By Tina Comeau
After months of delay, Nova Star Cruises is now selling tickets for the Yarmouth to Portland ferry service.
The company’s website – which for months included only an apology to the public for the delay in being able to advertise fares and sell tickets – went back up on Tuesday, March 25 with fares, an online booking feature and information about the ferry.
The 161-metre Nova Star is scheduled to make its first daily round-trip crossing from Portland to Yarmouth on May 15.
Initially it had been the company’s plan to begin the ferry service on May 1, but it asked the Nova Scotia provincial government for permission to delay the start of the season by two weeks to better ready itself for the start of the season. The province’s economic minister approved that request.
Nova Star Cruises had announced its fares back in December but had to quickly pull them from its website because it didn’t have the proper permission and certificates from the United States Federal Maritime Commission to sell tickets without necessary monetary reserves in place. On March 20, after the submission of its application, Nova Star Cruises received approval from the commission to start selling tickets. On this same day the company announced it had finalized a seven-year lease with the town of Yarmouth for the Yarmouth ferry terminal.
Past studies done on the ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, and a ferry panel, concluded a cruise-type experience would be the most successful type of service for this crossing.
Nova Star Cruises says one-way fares, which are listed on the website in U.S. dollars, will range from $79 to $139 for adults and $39 to $64 for children five to 12 years of age, depending on the date of travel. Children under the age of five will travel free all season long.
Passengers can walk onboard Nova Star, or bring their own vehicle. Depending on the season, one-way rates for vehicles up to 20 feet, which includes most cars, minivans, pickups and SUVs, are $139 to $199. Rates for motorcycles are $79 to $119.
With two hoistable car decks, plus two decks for oversize vehicles Nova Star has capacity to transport up to 336 cars, or various combinations of cars, RVs, motorcoaches and commercial vehicles.
Fares will change according to the following seasons of travel in 2014. Saver season, May 15 through May 21 and from Oct. 12 through Nov. 2; Shoulder season, May 22 through June 11 and from Sept. 9 through Oct. 11; and, Summer season, June 12 through Sept. 8.
In addition to the ferry company’s website being back up, its Facebook page has also been reactivated. The comments from the public range from excitement over the resumption of ferry service to disappointment over the cost of crossing. Many of the people who fall in the latter category are commenting that the prices are too expensive. A family of four with children over five years old making a return crossing in the summer would be looking at paying around $1,200 US, and that’s without a cabin or food.
The company's website says the fares listed do not include port fees and full payment is due at the time of the reservation.
The website does indicate there is a 10 per cent discount off cabin and vehicle fares when people book a round trip. A 10 per cent discount on cabins also exists for overnight voyages.
Nova Star Cruises is selling the ferry crossing as an experience within itself, saying that during the 10-hour crossing passengers will enjoy “a true cruise experience.” Passengers will have access to three restaurants, including fine dining and a buffet, a theatre, a conference centre featuring live entertainment, a spa, casino, art galley, children’s play area and more.
“Nova Star is the most relaxing and entertaining way to travel between Maine and Nova Scotia – on a convenient schedule and at an affordable price,” says Mark Amundsen, president and CEO of Nova Star Cruises Limited.
While aboard Nova Star, the company says passengers can relax in the comfort of an assigned recliner seat, with fares from $39 to $49 per chair, or a private cabin that can accommodate up to four travelers, starting at $79 in the saver season and ranging from $99 to $249 for a 10-hour transit during the summer season between June 12 and Sept. 8.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood was the first person to make a reservation for Nova Star’s maiden voyage from Portland to Yarmouth on May 15.
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Mayor Mood. “This is an historic event for Yarmouth, and the rest of Nova Scotia. There is such strong demand for this service. I believe we’ll be seeing Nova Star sailing into Yarmouth for many years to come. I am truly honoured to make the first reservation.”
The company that has been hired to look after the reservations for the ferry, as well as hotel bookings, in particular those associated with the Nova Star Discovery Program, is in the process of hiring people to serve as passenger service agents and staff the reservation contact centre that will be housed in the Yarmouth ferry terminal.
“We have had well over 100 résumés thus far and phone interviews began last Friday and Saturday and (are happening) again this week,” says Clark Squires, president of the Bedford-based company Intergy. “We will start to select candidates as early as late this week and training will begin shortly thereafter.”
Staff at the company's Bedford location are handling telephone reservations until the staff in Yarmouth is in place. An online reservation system is also available.
As for the ferry itself, it is en route from Singapore, where it was built, to North America, which is a 10,000-mile trip expected to take around a month.
As of March 25, the ferry – having left Singapore on March 15 – was between Singapore and Suez, Egypt. It is expected to arrive in Suez on March 29.
The ferry's first North American port of call will be in mid-April in Yarmouth.
To book a trip aboard Nova Star visit www.NovaStarCruises.com or call 866-864-6295. Travelers are also encouraged to make reservations on the Nova Star website to avoid wait times.
Cancellations on tickets are subject to a $75 fee. Cancellations within 14 days of departure are subject to a 50 per cent penalty. Cancellations within 48 hours of departure are subject to a 100 per cent penalty. Complete terms and conditions are provided in the Nova Star Cruises Ticket Contract