Cruising into Old Quebec in Style

Cruising into Old Quebec in Style

Article and photos by Sarah Williams

It’s generally pretty rare that locals, living in Quebec City, head to “Vieux Quebec” to spend their leisure time.  Of course, when friends and family come to stay, there is that obligatory visit to the old town, but otherwise, unless you live nearby, life pretty much happens outside the walls.  Last Friday, was a good reminder of why Old Quebec is mainly tourist territory. 

That morning at around 9 am, the quaint little “ruelle” of Petit Champlain was wall to wall people, fresh off the five cruise ships that had docked in the old port. Approximately 9,000 passengers descended on the narrow streets of the lower town all at one time; the consistent ringing of boutique cash registers was just audible over the hum of the crowd. 

There were some local residents nearby however; lovers of all things nautical were irresistibly drawn to the port that morning to observe the docking of the Queen Mary 2; an impressive ship, measuring 345 metres from bow to stern.  Coasting in at around 8:30 am, with her capacity of 2,650 guests and 1253 crew, she was the largest ship to dock in Quebec that day.

Later that morning, Quebec’s mayor, Régis Labeaume, was standing on the quay, happily announcing a new agreement signed with Holland America Line.

The MS Veendam, a 1,350 passenger ship, is going to make a minimum of 8 scheduled 3-day stopovers at the port of Quebec, starting in 2013.   The 3-year deal was a joint venture, with the City, the Quebec Government, and the Tourism Bureau of Quebec all playing a part.

The Veendam is an impressive ship in its own right, though not as large and grandiose as the QM2.  A tour of the ship reveals that it does have certain aspects of glamour (an art gallery, fine dining, an extensive wine collection, a spa and a jazz lounge), but it is apparent that the main clientele are families and guests interested in a more affordable and relaxed style of vacation.  

Some diversions include: a casino filled with slot machines, open air hot tubs on the upper deck, a swimming pool with a retractable roof, an outdoor giant screen for movie nights under the stars, a demonstration kitchen theatre for cooking classes, a well-stocked library, an internet café, and a multi-level 500-seat nightclub featuring live shows.  There are also 8 bars and lounges on the ship, as well as an all-you-can-eat buffet. It sounds like enough to keep you busy for a week, never mind the various stops along the way.

As of 2013, the Veendam’s regular route will part from Boston, making a few stops (Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island) along the east coast before it reaches Quebec City, and then winds up its voyage in Montreal.

This increased presence by the Veendam could mean a potential increase of 20, 000 visitors to Quebec City per year — and, according to Mr. Labeaume’s calculations, with each passenger spending an estimated average of $329 once ashore, there are major economic benefits all around.

About the author:

Sarah Williams is a mother of three young children, and a freelance writer.

Sarah had her first experience living in Quebec while earning her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Concordia University (MTL) in the late nineties.

Hailing from Cobourg, Ontario, Sarah moved to Quebec City in January of the year 2000. For her, this city is the perfect balance of the small town feel of her hometown in Ontario and the vibrant francophone culture of Montreal.

Professionally, Sarah has worked a fair bit in the media as a copywriter and researcher; for Global Television, and for a T.V. cooking show (what’s cooking).

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