Turnaround ports Montréal and Québec City, along with the smaller yet charming Trois-Rivières that nestles between the two, join six more Canada-New England stops on the Saint Lawrence river to make up nine destinations permanently poised to welcome cruise calls.
Saguenay with its own fjord, the spectacular Gaspe Peninsula and the quaint archipelago of les Îles de la Madeleine, as well as Havre-Saint-Pierre, Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles, showcase their individual identities in a variety of ways.
“Each port tries to develop a unique welcome or farewell event,” says Cruise the Saint Lawrence executive director René Trépanier. In Havre-Saint-Pierre local people toot their car horns and shine flashlights to mark a ship’s departure, while in Trois-Rivières, a local band, accompanied by residents, sings a farewell song, ‘ce n’est qu’un au revoir’ (this is not goodbye) as each ship leaves the port.
Disembarking passengers in Saguenay are treated to 50 costumed volunteers from the play The Fabulous who sing, dance and offer blueberry pies to port arrivals.
Building on individual destination greetings, Cruise the Saint Lawrence (CSLA) has developed Horizon 2016, a standard for achieving the best bienvenue (welcome) in the world. Each port must meet a set of measures designed to ensure a professional approach and attention to guests’ needs, while at the same time introducing them to its culture and customs.
“Born of a vision shared by the Saint Lawrence ports of call, CSLA’s welcome policy guides the way we welcome cruise ships, crew members and passengers, according to specific quality criteria,” Trépanier explains. “Both the welcome policy and ports’ management tools define the procedures needed to ensure that services are satisfactory to visitors, with a view to our ports being accredited in 2016.”
Cruise facilities, stakeholder partnerships and commitment to ongoing development also count, as demonstrated by the CSLA’s two highest-volume members, Québec and Montréal.
Québec City Tourism works hand in hand with the Port of Québec Authorities, CSLA, maritime and port agents, as well as governments and more than 1,000 of its members. Port facilities also ensure cruise ships are well catered for, Trépanier explains. “Next to the city walls we have two berths with turnaround operations that can accommodate up to six ships simultaneously, while also ensuring the best experience at operational level. We are flexible and offer incentives for the summer months – as well as tailored options that may include services at the terminal – for cruise lines that are developing a new itinerary or season.
“The Port of Québec has an open and proactive approach with cruise lines, is sensitive to each line’s specific requirements and is willing to make changes for the benefit of both the cruise company and guest experience. If there is a problem we’ll fix it.”
In addition, a newly integrated customer-driven philosophy forms part of Port of Québec’s operations, imprinting the CSLA service standard so that all customers sailing into Québec are guaranteed a consistently positive experience.
Testament to the port’s commitment is the Cruise Forum it organised in early 2014, the key objective being to ensure that as the destination grows, it continues to offer the best experience on all levels. “Speakers from a number of cruise lines sensitised our community to the needs of growing destinations,” says Trépanier. “As a result, two newly created committees work on future strategies, as well as managing the day-to-day operations at busier times, using the city’s event centre to coordinate and monitor the traffic. This enables a better experience for cruise passengers during high-traffic days.”
Around 140 miles downriver and supported by Tourism Québec, the Montréal Cruise Committee, led by the Port of Montréal and Tourism Montreal, partners with five local associations – Aéroports de Montréal, the Hotel Association of Greater Montréal, Montréal Casino, the Old Montréal Business Development Corporation and the Old Port of Montréal – to promote the city as a cruise destination. The committee collaborates with cruise lines to ensure their successful expansion into Montréal, assisting them in developing new pre-and post-cruise tours and attractive excursions, and training travel agents. In addition, it helps each cruise line develop personalised marketing strategies and tour products that promote Montréal cruises in a way that increases sales. Italy-based Medov Shipping Agency markets the port to European cruise lines.
Visiting cruise vessels benefit from a full-service cruise terminal at Montréal’s non-tidal port, with environmentally friendly facilities and on-site port authority staff dedicated to cruise. Bunkering, garbage removal, dockside oily water pumping by truck or barge, and tugboat services are available. Both sides of the 1,183ft pier are available for docking, along with an additional 2,060ft near downtown.
The Port of Montréal has undertaken major revamping of its cruise facilities in the past two to three years, including remodelling the outdoor area and new signage for passengers, as well as refurbishing the indoor facilities and tourism corner. As part of the hosting policy the port and Tourism Montréal are implementing, a customer service and cruise coordinator was hired. In addition, a ‘Taxi Day’ was organised in early May 2014 to familiarise taxi drivers with the cruise facilities and prepare them for the new season.
Québec City and Montréal also have their sights set on the future. An outcome of Québec City’s 2014 Cruise Forum is that the port is investigating accommodating newbuilds, either by adapting the current terminal or building a new facility, while two major initiatives are underway for Montréal. Financed by both the Federal and Provincial governments, shorepower will enable cruise vessels berthing at Alexandra Pier to shut down their diesel engines and connect to a land-based electrical grid. Hydro-Québec has committed to raising the high-tension lines at Trois-Rivières West and Longue-Pointe – Île Charron, to meet an aerial clearance of 52m at chart datum level, with completion expected by autumn 2014.
This article appeared in the Itinerary Planning Special Report. To read more articles, you can subscribe to the magazine in printed or digital formats.