Nova Star departing Yarmouth for Portland. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Nova Star Cruises Ltd. has announced that it will shorten its 2014 sailing season and focus on preparation for the 2015 season.
Nova Star will make its final 2014 sailing from Portland, Maine on the evening of Monday, Oct. 13 and arrive in Yarmouth on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 14. Originally the ship was to have sailed until Nov. 2.
Nova Star Cruises is directly contacting individuals and companies with reservations after Oct. 14 to advise them of the change in schedule. The 650 impacted passengers who had booked thus far will be provided with a full refund and either a free reservation for the remainder of this year or a 50 per cent discount for the same booking in 2015.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience the shortened season will have on our passengers,” said Mark Amundsen, President and CEO, Nova Star Cruises. “For the long-term success of the service, we have decided to end our first season earlier than planned and will focus our efforts on building business for next year.”
In October the ferry service traditionally focuses on transporting motor coach tours, which can take one-to-two years in advance to secure. The timing of Nova Star Cruises’ selection to operate the ferry service hindered the company’s ability to secure adequate motor coach business for this year’s fall sailing season. Nova Star Cruises will carry 23 motor coach tours this season and already has 31 booked for 2015.
“We have been making good progress securing motor coach business for next year and we are confident that we can further increase our motor coach and other business lines by focusing our efforts in October on business development,” said Amundsen.
In a media release Nova Star Cruises to date it has carried more than 45,000 passengers. The majority of those passengers crossed in July and August, with August being the busiest month. The number of bookings that month slightly exceeded 20,200.
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“We are pleased with passenger feedback and numbers for our first season, which highlight that there is a growing market for a cruise-ferry service between Nova Scotia and Maine,” said Amundsen. “We have also learned a lot about the market for our service and will work to make adjustments to our offering and schedule for the long-term viability of the service.”
Nova Star Cruises is currently in discussion with the Province of Nova Scotia to determine appropriate start and end dates for the 2015 season. Upon completion of the 2014 sailing season, Nova Star will temporarily lay-up in Yarmouth and the company will continue to search for winter work opportunities and alternate lay-up facilities.
By early on into the season the company had already needed to access all of the $21 million that had been set aside by the province of Nova Scotia for the first seven years of the service to be used for marketing, start-up and operations. According to the agreement that was struck prior to the launch of the service, $12 million was going to be dispersed in the first year with $1.5 million each year afterwards.
Of the money provided by the province, $5 million was for money Nova Star Cruises had accounted for in its business plan when, again prior to the start of the season, the governor of Maine had said the state would assist the Maine company in accessing a $5 million line of credit. That didn’t materialize.