By Michael Coleman
Halifax, the Nova Scotia capital so steeped in maritime history, stood briefly this month at the center of the cruise world.Â
It wasn’t the nearby Citadel or picturesque Peggy’s Cove that garnered the attention, however. The news instead focused on the building of a new luxury cruise vessel in the Halifax shipyard and the dedication of a statue to the city’s most famous entrepreneurial son.Â
Newcomer Pearl Seas Cruises announced that it has signed contracts with Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax to build two new luxury passenger vessels. The ships will carry 165 and 210 passengers, respectively. The first ship is scheduled to begin service in July, 2008 and the second in June, 2009. They will sail international cruises in the Canadian Maritimes, Newfoundland and New England, followed by itineraries in the Caribbean.Â
The company says its intimate ships will be small enough to visit off-the-beaten path destinations, as well as larger, more widely visited ports.
Look for the new vessels to feature elegant public rooms and luxurious accommodations. Facilities include a spacious dining room, several lounges, a well-stocked library and state-of-the-art spa.
The ships will feature six passenger decks and 88 staterooms, each with private balcony measuring from 240 to 510 square feet. Amenities include flat-screen satellite TV, DVD players, individual climate control and Internet access.
To create brand awareness in the highly-competitive luxury cruise field, Pearl Seas has just become the twentieth member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), a trade organization whose member lines collectively represent 97 percent of the cruise capacity marketed in North America. Members include industry giants Carnival and Royal Caribbean, and some of the world’s leading luxury operators, from Crystal and Cunard to Seabourn, Silversea and Regent. CLIA is also comprised of nearly 17,000 travel agencies.
The City of Halifax also served as a fitting backdrop for Cunard and civic officials this month as they unveiled a monument to the legacy of Sir Samuel Cunard, a Halifax native who revolutionized commerce and communications between continents by successfully introducing steamships to the North Atlantic nearly two centuries ago.
The bronze statue, created by sculptor Peter Bustin, shows Cunard standing beside a ship’s telegraph, symbolic of steamship travel. It is located on the boardwalk overlooking the site of the Cunard Wharf and Halifax’s present cruise ship terminal.
“Queen Mary 2’s inaugural visit in 2004 rekindled the inseparable ties between Halifax as the birthplace of Samuel Cunard and Cunard Line,” said Commodore Ronald Warwick, recently retired master of the Queen Mary 2 and Honorary Chairman of the monument committee.Â
“It is an honor to be involved with this project and to have Sir Samuel Cunard on permanent watch when Cunard liners visit Halifax. The dedication of this monument visibly reinforces the Cunard legacy and the line’s significant connection with the people of Nova Scotia.”
For more than half a century, the S. Cunard & Company wharves on the Halifax waterfront were the center of a vast shipping empire. Cunard became the foremost entrepreneur in Halifax and one of the largest owners of merchant vessels.
He became the pioneer of ocean steam navigation when the paddle steamer, Britannia, first flagship of the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, later known as Cunard Line, arrived in Halifax on its maiden voyage from Liverpool, England, on July 17, 1840.Â
Today, the Cunard Line operates Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2, arguably the most famous luxury ocean liners in the world.