2021 Cruising: Halifax Cruise Port Hopes For Best, Plans For Worst


Despite the promise of vaccinations helping to tame the pandemic beast in 2021, uncertainty around the timing of a cruise industry restart is still a major headache for ports around the world.

One of those is Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, which had been giddily expecting a record-breaking season in 2020, with over 200 scheduled ship visits set to bring an anticipated 350,000 passengers to a city with a population of 425,000. 

Actual arrivals plummeted to near zero when Canada banned large cruise ships beginning in March 2020. That restriction remains in place today, casting a cloud over both the east coast Canada/New England season as well as the larger Alaska program that normally floods Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia with hundreds of thousands of day-trippers.

The Canada/New England cruise season normally runs from April to October, with the bulk of passengers visiting between August and October to watch the leaves change in the fall. In 2019, Halifax received 179 vessels and 323,709 cruise passengers. Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Holland America Line typically run Canadian cruises from New York City, Boston, and Quebec City.

Halifax officials are still hoping 2021 will be better, but with the pandemic continuing to rage in many parts of the world — though Nova Scotia numbers have remained low — they’re also preparing for a worst-case scenario of another washed-out season.

“What we’re anticipating right now in terms of our fiscal planning for 2021, is that it is possible we will not see any cruise ships here in Halifax for a second year in a row,” said Port of Halifax spokesperson Lane Farguson in an interview with Halifax Today.

“That’s not to say with absolute certainty that will be the case, but that is the possibility we’re planning for.”

There is hope that at least the later part of the season can be salvaged, as vaccination numbers increase and cruise lines add a wide range of health and safety initiatives including mandatory pre-boarding virus tests.