Halifax tourism operator readies for cruise ship season
'It's about to be game time,' says Ambassatours Gray Line's Dennis Campbell
Cruise ship season is about to start in Halifax and one business that caters to the tourists is busy getting ready.
The Halifax Port Authority says it is expecting 135 vessels this season, with approximately 240,000 passengers, plus crew members.
Dennis Campbell, CEO of Ambassatours Gray Line, said the start of cruise ship season means a lot to his sightseeing business.
"We've been working all fall, winter preparing for these next few weeks and it's about to be game time," he said in an interview Wednesday.
Campbell says they have been busy training bus drivers and boat captains, as well as restaurant and gift shop staff. When ships arrive, Campbell says it's "just pure excitement."
"You have almost like a whole town arriving to Halifax and they love it when they come here," he said.
Low Canadian dollar
Most of the visitors are Americans, but he also encounters a number of tourists from other parts of Canada and Europe. Campbell says the low Canadian dollar, which sits at around 78 cents US, often comes as a welcome surprise to many from the U.S.
"When they all arrive, they just can't believe how far their dollar goes," he said, "And as a result, they tend to part with their dollars a little easier because they see terrific value."
Campbell says visitors who pull into the Port of Halifax want to check out the city itself, as well as Peggys Cove, Lunenburg and the Annapolis Valley.
It's been a couple of years since Ambassatours acquired Murphy's The Cable Wharf, home to the Harbour Hopper, Theodore Tug Boat and the Cable Wharf in Halifax.
"That's gone pretty much as we had hoped," Campbell said. "It's really neat to see how we can offer people a land tour in the morning, a water tour in the afternoon or vise versa, and maybe have them come down for a lobster lunch or a Harbour Hopper tour."
Campbell says there are two more Harbour Hoppers under construction right now in Lunenburg. He hopes they will be ready in the next several weeks.
Vessels to arrive within weeks
According to the port authority, the first vessel expected is the Veendam, a Holland America Line vessel, on April 30. The Queen Mary 2 is scheduled to make four visits to Halifax during the 2016 season, with the first call on July 3. Disney Magic will make three visits and its first visit will be Sept. 26.
The port authority says the busiest passenger day should be on Sept. 15, with more than 9,000 passengers, plus crew, expected.