By Christopher Williams

“With an estimated 73 cruise ship calls and 190,000 passengers, 2012 is shaping up like another very good year,” forecasts Betty MacMillan, Manager, Cruise Development, Saint John Port Authority. The noteworthy season sees Disney Cruise line calling for the first time, Carnival Glory calling directly out of Boston, and both vessels booked September 5, 2012, for the grand opening of the Royal Jubilee Cruise Terminal at Lower Cove.

“We are thrilled to offer our guests sailings to Saint John, New Brunswick, for the first time on the Disney Magic,” says Rebecca Peddie, Spokesperson for Disney Cruise Line. “This region’s history inspired us to offer unique port adventures that range from teaching our guests about the whales of the Bay of Fundy to exploring the beauty of St. Andrews By-the-Sea.”

Nine Disney Magic calls

The 2,400-passenger Disney Magic is making nine trips to Saint John from June through September. The stops are part of its five-night cruises that begin in New York and move up the New England coast. “Disney and local tour companies worked closely together to develop and deliver some very cool port adventures,” MacMillan assures.  “Cruise passengers will meet characters from Alice in Wonderland during an Aquila excursion to the award-winning Kingsbrae Garden in St. Andrews.” Aquila owner Beth Kelly Hatt says the Disney-exclusive adventure Whale of a Time at the New Brunswick Museum shows cruise visitors the power of Fundy tides and examines real whale bones. “They become Bay of Fundy tide experts,” claims Kelly Hatt.

A unique Disney Magic experience for children is an invitation to paint tiles for a beautiful whale-inspired mosaic, created by local artist Sheryl Crowley, which will be permanently displayed in the new cruise ship terminal. “The mosaic is going to commemorate their inaugural season in Saint John,” indicates MacMillan. “It’s the first time Disney has ever partnered with any Port on such a project.”

Exclusive rail excursion

Ambassatours Gray Line, operators of the popular hop-on hop-off Big Pink Buses, is excited to introduce the Bay of Fundy Scenic Railway Tour for cruise passengers through a partnership with NB Southern Railway. Passengers will board the train at Harbour Station riding the rails to the train bridge over Reversing Falls Rapids. After a jaw-dropping view of the world famous tides, the train weaves through iconic Saint John industrial sites. Passengers arrive at Bayshore for a spectacular view of the Bay of Fundy from the city’s West side where they transfer back to the port by motor coach, returning with full commentary en route to their ship.

“It’s the first rail shore excursion to be introduced in North America in 25 years,” states Dennis Campbell, President of Ambassatours Gray Line, who consulted rail tour experts to design the experience. “Customer service doesn’t get much better than Disney and this is an incredible chance for Saint John to shine in the world,” Campbell envisions. “We have no room for error. Walt Disney was a total train buff and whenever he could incorporate a train he would, so we are going to operate this tour as if Walt Disney is sitting right there!”

Glorious new cruises from Boston

The Carnival Glory is calling 25 times this year from New York and Boston. “Carnival is testing the Boston market,” MacMillan explains. “This is really good news for us because if we can build the demand, they will eventually designate a ship for a full season out of Boston and New York to Saint John.” The first Carnival Glory call from Boston this season will arrive on June 3, 2012.  Carnival has already booked to repeat this program in 2013.

Other season highlights include several inaugural calls including 1,200 passengers aboard the Artania, operated by the German-based Phoenix Reisen line which comes to Saint John for the first time on October 8, 2012. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 will call twice, September 25 and October 25.  “Saint John always gets excited about Queen Mary 2 calls and viewing the majestic ocean liner will be very popular this year following the Diamond Jubilee Royal Couple Tour to Saint John on May 20th,” adds MacMillan. Nearly two million passengers have visited Saint John since the first cruise ship arrived in 1989. Last year, 10,868 cruise visitors were children. “This proves Saint John is becoming a great family destination and we could double that amount this year with Disney Cruise Line,” she adds

New cruise terminal, gangway and pier upgrades

Saint John was named most improved port facility by Dream World Cruise Destinations magazine in 2011, thanks to construction of the Marco Polo Cruise Ship Terminal. This year, Saint John Port Authority will open the Royal Jubilee Cruise Terminal at Lower Cove, which will be enhanced to increase capacity for larger ships.

“We will be giving our passengers a far superior experience compared to having to use a cargo shed as we did before,” explains MacMillan. “It will also be great for the public to go to the new terminal and have lunches on the observation deck!”

Royal Jubilee Cruise Terminal will comprise 25,000 square feet in area on two levels.  The building includes rental spaces with views of Partridge Island and a rooftop patio, accessible to the public at certain hours. A new $2.7-million FMT gangway that rises and lowers with the tide is already in use this season. Cruise infrastructure improvements such as paving and the realignment of walkways are also underway at Long Wharf in the inner harbour.

“Contractors are working feverishly inside the new terminal for its September 5th opening,” observes Tyler O’Rourke, Saint John Port Authority Engineer.  “We’re developing a second ground transportation centre for buses and paving is happening through the summer.” O’Rourke says crews have even discovered Saint John history on the site. “We’ve found old rail lines that we didn’t know existed, and timbers from the 1800s.”

As the project engineer, O’Rourke coordinates the cruise terminal design and construction team with port operations. A Civil Engineering UNB graduate, he has worked for the N.B. Department of Transportation on major highway projects. “Contractors are installing three new 175-tonne bollards at the new cruise terminal, one 175-tonne bollard on the western end of Long Wharf and a 350-tonne bollard to the east of Long Wharf,” O’Rourke says. Dillon Consulting is the lead project consultant on the new terminal. Other contractors include architect Toss Solutions, R.A. Laurence Engineering, FCC, Skarborn Engineering as well as Conquest Engineering. “There are 40 to 50 people working on the site every day and the overall project has created at least 150 direct and indirect jobs.”

The new terminal and enhancements at Long Wharf will total $15.6 million in infrastructure investments. The federal and provincial governments each contributed $4.5 million to the total project, with the remaining amount funded by Saint John Port Authority. At the same time, Saint John “harbour clean up” activities including new pump and lift stations are improving water quality on the waterfront.  Saint John has truly become a world-class cruise destination!