Ferry prices make waves

David Orkin discusses the restoration of the sea connection between Nova Scotia and the USA. 

Written by David Orkin


Ferry prices make waves

Those in southwest Nova Scotia connected with the tourism industry rejoiced when – after a gap of five years – a direct sea connection between the province and the USA was restored. In season (mid-May–early November) there are now daily sailings between Portland, Maine and Yarmouth.

Bearing in mind that the ferry is neither cheap or all that quick, the operator (Nova Star Cruises) is marketing the crossing as an ‘experience’. The brand new 528ft Singapore-built vessel boasts three restaurants, four bars, a ‘kids’ zone’, duty-free shopping, live entertainment, spa, casino and more. Accommodation ranges from basic seating to luxury cabins.

Whether enough people use the ferry will depend on many factors including the relative strength of the US and Canadian dollars, the price of petrol, and the fares being charged.

Nova Star is trying to address complaints that prices are too high by offering a 20% discount for bookings made in the first month, and allowing under-18s to travel free. However, round-trip tickets are priced as two one-ways, and if you take a vehicle you still have to pay foot passenger fares for the driver (and, of course, the passengers). Normal seating is available, but any passengers wishing to occupy a reclining seat for the ten hour plus crossing each have to pay US$40–50 extra each way. Once the start-up early-booking discount offer has expired, a high season round-trip for a car and two people (in basic rather than ‘extra-large recliner’ seats) will cost about US$1,100.

In my opinion, unless there regular, genuine ‘special deals’, and return fares are made quite a lot cheaper than two one-way tickets, many travellers will (at best) decide or take the ferry one way and drive the other. Or just not take the ferry at all …

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