Nova Scotia

Port of Sydney ready to welcome record 135,000 cruise ship visitors

The Port of Sydney, N.S., is gearing up for its biggest cruise ship season yet.

Projected 67% increase on 2016's numbers has business community pumped for 'absolutely huge' year

A busy cruise ship season is music to the ears of Sydney's business community. (Joan Weeks/CBC)

The Port of Sydney, N.S., is gearing up for its biggest cruise ship season yet.

More than 135,000 passengers are slated to arrive, which would be a 67-per cent increase from 2016. That would best the existing high mark of 99,372 passengers. 

"The ships that are coming in this season in 2017 are very large in size, so they're carrying more passengers. Hence our passenger counts are way up above 2016," said Bernadette MacNeil, manager of cruise marketing and development for the Port of Sydney.

"We have five inaugural calls. We have Disney Cruise line coming back," she said. "We have a busy season ahead."

MacNeil also credited membership in the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association, with a "strong, sophisticated marketing plan," for the increase in numbers. 

Worth nearly $1M in revenue

The port's projected budget has nearly half its revenue — $936,000 — coming from passenger tax. 

Bruce Meloney is a long-time Sydney businessman. He runs two shops on the waterfront during the cruise ship season. 

"This season is going to be absolutely huge," said Meloney. "We are thrilled with having that many ships."

He said the ripple impact of cruise dollars spreads well beyond just businesses at the port. 

"The tour buses, people on Charlotte Street, restaurants, bars, we see fuel trucks down there at the port," said Meloney. "So all of that means there's lots more money coming into the island and that's a plus for all of us." 

MacNeil said the success comes from several factors. "We're well positioned. We can attract ships that are on itineraries seven days or longer from Boston and New York," he said. 

Harbour Hopper on the way?

MacNeil said a Harbour Hopper for Sydney is also a strong possibility for the summer.

Ambassatours Gray Line runs tours using the amphibious vehicles and is looking to get one in Sydney. 

Ambassatours Gray Line may bring the Harbour Hopper to Cape Breton this year. (Atlantic Ambassatours)

"We're working with them," said MacNeil. "We're so hopeful and optimistic that that will happen." 

The first of 90 ships is set to arrive on April 30, the earliest a cruise ship has ever docked in Sydney. 

"Hopefully, we won't have to shovel by then," Meloney said. "And we just pray that the ice will come in and the ice will go out and come April 30, we'll have our first cruise ship."