The first cruise ship of the year arrived in Halifax Saturday under sunny skies, for what promises to be a busy tourist season for the city.
The 1,300 passengers on board the Veendam were eager to explore the waterfront and take in the sights.
“It’s a bucket list trip that we just wanted to do the East Coast and come out here and see our beautiful country of Canada,” said Margaret Parkinson, who is visiting from London, Ont.
“We cruise a lot and we’ve done the Caribbean to death and this is a much more interesting port. I’ve never been to Charlottetown or Sydney or Quebec City so I’m really looking forward to it,” her husband, Joseph said.
Those who work in the tourism industry have also been looking forward to this day.
Ambassatours, which offers guided bus tours, has been preparing its staff for weeks.
“We’ve already been doing some training — specific tours including those out of the city and that will continue throughout the season,” tour guide Muriel Tupper said.
“You can feel it in the air in the whole pier area because of course all the shops are opening up now as well and it’s a big thing for them too, not just us.”
The Halifax Port Authority expects 135 vessels to visit the port in 2016, carrying about 240,000 guests.
A recent report commissioned by the agency found the industry injects more than $104 million into the local economy annually. That figure factors in what visitors spend in restaurants and excursions, as well as the price of provisions on board the vessels, such as Nova Scotia seafood and wine.
And this is just the beginning as the busiest part of the season isn’t until later in the year.
“For May, June, July, August, it’s sort of moderate for us,” said Halifax Port Authority spokesperson, Lane Farguson.
“The reason for that is a lot of the vessel calls really start to heat up come September, October. People love to see that fall colour change so it’s kind of nice in a way because it really gives the vendors and the operators opportunity to get their systems well in place before the busy part hits.”
In fact, the busiest passenger day isn’t expected until Sept. 15 when 9,000 passengers and crew will arrive in Halifax.