An island escape offering history, culture and calm

Mike Cochrane of Port Charlottetown shares how Prince Edward Island is investing in its future to ensure it is a highlight of any cruise itinerary

An island escape offering history, culture and calm
In addition to a range of shore excursions, visitors can explore Charlottetown’s historic district, which is also known as the ‘Birthplace of Confederation’

Island destinations are among some of the most popular for holidays, and it’s easy to understand why.

Surrounded by water, these areas provide visitors with a sense of calm, cut off from the rest of the world, allowing them to truly immerse themselves in their holidays. Prince Edward Island (PEI) is no different.  

Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 600 kilometres east of Quebec City and the smallest of Canada’s provinces, the island is steeped in history and culture. “PEI has been a prized destination for over a century, with its breathtaking beauty of red cliffs and white-sand beaches,” says Mike Cochrane, CEO of Port Charlottetown, the port in the island’s largest city. “It is a must-see stop for anyone planning a cruise itinerary.” 

The island’s location also enables it to offer cruise visitors a vast range of shore excursions that are accessible from Charlottetown. “For example, visitors can explore this walkable historic district, which is also known as the ‘Birthplace of Confederation’ since the ‘Fathers of Confederation’ met here to discuss the foundation of Canada,” says Cochrane.  

Tourism is one of the largest industries for the island, which is famed for its oysters, mussels and potatoes, as well as its literary icon Anne of Green Gables. “Cruise passengers can tour the fictional character’s homestead imagined by author Lucy Maud Montgomery, or enjoy the musical adaptation which has toured worldwide from Broadway to Japan,” says Cochrane. “Nature is also close at hand, where visitors can dip their toes in the warmest water north of the Carolinas. This small island packs a big punch in customer satisfaction with an abundance of shore excursions and charm.”  

The appeal of PEI is no secret to the cruise industry – the island saw a 92 per cent increase in the number of visiting cruise passengers between 2016 and 2019. To accommodate the growing demand, Port Charlottetown added a second cruise berth in 2021. “Our popularity clearly shows the value of PEI to cruise lines and we expect the trend to continue,” says Cochrane. “We are also seeing growth in the luxury expedition market, so have created a tailored programme of shore excursions for those guests.”  

Despite this success, the island was not immune to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Port Charlottetown – along with other Canadian cruise ports – formed the Association of Canadian Port Authorities Cruise Committee to ensure the safe resumption of the country’s cruise industry.  

“Working alongside our colleagues at Cruise Lines International Association, Transport Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, we held a series of stakeholder sessions and public presentations to discuss port protocols and procedures in a post-Covid-19 world,” says Cochrane. “These information sessions provided confidence to all involved that we could safely welcome cruise ships back to Charlottetown.”  

As cruising resumed in 2022, the port doubled its berthing capacity so that it can now accommodate two vessels that are 300 metres or longer. The port also added two 45-foot gangways to improve passenger movement and ensure social distancing.  

“We have acquired a 16,000 square-foot building near the port and transformed it into the new Founders Food Hall and Market, which features 17 different food and retail vendors, a culinary demonstration kitchen and a craft beer bar,” says Cochrane. “There’s also a high-end wine and liquor store outfitted with a wine-tasting room where cruise passengers can connect with local tour companies for an authentic PEI food experience.”  

As PEI expands its offerings for visitors, it is setting itself – and Canada’s cruise industry – up for a bright future.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.   

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Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts
30 September 2022