The Port of Sept-Îles has posted its best-ever performance as a cruise ship destination in 2019.

Nine cruise ships carrying nearly 19,000 passengers and crew members visited the city on Quebec’s North Shore this year.

That is twice the number of passengers and crew members than the port registered in 2014, which was the record until this year.

Three cruise ships — Seabourn Quest, Le Champlain and Serenade of the Seas — made their inaugural visits to Sept-Îles in 2019.

The latter ship’s overnight visit on Sept. 7–8 came as a result of a last-minute repositioning due to Hurricane Dorian, which caused havoc along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Atlantic Provinces.

Another notable guest in the Port of Sept-Îles in 2019 was the Queen Mary II, which made two visits.

“Having visits from such a prestigious ship is a great calling card for us,” says Marie-Ève Duguay, executive director of cruise destination development for Destination Sept-Îles/Nakauinanu, a local non-profit that handles cruise ships for the Port of Sept-Îles.

According to Duguay, Sept-Îles is both willing and able to welcome the growing numbers of cruise ships that ply the waters of the St. Lawrence River.

“There are a lot of opportunities because traffic is still growing,” says Duguay.

She also pointed to the growing potential of niche expedition-style cruise ships like Le Champlain, a luxury yacht with only 184 passengers and 110 crew.

Operated by French cruise line company Ponant, the ship visited Sept-Îles for the first time in August.

Duguay says the port regularly receives high praise from cruise ship lines and high ratings from cruise ship passengers.

Sept-Îles notably received the 2019 Cruise Insight Award from London-based Cruising Insight Magazine.

“We get a lot of live comments from visitors, but we also receive e-mails from people after their visit, saying how much they enjoyed themselves here,” says Duguay.

“The things they like the most is the warm welcome they receive from people, whether it’s on the dock, in the museum, in stores, at local attractions or just in the streets.”

Duguay says the port’s most popular attractions are linked to the North Shore region’s distinctive history, culture and environment.

The most visited attraction by cruise ship passengers is the Old Trading Post.   Set on the original site of an old Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading post in an Innu village that is only a 10-minute bus ride from the cruise ship passenger terminal or a 40-minute walk, the animated site offers a glimpse into the daily life of a 19th-century fur-trading post.

It includes a main building with a fur trade exhibit, a guardhouse, a chapel and an Innu structure.

“It offers people a surprising experience based on the meeting of the Innu and Euro-Canadian cultures over time,” says Duguay.

Other attractions include a 3-hour culinary walking tour of North Shore food and drink, zodiac boat rides in the Bay of Sept-Îles and, the latest attraction, guided visits to one of the bay’s seven islands—called Grosse Boule—to find, harvest and taste everything from seaweed to scallops.

“We’re always looking for activities that build our offering,” says Duguay.  “We work with local groups to create experiences that are of international calibre quality and that meet the particular interests and time constraints of cruise ship passengers, things that will give them a quick but memorable look at our region.”