It has been a banner year for Destination Sept-Îles Nakauinanu. After an impressive spring earning international recognition at the Cruise Insight Awards in Miami and an award at the Gala du Mérite Nord-Côtier, the cruise development organization now marks the end of its tenth season of international cruises with record visitor numbers and plans for a new permanent welcome pavilion in the works.

The season began in early May with a call from the British ship Saga Sapphire, its third stop in Sept-Îles. The summer featured a special “Cruise Guest for a Day” event organized by the Port of Sept-Îles to celebrate its 20th anniversary, as well as maiden calls from Seabourn Quest and Ponant’s expedition yacht Le Champlain. In September and October, MS Arcadia from P&O and Silver Wind from Silversea sailed in for their second visits, while the legendary RMS Queen Mary 2 made its third and fourth consecutive calls.

But the ship that drew the most attention this season was Serenade of the Seas, brought in for safe harbour from Hurricane Dorian with less than 24 hours of notice. This was a historic first: not only was it the ship’s first call to Sept-Îles, but it was the first for the Royal Caribbean International cruise line. The vessel spent 34 hours in port the day after RMS Queen Mary 2, bringing a total of nearly 10,000 passengers and crew members ashore in a span of three days. While the last-minute visit presented a logistical challenge, it also revealed potential avenues to improve reception procedures when such a situation arises. A number of passengers decided to leave the ship and return home on their own when they saw their travel plans upended by the storm, and either rented cars or flew out of Sept-Îles’ local airport. But those who remained were pleasantly surprised by the level of hospitality they received. Marie-Eve Duguay, Executive Director of Destination Sept-Îles Nakauinanu (DSIN), was pleased to see that the team was able to answer Royal Caribbean International’s call and that everyone’s hard work was recognized.

While the number of ships welcomed in a single season was on par with the record, the total number of passengers and crew members practically doubled. Over the nine sunny days when ships were in port, 18,655 passengers and crew members travelling from Europe (55 per cent) and the U.S. (45 per cent) filled the streets and shops of Sept-Îles, topping the prior record set in 2014 by 91.2 per cent.

The direct and indirect benefits of this many cruise visitors are palpable. While ships stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables, and even on seafood from local fish markets, the shuttle service was running on a loop and the shops did a brisk business. Tourist attractions were busy too.

In September, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions announced a major investment in the $2.3 million project to build a permanent welcome pavilion for the Port of Sept-Îles. Work can now begin and is expected to be completed in time for the 2022 season. The new facilities will save on the cost of materials and human resources previously required to set up and break down temporary infrastructure and will be able to serve ships year-round.