Nova Scotia

Nova Star ferry drops prices to bolster passenger numbers

After a dismal inaugural season, trips on the Nova Star ferry can now cost as much as 40 per cent less than when the service started last year.

Last season, the Nova Scotia government provided $28.5 million in subsidies

The Nova Star ferry has cut some prices to help boost passenger numbers. (Communications Nova Scotia)

After a dismal inaugural season, trips on the Nova Star ferry can now cost as much as 40 per cent less than when the service started last year.

The price adjustment is just one of the ways the operator behind the Yarmouth to Portland, Maine ferry hopes to turn around revenue numbers as it gets ready to set sail on June 1.

Last season, the Nova Scotia government provided $28.5 million in subsidies.

The director of cruise marketing, Danny Morton, says the operator was "learning" throughout the past year and started making adjustments as early as June 20, 2014.

Based on CBC News estimates, a family of four and an animal would spend $1,060 Cdn for a return trip on a mid-week in July. At the original prices last year, it would have cost nearly $1,500.

Children under the age of 14 can now ride for free. Previously, Nova Star charged nearly $130 per child for a return trip. 

Morton points out that prices haven't been lowered uniformly. Depending on the dates and options selected, such as types of cabins, consumers could see an increase in costs.

"Some have gone up, some have gone down. And the mix … is designed so that we'll have more revenue at the end of the day," said Morton.

Target of 80,000 passengers this season

Ferry president Mark Amundsen says he feels confident in meeting the target of 80,000 passengers this year after already seeing a significant increase over last year. Some of the credit for that he said goes to having a full year to promote the existing service.

His optimism is bolstered by a weak Canadian dollar. Seventy per cent of passengers are American, with the majority coming from Massachusetts. Nova Scotians make up the second largest market.

If efforts fail, the ferry's president believes the company's fate is bound by the province's viability as a tourism destination.

"It all comes down to the people have to want to come to Nova Scotia first," said Amundsen.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan has said the government will be approaching other interested ferry operators as they look to 2016.

Sample return trip cost breakdown of Yarmouth ferry: 2014 compared to 2015. (CBC)

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