Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
The Carnival Venezia cruise ship, seen in Bermuda in June 2023, arrived in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2023.

Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week

Container ships, cruise ships, cargo ships and other vessels bound for Halifax the week of Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023.

As many as 35,000 cruise ship passengers could filter through Halifax this week. And no two days are busier than Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 26 and 27, when four ships—the Liberty of the Seas, Norwegian Pearl, Mein Schiff 6 and Carnival Venezia—will bring an estimated 12,500 visitors through the Halifax Seaport and into downtown. Each of the two days is among the eight busiest cruise traffic-bringers of all 2023.

This week’s harbour report takes a detour through the cruise numbers to a pair of NBA legends, a small town in Australia and a Canadian naval ship. Here’s a look at what else is coming in and out of port in Halifax this week.

Monday, Sept. 25

The arrival of three cruise ships kicked things off on Monday: The 1,870-passenger Aurora, 1,960-passenger Zuiderdam and 740-passenger Crystal Serenity all came into port this morning from Portland, Maine; Boston; and Sydney, respectively.

The Atlantic Sea container ship wrapped a nine-day cross-Atlantic voyage from Liverpool, UK. It left Halifax’s Fairview Cove Terminal Monday evening for New York City.

Finally, the 294-metre-long NYK Rigel container ship arrived two days late from Saint John, NB. It left Halifax early Tuesday morning for Southampton, UK.

Tuesday, Sept. 26

If you were a fan of NBA basketball in the late 1990s and early 2000s, watching your team line up against the San Antonio Spurs was a scary thing. Under coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs won championships in 1999, 2003 and 2005. (They would also win again in 2007 and 2014.) Even more obscene: Between 1997 and 2003, the Spurs managed a regular season win-loss record of 322-138. That’s largely because of two things: The Spurs had David Robinson and Tim Duncan. And not only were Robinson and Duncan good at basketball—Robinson was a 10-time NBA All-Star; Duncan won three NBA Finals MVP trophies—they were also frigging tall. Duncan, the shorter of the two, was listed at 6’11” during his playing career. Robinson? He was 7’1”. They were nicknamed the Twin Towers.

Walking onto a basketball court and seeing Duncan and Robinson across from you, I imagine, must have evoked a similar feeling to seeing the Liberty of the Seas and Norwegian Pearl cruise ships towering over the Halifax Seaport on Tuesday. Sometimes, the size of a thing can make your jaw drop. The former ship came in from Portland, Maine and left Tuesday night for Saint John; the latter arrived from Sydney and reached Portland on Wednesday morning.

click to enlarge Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week
Left: bvi4092 (CC BY 2.0). Right: Geoff Livingston (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Staring up at the Liberty of the Seas is akin to playing basketball against Tim Duncan: You're bound to feel small.

Not to be outsized, the 364-metre-long ONE Crane container ship—which boasts a carrying capacity of 139,335 tonnes—arrived at the South End Container Terminal around 4:30pm. It came two days behind schedule from Suez, Egypt.

Finally, the HMCS Charlottetown came back into Halifax on Tuesday. It left Sept. 22 and as of Wednesday, was back in the waters about 4.5 kilometres (or roughly 2.5 nautical miles) off the coast of Hartlen Point.

Wednesday, Sept. 27

The 189-metre-long Violet Ace vehicle carrier came into Halifax early Wednesday morning. It arrived after a nine-day voyage from Houston, Texas, which followed a three-day voyage from Tuxpan, Mexico. Mexico’s automaking industry has expanded rapidly in recent years; car and truck models including the Toyota Corolla, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Trax, Honda Fit and Nissan Sentra are all built at factories in Mexico. It isn’t clear which vehicles came to Halifax on this shipment, but the Violet Ace has room aboard for roughly 4,900 sedan-sized cars.

click to enlarge Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week
Bahnfrend (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Violet Ace vehicle carrier, seen in Fremantle, Australia in 2017, arrived in Halifax on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023.

The aforementioned Mein Schiff 6 and Carnival Venezia cruise ships made their return to Halifax on Wednesday. The visit marks the former ship’s second of three Halifax visits in 2023 (it returns Oct. 13), and the latter’s fourth and final Seaport stop of the season. The TUI Cruises-owned Mein Schiff 6 came into Halifax Harbour from Boston; the Carnival Cruise Line-owned Venezia arrived around noon from Saint John.

Two harbour regulars round out Wednesday’s arrivals: The Oceanex Sanderling ro-ro/cargo carrier arrived on schedule from St. John’s, NL. It will then, in turn, leave Halifax and return to St. John’s. Late Wednesday afternoon, the Atlantic Sky container ship is expected to reach the Fairview Cove Terminal. It left Norfolk, Virginia on Monday.

Thursday, Sept. 28

Things pick up in Halifax Harbour toward the week’s end: Four container ships, one cruise ship and one ro-ro/cargo carrier are all expected in port on Thursday.

The 148-metre-long Contship Leo container ship figures to be among the first arrivals: It’s due at the Fairview Cove Terminal at 5:30am. The ship is en route from New York City and two weeks behind its schedule.

The 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess cruise ship is slated to reach Pier 22 around 8am, having departed Saint John, NB for Halifax on Wednesday afternoon.

click to enlarge Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week
Franz Neumeier (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess, seen in 2009, arrives in Halifax on Sept. 28, 2023.

The Nolhan Ava ro-ro/cargo carrier is scheduled for its weekly Halifax stop en route from St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Two more container ships round out the day’s expected arrivals: The NYK Nebula and Lagarfoss are due in port around 10am and 2pm, respectively. The former is wrapping an eight-day voyage from Antwerp, Belgium, while the latter is on its way from Portland, Maine.

The MSC Nuria container ship was initially scheduled for another stop at the South End Container Terminal, but—and this might have something to do with the fact that it was four days behind schedule—the ship’s latest itinerary shows it bypassing Halifax and heading straight from Montreal to Gioia Tauro, Italy.

Friday, Sept. 29

Remember the Zaandam cruise ship that kept visiting Halifax all spring and summer? The 1,430-passenger ship makes its 19th and final Halifax visit of 2023 this Friday. The Holland America Line-owned ship is in the midst of a 13-day sailing from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It arrives in Halifax after stops in Charlottetown, PEI and Sydney.

Also on the arrivals list: The 4,260-passenger Norwegian Escape cruise ship is due at Pier 22 around 2:30pm. It’s on the return leg of a seven-day round trip through Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that starts and ends in New York City.

Four container ships round out the day’s expected arrivals: The MSC Carmen (currently five days behind schedule), Tongala (nearly seven days ahead of schedule), MSC Esthi and CMA CGM Marco Polo are all due for arrival between 5:30am and 2pm. What’s a Tongala, you ask? Turns out it’s a smallish town in southern Australia (not to be confused with South Australia, which is an Aussie state). Tongala sits about 225 kilometres north of Melbourne and is mostly famous for producing milk. The name is believed to have come from the word Dhungala, which is the name the Yorta Yorta people gave to the nearby Murray River.

Saturday, Sept. 30

Three more cruise ships arrive Saturday, although two of them are on the smaller end: The 210-passenger Star Pride, 380-passenger Silver Shadow and 2,140-passenger Jewel of the Seas are all due in port between 8am and 1pm. The Star Pride is in the midst of an 11-day, one-way trip from Montreal to Boston, while the Silver Shadow is halfway through a 10-day trip from Quebec City to New York. The Jewel of the Seas, meanwhile, embarks on a reverse trip—11 days from New York to Quebec City—starting Thursday, Sept. 28.

Finally, the SFL Composer vehicle carrier is expected to wrap a nine-day crossing from Emden, Germany early Saturday morning. It’s due at the CN Autoport around 1am.

Sunday, Oct. 1

How many cruise ships can Halifax accommodate in a single day? The answer is five—a feat we’ll witness this Sunday, when the Crystal Serenity, Pearl Mist, Norwegian Pearl, Queen Mary 2 and The World (yes, literally, The World) all berth at the Halifax Seaport, in an occasion that I can only imagine resembles an alley of clowns trying to fit into a tiny car. (Only once in 2023 does the Port of Halifax see five cruise ships in a single day. Twenty-four times, three cruise ships arrive on the same day, and twice, four ships arrive on the same day.)

click to enlarge Halifax sees two of the busiest cruise ship days of the year this week
The Coast
The giant Queen Mary 2 during a visit to Halifax in 2015.

Of those five cruise ships on Sunday, Cunard's Queen Mary 2 is the largest, with room for 2,691 passengers. But the Norwegian Pearl comes a strong second, able to carry 2,394 passengers; it arrives in Halifax en route from Boston to Quebec City and will also stop in Sydney, Charlottetown and Saguenay.

Finally, the 160-metre-long Tropic Hope container ship is expected to arrive at the South End Container Terminal. As of Wednesday, it was still en route from Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Islands.

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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