The first cruise ship of the season docked in Saint John, N.B. on Saturday, helping to quench a tourism industry feeling the pinch of a reduced ship schedule.

Thousands of passengers off the Carnival Splendor were greeted by eager tourism operators. 

The cruise industry has scaled back the number of ships it is operating in Atlantic Canada to deal with an expensive boost in fuel costs next year. Saint John is expecting eight fewer cruise ships to visit its port this year compared to previous summers.

At the Steamers Lobster Company on Water Street, owner Roy Billingsley says business has been down almost 50 per cent over the last couple of months.

“It was a feeling of relief. I don't know if you know, but the last ship that was scheduled to visit in July was actually diverted as a result of the Hurricane Arthur. So actually to see it in the port tied up is a bit consoling,” he said.

Saint John cruise ship

Saint John is expecting eight fewer cruise ships to visit its port in 2014. Some of the worst-case estimates for 2015 see 36 fewer cruise trips in Atlantic Canada. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Melanie Colpitts, director of cruise excellence with Aquila Tours, says the group has noticed a shift in the season. She was happy to see 1,000 people sign up for one of her tours on Saturday.

"We are seeing less in the summer and more in the fall. So while we're only down eight ships we are noticing that the difference is really felt in the summer months,” she said.

Starting in 2015, all cruise ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the Canadian or United States coast will be required to use a fuel containing less sulphur. That is expected to push fuel expenses for the cruise lines higher and make it more expensive for ships to operate in areas such as Atlantic Canada.

The Carnival Glory already announced it will be moving its home port from New York City to Miami by next cruise season to get ahead of the fuel changes.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the Carnival Glory home port as being Saint John. Its home port is currently New York City and will be moving to Miami by next cruise season.
    Aug 05, 2014 12:14 PM AT