The operator of the Nova Star ferry between Yarmouth and Maine has slashed its prices ahead of the vessel's maiden voyage on Thursday and announced children under the age of 18 can travel for free.

"We have a lot to overcome to build the service back up," said Mark Amundsen, the president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises.

"We looked at it and said, 'You know what, what would really help to get a real good message out into the marketplace?'"

The rate for children aged five to 12 was originally between $39 and $64 to travel one way. Passengers who have already made bookings will be refunded the difference, the company said.

"Summer is when families travel, so waiving the child fare makes the ferry more affordable when it matters most," said Owen John, vice-president of sales and marketing for Nova Star Cruises.

"In fact, a family of four would save $256 on a round trip compared to the regular summer rates."

John said the savings apply to all children under age 18 and would continue year-round as long as:

  • Children are accompanied by an adult.
  • Up to three kids can be included in each booking.

Nova Star also added a 20 per cent discount to people who book before June 15. John said using all available discounts could lower the total family fare by $367.

Amundsen said people aren't booking ahead as much and the price drop is expected to change that.

"The way that people book their travel is much different than it was 10 years ago," he said.

"We figured we did a different tact here, we figured we're going to drive year one with volume. And we'll make adjustments as necessary during the year and next year we'll look at the policy."

Nova Star Cruises has also revised its pets policy. Cats and dogs can travel in one of 11 kennels or be left in the owner's vehicle. Nova Star says owners won't have access to pets left in cars for the trip, so they should ensure the animal has enough water.

The ferry is due to leave Portland, Maine, on Thursday and arrive in Yarmouth on Friday. Nova Star Cruises said there are 300 people booked for the first sailing.

The Nova Star can carry 1,200 people and more than 300 cars.