Okay, Stop: The Cruise Edition

Spring in this neck of the woods can mean robins and peepers and humming birds — they’re coming, don’t you know:


It can mean heavy garbage (the tender has been issued) or the re-opening of the Tasty Treat (Frosty’s now, I guess).

But it’s also the time for the first wild predictions for the cruise season and this year’s are no exception, which has inspired me to play a game of “Okay, stop” with the Cape Breton Post‘s business reporter:


CB Post: The largest contingent of cruise ships to date will call on the Port of Sydney beginning in late April.

Okay, stop.

That’s without the benefit of the second berth, right? Because the second berth, if we’re lucky, will be operational by “late fall 2019” — that’s what CBRM staff told the Post in September 2018. (And, in fact, the tender for the second berth calls for it to be completed by December 2019.)

Work on the existing wharf, if all goes well, should allow it to handle larger ships by May 2019.

But basically, what you’re saying is that without the second berth, we’re still attracting lots of cruise ships, although we we warned they would leave us if they had to anchor in the harbor and ferry passengers to shore.


CB Post:

The Port of Sydney Development Corp. released the 2019 cruise ship schedule on Friday, listing a total of 114 ports-of-call to Cape Breton.

Christina Lamey, manager of cruise marketing and development for the port, said there will be 12 cruise visits to Louisbourg, mainly due to One Ocean Expedition using Cape Breton as its home port as the starting and ending point of its cruise tours.

The vessels operated by One Ocean Expedition will be using both Louisbourg and Sydney, she said.

“One Ocean’s (schedule) is a little bit more flexible because they are homeporting with us so they can easily go to Louisbourg for a day sometimes that’s not necessarily on their itinerary right now.”

Okay, stop.

Lamey’s term as manager of cruise marketing and development ends in July — she was hired to replace an employee on maternity leave. I’m just throwing that out there.

As for One Ocean Expedition docking in both Sydney and Louisbourg, an earlier Post article explained that this arrangement hasn’t been working out so great for Louisbourg. Organizers of the Louisbourg Market have decided to give up trying to cater to cruise passengers because when the vessels did actually dock last season (and three of nine scheduled to stop didn’t), most passengers who disembarked went to the Fortress while a few “puttered around town.”

CB Post: Cape Breton could welcome an estimated 175,000 passengers and nearly 75,000 crew members during the 2019 season. That’s based on the maximum capacity of each vessel.

Okay, stop.

This is the sort of reporting that drives me nuts — quoting maximum vessel capacity as though it represented the number of people expected to disembark in Sydney. The Port of Sydney does this (I know, because I’ve asked them) because they have no better numbers — even though cruise lines know exactly how many passengers disembark in each port and exactly how long they’re ashore and exactly which shore excursions they’ve booked.

But instead of insisting on these actual disembarkation figures, the Port of Sydney uses cruise industry estimates which tell them that 95% (NINETY-FIVE PERCENT!) of passengers and 35% of crew come ashore in Sydney. They also have an estimate for how much each of those visiting passengers and crew members spends — $66.92 per passenger and $49.41 per crew member.

But consider this: the Princess Cruise Classic Canada & New England cruise visits seven ports — New York City, Newport, Rhode Island; Bar Harbor, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; Halifax, NS; Sydney, NS; Charlottetown, PEI; and Quebec City, PQ.

If each port uses the same industry figures to calculate the economic benefit it derives from the cruise industry, then we are to believe that on top of the $1,785.74 per person (taxes and fees included) each passenger pays for that cruise, 95% will spend an additional $468.44 during port visits.

That seems unlikely, given part of the attraction of the cruise is its all-inclusive nature (bed and board — with the exception of alcoholic beverages.)

There’s actually a prof at Acadia who finds that scenario so unlikely he’s been trying to come up with a more accurate way of estimating the economic impact of the cruise industry.

At least I’m not alone in my skepticism.


MS Rotterdam docked in Sydney, Nova Scotia

Cruise ship Rotterdam docked at Port of Sydney, NS.

CB Post:

Port of Sydney CEO Marlene Usher said in a release the port is looking for at least a 10 per cent growth in the cruise industry in Cape Breton this year.

“As always, weather can be a factor, but the bookings and outlook are strong,” Usher said.

Okay, stop:

The business is growing, that’s true (and growing, as noted above, without the benefit of a second berth) but it seems worth remembering what the management and consulting firm CPCS said in its due diligence report on the second berth project:

CPCS modeled two scenarios intended to calculate the value of the business we could expect from a second berth. Both are calculated over 30 years. One does indeed come up with a figure for direct and indirect GDP impacts of $47.9 million. But other comes up with a figure of $19.9 million.

And achieving either total, according to CPCS, depends on the port’s ability to solve two other problems associated with cruise traffic:

Key issues around the number and quality of motor coaches available to serve tourists and the quality of the “local experience” offered must at the same time be addressed to enable the full benefit of the second berth.

CB Post: The passenger estimates from One Ocean Expedition vessels wasn’t included in the overall total because figures were not available, Lamey said.

Okay, stop:

Um, the passenger estimates for all the other cruise ships are just the maximum capacity of each vessel — does One Ocean Expedition not know how many people its ships can carry?

That must make for a fun booking procedure.