The Nova Star.
By Tina Comeau
Although there is still no definitive date as to when ferry bookings will begin, Nova Star Cruises has announced that it has formed an alliance with a Bedford-based Nova Scotia company to handle the reservation service for the Nova Star ferry.
Nova Star Cruises announced on March 5 that Intergy Applied Hospitality Solutions (Intergy) of Bedford, which operates an on-line booking engine and bilingual reservation center in eastern Canada, will serve as the reservation centre hub for Nova Star Cruises.
Although employees at the centre in Bedford will be available to handle any overflow reservations traffic, the president and chief operating officer of Intergy says the intention is to hire people from Yarmouth who will work out of a reservation centre based here. At minimum, says Clarke Squires of Intergy, they expected to start out with six to eight employees in Yarmouth.
By comparison, when the Scotia Prince operated a reservation centre here they employed around 20 people.
“They’ll be trained so they can do everything,” he says, “Not just ferry reservations, but we’ll be training them so they could book a hotel if someone needed a hotel if they’re traveling across on the ferry and they want to stay somewhere in Nova Scotia.”
This also includes the Nova Star Discovery Program, which is a destination marketing program that has been set up to provide value-added tour packages for ferry travelers.
Although the ferry is important to the Yarmouth area, the ferry service will provide economic stimulus to the entire province. The Nova Star Discovery Program enables guests to combine their ferry passage with shore-based hotels and excursions to further enhance their vacation in Nova Scotia.
“So we’ll be cross training. This will, I believe, be a tremendous opportunity for people in Yarmouth," says Squires. "They will become true hospitality reservationists to provide reservations on the ferry, but also to book those things that people on the ferry would be able to do and see and experience in Nova Scotia.”
As for when reservations can begin for the Nova Star ferry service, that is still being worked out.
Initially Nova Star Cruises had intended to start accepting reservations by the end of January for the new ferry service. But that got delayed to the end of February as the company had to work out details with the United States Federal Maritime Commission, which said the ferry company needed to have financial reserves in place to deal with such issues as having money to reimburse passengers in the event of cancelled crossings. Without this financial reserve in place, the American commission would not allow Nova Star Cruises to advertise fares on its website or start taking reservations. The company even had to temporarily disable their Facebook page.
The ferry company turned to the province of Nova Scotia for assistance and last week the province said that $2 million of the up-to $21 million that the province has allotted for the ferry service would be made available to be held in reserve to satisfy the requirements of the United States Federal Maritime Commission.
Sean Lewis, a spokesperson for Nova Star Cruises, says those details are now being worked out so the company can begin the phase of accepting reservations.
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“We’re working with the Federal Maritime Commission in the U.S.,” he says. “Once we have approvals in place we’ll be able to start taking reservations. There’s no timeline for that right now, but obviously we hope it’s in the near future.”
According to media reports, however, there is a 60-day application process in play. Still, Nova Star Cruises continues to insist that May 1 will be the launch of the ferry service between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth.
Lewis says the ferry terminal in Yarmouth will serve as the regional office and centre of operations for Nova Star Cruises, which is where reservations specialists Intergy will hire will be based out of, although, the reservations company says technology also allows people to work from home if need be.
For his part Mark Amundsen, the president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises, says they are happy to have formed an alliance with the Bedford-based company for their reservation needs.
“Intergy’s in-depth knowledge of the Nova Scotia tourism industry and their extensive infrastructure and corporate networks will be an excellent complement to Nova Star Cruises’ marketing expertise,” says Amundsen. “They will help us offer a much broader choice of high quality guest experiences for our customers.”
Intergy says it is equally pleased to be working with Nova Star Cruises.
“We are delighted with this exceptional opportunity to work with Nova Star Cruises and the entire Nova Scotia tourism industry to make Nova Scotia the number one destination in the Northeast,” says Squires. “We believe these programs will help all of Nova Scotia capitalize on the unique opportunity that the Nova Star Cruises ferry service brings to travelers in Nova Scotia and throughout the Northeast United States.”
Squires says people interested in the employment opportunity that has presented itself in Yarmouth to tie in with the ferry service can email résumés to the company at email@example.com.
Squires’ company, which has been offering reservations services for about a dozen years, and Squires himself, who has been in the hospitality industry for what he calls a long time, is excited for the opportunity to work with Nova Star Cruises, and to help the hospitality industry in Nova Scotia.
“Our goal here, from day one in working with Nova Star, is to have an excellent presence in Yarmouth, to be able to train people in Yarmouth to be able to take these calls as multi-talented reservationists and in this case, it’s also about selling Nova Scotia,” he says, adding the ferry is a conduit to get people to this province “to see and do all of the great things that they can experience.”
“Yarmouth is the gateway and Yarmouth will benefit tremendously from the service, and we all know the challenges that Yarmouth has had,” says Squires. “And so while we know Yarmouth will benefit in a great way, also will all of Nova Scotia.
“I’m excited for Yarmouth and I believe with the collaboration of Nova Star Cruises and Intergy, and with the strength and knowledge that we have in what do, and working with Nova Star and their passion for what they’re doing, I think it’s going to be a very good alliance.”