Montreal-bound cruise ship stuck in Trois-Rivières due to swollen St. Lawrence River

The MS Marina, en route to Montreal, is unexpectedly having to unload all its passengers in Trois-Rivères, Que., because high water levels on the St. Lawrence River is preventing the ship from fitting under the Laviolette Bridge.

High water levels preventing ship from fitting under the Laviolette Bridge

Passengers aboard the MS Marina were put on buses to take them to their final port of call, Montreal. (Radio-Canada)

The 1,200-passenger cruise ship, the MS Marina, is unexpectedly having to unload all its passengers in Trois-Rivères, Que., because it cannot get them to their final port of call, Montreal.

The swollen waters of the St. Lawrence River means the water level has risen so high, the ship can't fit under the Laviolette Bridge that spans the river, connecting Trois-Rivières on the north shore to Bécancour, on the other side.

"Everyone is getting off here, with 2,000 suitcases," said Jean Perron, cruise ship co-ordinator for the Trois-Rivières economic development organization, IDÉ Trois-Rivières.

Mega operation to shuttle passengers 

Organizers working with the Oceania cruise line have set up a large tent to contain and distribute all the passengers' luggage.

Part of the road that runs along the port, the Terrasse Turcotte, has been closed to traffic to deal with the outflow of buses that will whisk cruise passengers to their final destination.

"We had to find buses at the last minute. We had to find the staff. But, it is going well," said John Matte, a tour operator with Destination North America.

U-turn in the St. Lawrence

A second wave of passengers are also being bused from Montreal and will spend a pre-scheduled day in the city of 114,000 Wednesday before the ship turns around to head across the Atlantic, to Southampton, U.K.

It will be forced to make a U-turn in the St. Lawrence — a manoeuvre that has never been tried before in that section of the river.

The problems with the high-water levels have spurred some questions about whether cruise ship lines might hesitate to book trips to Montreal in the spring in the future.

Perron said the subject is sure to be discussed.

"That is a reflection that will be made," he said.

with files from Radio-Canada.