By Tom Peters

The Disney Magic met the magic of Halifax as one of the world’s famous cruise lines slotted Nova Scotia’s historic port city in its 2012 summer sailing schedule.

The 2,400-passenger Disney Magic made its inaugural call on June 12 and will call Halifax nine times throughout the season. “The arrival of the Disney Magic was a [season] highlight,” said Cathy McGrail, Manager of Cruise Development for Halifax Port Authority (HPA).

Port of Halifax is enjoying another strong cruise year with 130 calls from 22 cruises lines, including new lines Disney, Azamara Cruises and Noble Caledonia, which are scheduled to bring an estimated 240,000 to 245,000 guests, and 105,000 to 110,000 crew.

The season kicked off on a much publicized note, the 100th commemoration of the sinking of the luxury liner Titanic. Two cruise ships, the Azamara Journey and Balmoral, each carrying a variety of passengers with a Titanic interest, staged Titanic-themed cruises in early April that not only highlighted Halifax’s participation in the disaster a century ago, but also put the city and the province in the spotlight.

“International media coverage was great and certainly set the stage for Halifax,” said Ms. McGrail “We were delighted to host the Titanic-themed vessels as part of our season opening activities.” Stories of Halifax and the Titanic were featured on BBC, CBC, in the U.S. and through other international news agencies.

Another exciting story line for the port’s cruise season will be the arrival of Saga Holidays’ vessel Quest For Adventure.“We are certainly looking forward to the arrival of Quest For Adventure,” said Ms. McGrail. “The vessel will turnaround in Iceland and bring passengers into Halifax.”

The 500-passenger Quest For Adventure is scheduled to arrive September 16 for a cruise in Atlantic Canada of almost two weeks, calling at several ports in the region. The vessel is due back in Halifax October 2 where it will do another passenger exchange before sailing to Cuba.

“The Halifax-to-Halifax cruise actually sold out ahead of schedule which is always good news. It sends a very positive message for cruising Halifax and our region,” Ms. McGrail said.

The continued strong performance of the Port’s cruise sector has meant tour operators are constantly developing new onshore programs for Halifax.

The arrival of Disney, for example, meant new programs for Ambassatours.

Paula Foster, Ambassatours’ Supervisor of Pier Operations, said some of the new programs are specifically aimed at children. The Red Coat for a Day program for children up to 15 years of age features a day at historic Citadel Hill with Citadel staff. The participants wear military uniforms, learn marching drills and learn to fire mock weapons. There is also a musical segment where they learn about drumming and what the drums meant to the military.

Another program called Learn the Ropes, is staged in conjunction with the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Children participate in learning to tie different knots and learn why those knots were important to sailors. There is also a tour of the museum.

Ms. McGrail said HPA is “pleased that cruise activities continue to be strong and provide economic benefits to our tourism sector. “The industry is worth an estimated $50 million annually to Halifax and surrounding region.