4 cruise ships at once not ideal, says Port Charlottetown

Port Charlottetown says while it was happy to welcome a record four cruise ships into the harbour Tuesday, it's in no rush to make that the norm.

Operators say 8,000 passengers great for business but leads to long lines, staffing challenges

With an estimated 11,000 passengers and crew arriving in Charlottetown on Tuesday, it could boost P.E.I.'s population by 5.3 per cent. ((Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada))

Port Charlottetown says while it was happy to welcome a record four cruise ships into the harbour Tuesday, it's in no rush to make that the norm. 

More than 8,000 passengers and 3,000 crew came off the four ships. 

This was the inaugural visit of the Royal Princess cruise ship, which could bring up to 3,600 visitors to Prince Edward Island. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The port authority says planning to accommodate that many people at once took a lot of work. 

"We've been talking about it, probably for a good year now," said Corryn Clemence, Port Charlottetown's business development manager. 

"We've had a number of meetings with our shore excursion providers to talk about trying to do our best to stagger tours at places we know are popular spots, like Green Gables. You go there today, and we're going to see a lot of people there.  But we're hoping we can do our best to stagger them, so everyone can have a great experience."

Corryn Clemence, Port Charlottetown's business development manager said a lot of planning went into ensuring they were ready for the thousands of passengers. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Coach Atlantic says just finding enough buses and drivers to meet the demand for tours was a challenge. 

CEO Adam Doiron​ says the company brought in more than 50 buses, and still had to turn a few passengers away. 

Schedules for the cruise ship passengers were staggered at popular tourist locations, like at Green Gables Heritage Place, to make sure staff at the sites were not overwhelmed. (Mitch Cormier/CBC)

"When there's one ship in, we might only have 10 buses. So we had maybe five times as many as a smaller day," said Doiron​. "We had to bring buses in from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to fulfil all the requirements.... It was a struggle to find enough staff for today."

'A good problem to have' 

Nick Campbell, the manager of the Anne of Green Gables Store, said they had to bring in extra staff to help meet the surge of tourists. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

The manager of the Anne of Green Gables Store says keeping up with the demand was a challenge for him too.  

Nick Campbell says with many of his summer staff gone back to school, it took some "pinch hitting" from family and staff at the store's Cavendish location, just to keep the line at the cash from getting too long. 

It was also quite the sight for area residents to see the four different cruise ships in the harbour. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)

"A day like today, it starts to be an issue. We don't want people waiting in line for half an hour. But it's a good problem to have I guess," he said. 

Campbell expects sales from Tuesday will be at least two-times higher than the average fall day.  

Clemence says the one-day economic boost for businesses is great but "four-ship days" still aren't ideal. 

"I think it's a matter of balancing out the quality of the visit for passengers, along with our ability to provide that transportation and the coordination," said Clemence. "So, while four-ship days are great ... we'd rather spread it out a little bit."

Four ships will dock in Charlottetown again on Oct. 16 — though with about 2,000 fewer passengers in total. 

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About the Author

Steve Bruce

Video journalist

Steve Bruce is a video journalist with CBC P.E.I. He landed on the Island in 2009, after stints with CBC in Fredericton, St. John's, Toronto and Vancouver. He grew up in Corner Brook, N.L.