Saint John port not affected by cruise line cutbacks

Published Wednesday September 10th, 2008 - Telegraph Journal

SAINT JOHN - The city's port authority says it will gain four new cruise ship calls next year after a major operator announced this week it is cancelling two of its Canadian stops.

Royal Caribbean International has reported it will cut fuel costs next year by removing four calls each into Sydney and Charlottetown from next year's itinerary.

The Saint John Port Authority said Tuesday it will pick up four new calls as a result of the cancellations, bringing an estimated $1 million in economic benefit to the Port City.

"If fuel costs are going to be prohibitive for ships to travel further, we are the closest port of call to New England," said port spokesman Bill Eaton, adding Saint John is in the best geographic position to pick up calls from cruise lines tightening their itineraries.

The new business bodes well for the city's port, which has not been notified of any cancelled calls for next year. The cruise business is now the second-largest revenue generator for the port, this year breaking records with 81 ships calling.

Port officials have said they expect to match, and perhaps increase, cruise business in 2009. In fact, Carnival Cruise Lines, the port's largest cruise customer, has said it will maintain and perhaps increase its traffic in the harbour over the coming years.

The cruise line said ships destined for Saint John generally depart from the New York port, which is connected to a massive population base that doesn't have to rely on costly airline travel to get there.

The company said the Port City is ideally located as the closest destination for ships travelling from the northeastern United States, and short-term duration trips remain a favourable option for passengers looking to cut their costs.

But Eaton didn't rule out Tuesday the possibility that cruise ship operators may cut Saint John from their itineraries as they look to shed operating costs.

"Because it's such a competitive industry, that's always an issue," he said. "That's just how the marketplace works."

Three cruise vessels are expected to dock at the Saint John port today, including Royal Caribbean's Caribbean Princess and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Dawn.