Posted by: cruise2 | 2 November, 2011

Crystal’s 7-Night Round Trip From Montreal Revives an Old Format

by Kevin Griffin of The Cruise People in

Crystal Cruises has picked up on a formula that has not been used for years now, a 7-night round trip cruise from Montreal on  Crystal Symphony on September 30, 2012. Indicative of the gradual progress being made by Cruise the St Lawrence and the new Canadian cruise ports in the Gulf of St Lawrence, three of the four ports of call, Sept Iles, the Magdalen Islands and the French Atlantic islands of St Pierre et Miquelon, will be first time calls for Crystal. The fourth port of call, Quebec, which will be visited before the return to Montreal, has itself been voted the most popular port of call in North America.

Sept Îles is a new and upcoming port, having only opened a cruise terminal in 2010 after Holland America’s Maasdam became the first modern age cruise ship to call there on May 19, 2009. Cruises had not been operated to Sept Iles since the last coastal passenger ship arrived from Montreal fifty years ago.

The new wharf extension also allows cruise passengers to take a new train to visit an native Innu summer camp on the Moisie River. This river is famed for its salmon and has been fished by prime ministers. The Innu themselves are descended from the Montagnais tribes that used to spend their winters in the bush trapping and come down the rivers to the St Lawrence to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company and others in the summer.

Crystal’s description of the Magdalen Islands gives a clue as to what this cruise is about: “Having been isolated through most of its history, the Magdalen Islands offer a tranquil retreat from the outside world. Still largely unspoiled by urban trappings, life here is simple and relaxing. It’s actually possible to take a stroll along the beach and not encounter anyone or anything but birds and breezes.”

Compare that to a similar description of the Magdalen Islands from a cruise brochure in 1938: “Still almost unknown to tourists today, were first visited by Cartier in 1534… These romantic islands are the last home of the true 18th Century Acadian spirit where even the Acadian tongue still lingers.”

Although Cunard Line, Greek Line, Home Lines, the Baltic and Black Sea Shipping Companies and Polish Ocean Lines had all offered round trip cruises from Montreal in the past, there has been no regular ship in this service since OdessAmerica’s Gruziya almost twenty years ago now, in 1992.

Although Canada’s cruise numbers are approaching a million cruisers a year, not to mention the huge catchment area in the US Midwest, the usual St Lawrence cruise still involves a one-way voyage between Canada (at either Quebec or Montreal) and the US East Coast (usually Boston or New York) so it is curious that no one has tried to exploit the Canadian market from Montreal for almost twenty years.

Crystal’s new 7-night itinerary comes after a 14-night one being offered in the same month by Saga’s 18,591-ton 446-guest Quest for Adventure. Departing Halifax on the 17th for St Pierre et Miquelon, the Magdalen Islands, Havre St Pierre, Sept Iles, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Saguenay, Baie Comeau and Gaspé before returning to Halifax, this will be the most complete Gulf of St Lawrence itinerary yet.

Slowly, it seems, Cruise the St Lawrence is making some progress. Some people have even tried to describe Labrador Cruises as the new Alaska, but the difference is that fifty years ago Alaska did not have a new North American Emission Control Area to deal with.

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