After an amazing makeover, the Port of Montreal’s Grand Quay is providing contemporary marine infrastructure and top-notch reception facilities – on par with Montreal’s international reputation – to cruise lines and their guests, as well as magnificent open green spaces where the public can enjoy unique and spectacular views of the St. Lawrence River and the city.

Now more than ever, Montreal is becoming an international gateway for cruise lines, attracting a diverse clientele. The port will have welcomed a record 128,000 passengers and crew members on international and domestic cruises by the time the 2018 season ends on November 2. That is an increase of 10 percent over last year.

“The 2018 cruise season is enjoying excellent success,” said Sylvie Vachon, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Montreal Port Authority (MPA). “In particular, it stands out for its diversification. Between international and domestic cruises and its place in the Great Lakes offering, Montreal is now a must-visit stop on the cruise-tour circuit, whether as a destination, stopover or a starting point for round-trip travel.”

The cruise season on the St. Lawrence River to and from Montreal runs from May 5 to November 2 this year. The peak period is in the autumn when the leaves change colour.

“Looking at how busy 2018 has been, we anticipate that cruise passengers will spend more than $28 million during their stays in Montreal, which is more than $300 per passenger,” said Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal. “The cruise industry provides a significant boost to the local economy, and Montreal is a premier destination that serves as a wonderful start or end port for cruises.”

Twenty-eight different ships from 18 cruise lines are making a total of 82 trips to and from Montreal this year. There are 66 international cruises, as well as 16 domestic cruises aboard the CTMA Vacancier that sails to the Magdalen Islands.

Several cruise lines and ships sailed to Montreal for the first time in 2018.

Victory Cruise Lines’ M/S Victory 2, a 202-passenger vessel that sailed on the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes this summer, made its inaugural call to Montreal on July 27.

The 1,250-passenger M/S AIDAvita, which belongs to AIDA Cruises, made its first voyage to Montreal on July 5, and returned on two other occasions. By the time the season ends, 80,000 passengers will have sailed to Montreal aboard AIDA vessels in the several years that the cruise line has been calling the port.

Windstar Cruises’ M/S Star Pride, a newcomer to the St. Lawrence in 2018, made its first voyage to Montreal on September 20.

Silverseas Cruises’ 540-passenger M/S Silver Spirit and 208-passenger Silver Wind travelled to the port for the first time on October 6 and 9, respectively. Silverseas Cruises has been sailing on the St. Lawrence River for several years.

An increase in the number of cruises that start or end in Montreal is a characteristic that has marked the 2018 season. “It is becoming easier for Quebec-based clientele and other guests who live within driving distance of Montreal to take a cruise without having to get on a plane first,” said Yves Gilson, Director of Marketing and Cruises for the MPA. Some of these cruises include several stops along the St. Lawrence River, as well as a visit to the French territory of St. Pierre et Miquelon.

Among the lines that offer round-trip cruises from Montreal are AIDA Cruises aboard the AIDAvita, Plantours aboard the Hamburg, Seabourn Cruises aboard the Seabourn Quest, and Crystal Cruises aboard the Crystal Symphony. The CTMA Vacancier sails every Friday during the summer from Montreal to the Magdalen Islands and back.

Montreal is also seeing an increasing number of itineraries to the Great Lakes. “Montreal not only benefits from a geographic location for itineraries to the U.S. East Coast – New York City and Boston – but also to Toronto or even all the way to Chicago,” Mr. Gilson said.

To reach the Great Lakes, ships cannot exceed a certain width in order to transit the St. Lawrence Seaway locks. “This itinerary is becoming more and more popular in particular due to the increase in demand for river cruises,” Mr. Gilson said. “These are generally smaller ships that service high-end clients.”

Among the lines that sail to the Great Lakes are Plantours with the Hamburg and Blunt Small Ships with the Grande Caribe and Grande Mariner.

The MPA is a founding member of the Montreal Cruise Committee, which works to promote the cruise industry in Montreal. It is a member of Cruise the Saint Lawrence, an association of nine ports of call along the St. Lawrence River that is working to grow Quebec’s cruise market by providing marketing and development services to its members. In June, Tony Boemi, the MPA’s Vice-President of Growth and Development, was re-elected President of Cruise the Saint Lawrence for a two-year term. The MPA is also a member of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, which aims to promote river cruising to the Great Lakes. And it is a Gold Executive Partner of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association).

Unique new attraction offers spectacular views

The cruise market in Montreal began to gain momentum in the early 2000s. The number of cruise passengers visiting the port has more than doubled in the past decade. To meet growing demand, the MPA knew that a full rehabilitation of its cruise facilities was imperative.

The MPA began preparatory work for the rehabilitation of its former Iberville Passenger Terminal and the pier on which it was located in November 2015. The project was entrusted to architectural firm Provencher Roy, which developed an innovative concept for a modern cruise terminal and a special public area.

The new cruise terminal was inaugurated in June 2017 for last year’s cruise season and to celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montreal and the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada.

Formerly Alexandra Pier, the Grand Quay is a unique new attraction in Montreal that brings the port and the community even closer together. The new name reflects the role and importance of the site, the gateway for passengers sailing into Montreal since the early 20th century.

“We are delighted to be able to share the completely redesigned Grand Quay with the people of Greater Montreal, visitors and tourists so that they can discover our new facilities for cruise passengers and amazing new spaces on a site steeped in history,” Ms. Vachon said. “We hope that the Grand Quay will become an important gathering place for all Montrealers. Bringing citizens closer to the river was a priority for us and we can now say ‘mission accomplished.’”

In addition to the new cruise terminal, the site has many other features.

Promenade d’Iberville, located on the Grand Quay’s large green rooftop, is the best place in town to see cruise ships when they visit the city. It has an immense wooden terrace and thousands of flowers and aromatic plants.

Commencement Square is a vast lawn area on the edge of the water with a lowered wharf that offers exceptional access to the river. A work of art honouring the pioneering women who helped found Montreal will be installed there in 2019.

The Port Centre provides visitors with a better understanding of the importance of port and shipping activities. Its current History of Ships exhibition allows people to sail back in time to relive Montreal’s rich port history through model ships and a large multimedia mural.

Also located on the Grand Quay is Mariners’ House of Montreal, a home away from home for seafarers whose ships are docked in Montreal.

The Grand Quay also offers unique reception venues suitable for all kinds of events.

An observation tower will be erected on the Grand Quay, close to the river. Currently under construction, it is slated to open in 2021.

The MPA officially inaugurated the Grand Quay on June 3 with a big public celebration that attracted 13,000 people. They enjoyed a wide range of activities including a nautical knots workshop, giant games, exhibitions, improvisational games, colouring and makeup activities.

During the summer, the MPA offered varied and entertaining free programming at the site including outdoor movie nights, storytellers recounting tales and legends of seafarers, an introduction to swing dance and yoga sessions. There was even a public piano, painted in the Grand Quay colours, for visitors who wanted to tickle the ivories.

On September 8, the public was invited to the Grand Quay to take part in the MPA’s annual Port in the City Day, an initiative that familiarizes citizens with the port’s activities. In addition to five free cruises on the St. Lawrence River, family activities including children’s makeup, games and workshops related to the marine industry were offered all day long at the Grand Quay.