Record number of cruise ships set to dock at Montreal's Old Port this year

Montreal's tourist season may be on the wane, but with 15 more cruise ships set to dock at the Old Port in the coming weeks, business remains steady in Old Montreal.

Port of Montreal expects 124,000 passengers and crew to have visited city by the time last ship sets sail

The Silver Wind docked at the refurbished cruise terminal at Montreal's Old Port early Tuesday.

The Silver Wind — a luxury cruise ship, nine decks high and longer than a CFL football field — slipped into the newly renovated terminal at Montreal's Old Port early Tuesday morning.

By 10 p.m., it had slipped out again, en route to New York City.

But in between, the Silver Wind's nearly 300 passengers, many with deep pockets, got to spend an unexpectedly warm autumn day wandering through Old Montreal and the rest of the city — buying souvenirs, lunching on terrasses, sightseeing — in short, spending money.

The vessel is one of 81 cruise ships scheduled to dock at the Old Port this year, up from 68 last year. 

They're expected to bring $28 million to Montreal in 2018, according to the president and CEO of Tourism Montreal, Yves Lalumière.

Putting Montreal's Old Port on cruise circuit

Montreal has actively been courting more cruise business for the past seven years, said Mélanie Nadeau, the spokesperson for the Montreal Port Authority.

The recent increase in scheduled moorings comes after a $78-million facelift at the Old Port's cruise terminal.

The renovated terminal, which opened to the public last June, features a green roof overlooking the harbour, a promenade, lounge chairs and play areas for children.

Nadeau says the marketing strategy has succeeded in drawing more international cruise companies to Montreal. Sixty-five of the cruise ships docking in Montreal this year are visiting Canada from elsewhere — an increase from 52 international calls in 2017.

While most of those cruises ply the northeastern seaboard, some now go as far as Iceland, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

'At this time of year, it's kind of unusual'

For local businesses, the cruise ships help prolong the tourist season, which peaks in August.

Alexandra Darozhka, whose family owns Coin Delices du Monde on de la Commune Street, says the cruise ships brings many foreign customers to the restaurant. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC)

The cruises run until early November, with 15 more ships due to call in at the Old Port in the next three weeks.

There are "definitely lots of customers from different countries, and they stay here usually for a couple of days," said Alexandra Darozhka, whose family owns a café across from the cruise terminal on de la Commune Street.

Michel Deshaies, who manages Montreal on Wheels, welcomes the extra business cruise ships bring to Old Montreal at this time of year. (Jennifer Yoon/CBC)

"If it wasn't for the cruise ships, we wouldn't be that busy," said Michel Deshaies, who manages Montreal on wheels, a bike rental store in the Old Port which also offers guided tours of Montreal.

Usually, he said, tourists are sparse by the first week of September, with children back in school.

But not this year.

Since the end of August, 30 cruise ships have called in at Montreal's Old Port, and Deshaies said it's had an impact on his bottom line.

"We're not only covering our [costs], but making profit out of this." Deshaies said. "At this time of year, it's kind of unusual."

Deshaies helps an Australian couple with their rental bikes as they head off to explore Montreal.

The Silver Wind did not stay long, but on Thursday, the Star Pride will dock in its place, spending time in Montreal before continuing on its way to Puerto Rico.

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