Merchants love cruise ships

SAINT JOHN - Business from cruise ship passengers is what caused the newest tenant along the Market Square boardwalk to relocate to the uptown.

                                    

Joan Brandon and Larry Pristavec walk along Harbour Passage with three cruise ships in the background on Wednesday. The ships, from the left, are Norwegian Dawn, Caribbean Princess and Carnival Triumph, bringing more than 10,000 people to the city.

And the reasoning for the move by Lemongrass Thai Fare and Pepper's Pub was self-evident on Wednesday.

Three ships cruise ships were docked in the city, bringing more than 10,000 individuals - including 8,500 passengers - and dropping an estimated $500,000 into the region's coffers.

With space at a premium on the patio of Lemongrass Thai Fare and Pepper's Pub, manager Matt Driscoll was pressed into service waiting on tables.

"We've had a good day, a fantastic day, actually," Driscoll said after placing a customer's drink order.

Cruise ship customers are looking for two kinds of food, he said: seafood and pub grub.

"We order around the cruise ship schedule," Driscoll said.

If the cruise ship business evaporated, the restaurant and pub's future would change.

"It would be a gigantic loss in revenue. It would be a whole new game plan."

Inside Market Square, Rachell Bourgoin was taking her lunch break. She's the manager of W.H. Hayward and Tackles.

"I haven't had to resort to Tylenol yet," she said with a smile. "It's been very steady, but not overwhelming."

But, she said, people aren't spending like they did last year because of the recession that has struck economies on both sides of the border.

In the Loyalist Burial Ground, Jennifer and Brian Lively of Pennsylvania were admiring the well-preserved history under the shade of the stately trees.

"It's nice to see a city that takes care of its history," Jennifer said.

The couple acknowledged they had had a lot of lobster and estimate they would spend $200 in total, including sightseeing tours, during their stay. The recession, they said, has tempered their spending.

"We're watching our dollars," Brian said.

Cruise Saint John estimates the nearly 190,000 cruise ship passengers coming to the city this season will lead to $26 million in economic spinoffs throughout the region.

Elizabeth Filipovits, know as Jewelry Girl, threaded beads on to a piece of string as customers tried on the jewelry she creates in her space at the concessions near Market Square.

"That looks cute," she said to a cruise ship passenger trying on a ring.

The passenger didn't buy the item, but there was no shortage of people following along behind checking out the shiny baubles.

"I find towards the end of the day, when they're ready to get on their ships, is when you make most of your money. But today has been a really good day," Filipovits said.

Along Harbour Passage, a steady stream of passengers followed the cranberry-covered pavement as joggers wound their through the throng. Along Water Street and King Street, the story was the same with cruise ship passengers identified by the cameras that dangled from their necks like so many dog tags.

Steven Frampton ran by with a bright green rickshaw in tow. It's a hard job in hilly Saint John on a sunny, warm day, but the company called Chris' Rickshaws is doing a good business.

There's no set fare. His passengers pay what they think the ride is worth.

"People coming off the ships are generous and kind," Frampton said.

As the cruise ship passengers made their way uptown via Harbour Passage, lobster fishermen loaded traps and rope onto the back of a flatbed truck, their lobster boats dwarfed by the massive cruise ship looming in the background.

The scene of three cruise ships competing to be part of the city's skyline will repeat itself on Oct. 6.

In the City Market, the press of the crowd of passengers grew with each minute. Derek Godfroy and Felicity Firth of England stood and looked quizzically at the paper bags full of dulse.

Terry Parker of Dean's Meats offered them a free taste of the local snack made from dried seaweed. They tried it, politely smiled and moved on.

"I actually quite enjoyed it," Frith said.

Parker said the scene repeats itself all day long and 80 per cent don't take a bag of dulse home.

"We get a lot of feedback from them," Parker said about the market and the city. "All positive."

                                     

Joan Brandon and Larry Pristavec walk along Harbour Passage with three cruise ships in the background on Wednesday. The ships, from the left, are Norwegian Dawn, Caribbean Princess and Carnival Triumph, bringing more than 10,000 people to the city.

                                     
Terry Parker of Dean's Meat Stall at the City Market gives cruise ship passenger Cleo St. Helen a sample of dulse.

 

Source: Published Thursday September 10th, 2009 Telegraph Journal