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Thursday, January 03, 2013

WILL OVERNIGHT CRUISE SHIPS PLY THE WATERS OF GEORGIAN BAY AGAIN?

Well it could happen. As larger cruise ships are built the older smaller ships on the bottom end are retired or often sold to companies that offer smaller venue cruise options that typically do not attract Port fees as they boat shuttle in to shore venues. Think Windstar by example. One of the problems cruise lines are running into, is the absence of new and exciting cruise destinations that are safe for their clients. Most folks using cruise ships as a vacation are boomers or seniors and many have done many cruises. They may have done the eastern and western Caribbean, Panama Canal, Baja, South America east and South America West, Europe Canal tours, Greece, Mediterranean ports, Alaska – some are running out on new places to see.

You couldn't find better scenery than Georgian Bay. There are a number of good deep water ports that a small cruise ship could call home ... including Collingwood, Midland & Penetanguishene. Lots of nice spots to stop along the way – Parry Sound, Britt, Little Current, Gore Bay, Sault St Marie, Tobermory, Lions Head, Owen Sound ... and around the loop we go. Lots of safe anchorages too ... with Park access for traditional onshore fish fry picnics. Entrepreneurs would flock to provide interpretive tours and shore excursions. The smaller cruise ships would head south in the winter to do existing venues like the Chesapeake and short haul coastal cruises. It would be easy peasy to put together a drop dead scenic 10 day cruise on Georgian Bay. It would be an economic bonanza for tourism and some of the small town stops along the way.

So what is the downside? Not everyone would be excited to see a few small cruise ships on the Bay. The base Port would require some capital investment for re-provisioning and dock services. Having said that Windstar operates in Costa Rica in a very remote location with just a basic dock and loading set up.

The real barriers are the stringent standards our country applies in Canadian waters including labour laws affecting crew access and wage standards, environmental laws and vessel safety standards (Coast Guard and insurance requirements) that are constantly a moving target. But none of these things are insurmountable. What it really comes down to is positioning such a cruise as high end and refitting boats for a premium market ... because to make money with the added Canadian generated overhead, taxes and a good dose of jumping hoops - any cruise company would have to charge more than say the same boat running in Central or South America.

Could it really happen? Yes it could and likely will at some point. Already there are other US ports on the Great lakes that are preparing for the small cruise market. There will probably never be the amount of tourists traveling by cruise boat to Georgian Bay destinations as there was back in the early 1900’s, but there could be room for a few ... and they would be far safer than the cruise ships of Georgian Bay’s past. Heaven knows local economies on the Bay could use the boost.

Posted by at 10:05 AM
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