The Port of Montreal is about to sail into an exciting cruise season that promises a record number of passengers and new cruise lines and ships, and hopes for a new cruise terminal.
The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has unveiled a plan for the extensive restoration of its Iberville Passenger Terminal and Alexandra Pier on which it is located. The project will breathe new life into the reception facilities that greet cruise passengers who sail into Montreal, providing a welcome that is on par with the city’s international reputation.
The project will include a world-class passenger terminal, a green roof and other open spaces accessible to the public, an interactive port interpretation centre, a redesigned parking area, a lowered pier facilitating water access, and an observation tower that will become an attractive element for cruise development.
“The future Alexandra Pier will be an exceptionally welcoming site that will allow people to feel a sense of pride in their Port,” said Sylvie Vachon, the MPA’s President and CEO. “Our objective is to give Montrealers and visitors a new terminal in 2017 to coincide with the City of Montreal’s 375th anniversary.”
The restoration project is valued at $78 million. The MPA is working to complete its financing structure, a pre-commencement condition.
The City of Montreal has indicated its support for the project in the form of a $15-million contribution announced in its three-year capital works program for 2015-17. The Government of Quebec announced the provision of $20 million toward the project in its 2015-16 budget as part of its Quebec Maritime Strategy.
Alexandra Pier was built in 1901, and Iberville Passenger Terminal was inaugurated for the Montreal Universal and International Exposition of 1967, or Expo 67.
Montreal is becoming more and more popular with cruise lines and travellers. The Port enjoyed a record year in this sector in 2014, welcoming 71,044 passengers and crew members, up 1.5 per cent over the previous season.
“The Port of Montreal is riding high on the cruise business,” said Tony Boemi, the MPA’s Vice-President of Growth and Development and President of the Cruise the Saint Lawrence Association.
He said that the cruise business continues to grow in Montreal thanks in great part to the efforts of the Montreal Cruise Committee. Supported by Tourism Quebec, the committee is an initiative in which the MPA and Tourism Montreal have teamed up with the City of Montreal and five local organizations – Aéroports de Montréal (Montreal airports), the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, Montreal Casino, the Old Montreal Business Development Corporation and the Old Port of Montreal – to promote Montreal as a cruise destination of choice.
Among the projects the committee has undertaken is the creation of a microsite – www.cruisesalamontreal.com – dedicated to providing key information about Montreal and its port to the cruise and travel trade industries.
Meanwhile, the Port’s Genoa, Italy-based representative, Medov shipping agency, is working to promote throughout Europe the Port of Montreal as a cruise destination.
The 2015 cruise season, which starts May 7 and ends October 29, should set new records, with more than 90,000 passengers and crew members expected to visit Montreal.
U.S.-based Haimark Line, renowned for premium service and distinctive river-cruise itineraries, has chosen Montreal as a home port for the newly refurbished 210-passenger cruise ship MS Saint-Laurent for the entire 2015 season.
Haimark Line plans a total of eight cruises between Montreal and Portland, Maine, and between Montreal and Chicago, aboard the Saint-Laurent. Haimark will feature expert lecturers aboard the majority of its cruises throughout the season. Award-winning broadcast journalist and former CBS News anchor Dan Rather will be a speaker on the inaugural voyage from Montreal on May 30.
Haimark will also offer a Montreal-Niagara-Quebec-Montreal itinerary during the season.
Thomas Markwell, Managing Partner, Sales and Marketing, for Haimark, Ltd., said there is renewed interest among North American cruise enthusiasts to travel closer to home. “We have found that the Province of Quebec and the City of Montreal are really undervalued as a cruise destination,” he said. “With its culture and character, Montreal and Quebec are wonderful destinations. With Montreal serving as a home port, it will give our clientele a flavour of the city.”
The Saint-Laurent is expected to bring nearly 7,000 more passengers to Montreal this season.
This year is also the 50th anniversary of the Marco Polo cruise ship, which will visit Montreal on August 13-14 and September 24-25. Marco Polo began life in 1965 as Baltic Steamship Company’s Alexandr Pushkin, named after the Russian poet.
The ship was sold to Orient Lines in 1991 and renamed Marco Polo. Norwegian Cruise Lines acquired Orient Lines in 2002. Six years later, Greek company Global Maritime bought the ship. Cruise & Maritime Voyages took over the U.K. operations of Marco Polo in 2010.
Departing from London, the Golden Anniversary voyages to Montreal will retrace Marco Polo’s transatlantic service as Alexandr Pushkin.
This will also be the last year that Holland America Line’s MS Maasdam will sail to Montreal. After 10 seasons on the Canada/New England route, the MS Veendam will replace it in 2016.