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Letter to the editor: Advice for Nova Star Cruises


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I’m very glad that “Nova Star Cruises is looking to drive volume.”  That should be their priority and ours. I also strongly agree with most of what Nova Star Cruises’s Mark Amundsen had to say in your July 15 issue. 

Given our four-year hiatus without a ferry to New England, it will take more than one year to for the service to land on sound economic footing. Not only has the hiatus affected the travel plans of Americans, it has also hollowed out the tourism infrastructure in western Nova Scotia, and owners of said infrastructure are understandably cautious about betting the farm on future links.

However, one of Mr. Amundsen’s remarks troubles me: “We want to get people on board to see it. That’s why we’ve done a lot of discounting in year one.”  I know the Nova Star is a cruise ship, not “just” a ferry.  Services offered aboard sound second to none, and I hear that most passengers find the trip well worth what they pay. Satisfied customers will spread the word and bookings should be up next year. The fact remains that lots of potential passengers were scared off by the initial fares, and I am very concerned that if they are not kept reasonably modest, future volume will be seriously affected, established reputation or not. 

I recall that in 1971 (a year after the Prince of Fundy began service), the Bluenose was still the only CN ferry making a profit.  In 1972 fares were raised and seems to me, that was the first year that the Bluenose incurred a loss. 

Not only that, this year’s discounts worked. The reputation of the Nova Star experience will certainly help attract people, but I bet that reasonably modest fares will attract a lot more. Think about that, Mark, and think hard, and please make whatever tweaks make sense to assure high volume.

While I’m at it, let me share another worry with Nova Star Cruises and with Maine-based businesses, which are benefiting from this service. The Nova Star will need continued support for a number of years, and we should all be willing to do our part to assure its sustainability. 

Only $2 million remains from Nova Scotia’s $21 million commitment. Of the $19 million we had to invest in this initial year, $7 million came as a bit of a surprise. The American regulators obliged us to pony up $2 million to cover cancellation refunds should they be needed. Then $5 million of support, which the State of Maine had led us to believe they had somehow committed to the service, did not materialize, so good old Nova Scotia did the honourable thing again. Sorry, folks; I feel scammed and I am angry about it. (Editor’s note: The State of Maine says its commitment was to help Nova Star secure a $5 million line of credit.)

It’s Maine’s turn to be honourable, and it’s high time for anyone stateside who is concerned about this service to remind their representatives of that. Our provincial debt is scary and our taxpayers are maxed-out. A lot of us are willing to work very hard to make sure that this service succeeds, but host-parasite relationships are not sustainable. 

This service promises to be the start of something great. We all need to work together to assure that it succeeds, and that includes the folks on the other side of the Gulf of Maine.

 

John Sollows,

Wyman Road, Yarmouth County

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