY, NS – During her seven years at the helm of Sydney Harbor, Marlene Usher learned to navigate the rough waters of the cruise ship industry.

While she acknowledges the lack of control over the tides of change, Usher remains convinced that the besieged maritime sector of the tourism industry will rebound in 2022.

“There have been no cancellations since this latest round of Omicron COVID variants, so at this point we remain very optimistic,” said the Sydney Harbor general manager.

“With the pandemic, you never really know what lies ahead, but we still have 90 cruise ships booked for 2022 and none of them have canceled.”

Usher expects ships to carry an average of 2,000 passengers, which would add a total of 180,000 cruise passengers to the Port of Cape Breton.

The last cruise ship visits to Sydney and other Atlantic Canadian ports such as Halifax, Charlottetown and St. John’s were in the fall of 2019. Few can forget the industry panic that followed. the introduction of COVID-19.

The aft deck of MSC Meraviglia towered over the Sydney skyline when the giant cruise ship visited Cape Breton Harbor in late October 2019. DAVID JALA / CAPE BRETON POST
The aft deck of MSC Meraviglia towered over the Sydney skyline when the giant cruise ship visited Cape Breton Harbor in late October 2019. DAVID JALA / CAPE BRETON POST

Large ships

After the outbreak, cruise ships quickly became the last place most people wanted on board ships, the largest of which is Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas, which has a capacity of 6,780 passengers. and a crew of 2,100. The largest ship to visit Sydney in 2019 was the MSC Meraviglia (capacity of 5,655 passengers) which, when built in 2017, was the fourth largest cruise ship in the world. It is now the 13th largest.

Usher said she expects the trend towards larger ships to continue. She also noted that she expects Sydney’s second cruise ship to finally be used as it is currently booked for 17 visits in the coming season.

The CEO of the port said she is also encouraged by what is happening right now in warmer destinations.

“There are cruises departing from the United States and Europe and, yes, there have been reported cases of COVID but there has not been any situation where they have not been able to. manage, “said Usher

“We continue to have regular conversations with cruise lines and are in contact with other ports. There is constant communication in terms of discussing the latest protocols and regulatory environments. And Transport Canada continues to work with us. Currently, ships can still visit Canadian ports, but there are protocols and requirements for vaccines. “

MSC Meraviglia is sailing in Sydney Harbor in October 2019. DAVID JALA / CAPE BRETON POST
MSC Meraviglia is sailing in Sydney Harbor in October 2019. DAVID JALA / CAPE BRETON POST

Cruise ban

A year ago, the Canadian government announced a one-year ban on cruise ships. This was originally supposed to be in place until the end of February 2022. However, in July of last year, Ottawa gave the green light for the return of cruise ships from November, which actually meant that month of May. next.

“It is always worrying to think that we are under control of this pandemic, but we continue to look to the future. We have cruise ship reservations through 2030. Cruise lines are eager to increase their reservations and people are now booking well into the future, ”Usher said.

Meanwhile, Sydney Harbor continues to work on a proposed $ 7.6 million waterfront project that would further develop the Joan Harriss cruise lodge, promenade and surrounding grounds.

“We would like it to be similar to the infrastructure that is on the Halifax waterfront,” Usher said.

“We don’t want to be just a cruise destination. We want to be a place where all tourists can come and where local residents can come and have fun. To do this, we need infrastructure, so we discussed our options with our partners.

David Jala is an economics reporter for the Cape Breton Post.