As owner of Ambassatours Gray Line, Murphy’s Restaurant, Harbour Hopper and other charter vessels, Dennis Campbell knows the significance of the cruise industry to businesses in the port, the city and the province. For the past 30 years Campbell has watched the port’s cruise business grow “from something that was a second thought in the city” economically “to something today that is without a doubt a major economic generator.”

Campbell credits Halifax Port Authority and especially the Authority’s President and CEO Karen Oldfield and her team for “taking significant risks” in investing in the waterfront in support of the cruise business. “And because they invested heavily, we followed their investment on the private side to keep up with growth,” he said.

Ambassatours handles over 140,000 cruise passengers a year in Halifax and in peak cruise season employs over 400 people. This season records are expected to be set as Halifax makes its way through a very busy cruise schedule.

Halifax launched its cruise year April 24 with the arrival of Amadea, a Phoenix Reisen vessel. By the time the last vessel, scheduled to be Seven Seas Mariner, the luxury cruise ship of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, sails out of Halifax Harbour on Oct. 31, an expected record 274,000 passengers on a record 173 vessel calls will have enjoyed Halifax and all it has to offer. The number of vessel calls will be up 14 per cent over 2016 and the number of passengers will show an increase of 28 per cent over last year.

A recent study has determined that Halifax’s cruise industry is worth $122.9 million in economic benefits annually, says Cathy McGrail, Halifax Port Authority’s Interim Vice President of Operations. “This includes the amount our cruise guests spend on tours and excursions, gifts and meals, and it also includes the vessel provisioning that takes place. Vessel provisions include supplies and food products like Nova Scotia wine and seafood, as well as vessel servicing like refueling and maintenance,” she added.

“There are a number of reasons for the increases in both vessel calls and passenger visits this year,” McGrail said. “Nova Scotia is a great place to visit. People love coming here and we work hard with our partners to keep them coming back.”

The port’s attractions play a major part in bringing people to Nova Scotia’s shores. The history and culture of the city and province can be explored through various excursions whether it’s a trip to famous Peggy’s Cove and its iconic lighthouse; a visit to the Annapolis Valley and one of its many wineries, or a tour of historic Halifax.

And, of course, Halifax’s waterfront board walk has gained international attention for the access it gives passengers to the city’s shops, restaurants with their succulent seafood, retail outlets and live entertainment events like the annual Buskers Festival or the spectacular Tall Ships that brings larger sailing vessels from around the world.

Some of the highlights of this cruise season include: five inaugural calls – Mein Schiff 6, Sept. 2; Viking Sky, Sept. 30; Silver Muse, Oct. 1; Viking Sea, Oct. 8 and Norwegian Jade, Oct 14; four visits from Cunard Line’s Queen Mary 2; and a visit from Disney Magic. The Port says Oct. 3 will be the busiest passenger day with over 11,000 passengers plus crew in port. The busiest ship day will be Sept. 14 when five vessels will be in port.

During the Aug. 10 visit of Cunard Line’s flagship ocean liner Queen Mary 2, a special event was held. Cunard, along with the Canadian Maritime Heritage Foundation and the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, awarded the third annual Samuel Cunard Prize for Vision, Courage and Creativity to former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin. The Cunard prize was inaugurated in 2015 to celebrate the company’s 175th Anniversary in the ancestral home of its founder, Sir Samuel Cunard. The award acknowledges an extraordinary individual who demonstrates the qualities exemplified by Cunard throughout his life. The event aboard Queen Mary 2 was attended by politicians from three levels of government, Nova Scotia’s giants of industry, several former and the present lieutenant governor, and the family and friends of Mr. Martin.

“Receiving the 2017 Samuel Cunard Prize is a great honour,” said Martin in a release. “To do so in Halifax, the ancestral city of one of the Maritime Industry’s greatest sons and on board Queen Mary 2 makes it all the more special and I am very grateful to the three sponsoring organizations,” he said.

Before his life in politics, Mr. Martin had a distinguished career as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CSL Group Inc. Under his leadership, Canada Steamship Lines was transformed from a mid-sized shipping company centered in the Great Lakes into owner and operator of the largest fleet of self-unloading vessels in the world.