Half-full cruise ship stops in Iqaluit

“What’s Nunavut?” cruise line VP asks



The Clipper Adventurer, a cruise ship run by a St. Louis, Missouri firm, stopped in Frobisher Bay for a couple of hours on Tuesday to let travelers come ashore for a quick tour of Iqaluit, the ship’s only stop in Nunavut.

“We’re not contributing to the local economy too much,” said John Martens of Cincinnati, Ohio, a self-declared “non-shopper,” of the trip, which took him and his wife Karen to the “impressive” tourist’s centre, Nunatta museum, and two gift shops.

By noon, passengers were clambering back over the chaotic rocks of Iqaluit’s breakwater to get into the Zodiak boats that would take them back to their boat, far out in the bay.

“The dock is difficult. I’ve got a bad knee and don’t like going down rocks but aside from that it’s not too bad,” Karen said.

The ship was on the sixth day of a journey that will take 60 passengers from Nuuk, Greenland to Labrador, on a boat with the capacity hold about 120 guests.

Marc Gross, the vice-president of product development for Clipper cruise lines in St. Louis, Missouri, says the Clipper Adventurer has made stops in Iqaluit every year for the last five years, but poor sales could change that.

“The area that we really need assistance in is the Greenland territory to expose our vessel because unfortunately our bookings are not very well-received,” Gross says. “We’ve almost kind of given up hope.”

As for the reason why the cruise is not selling, Gross speculates that a lack of exposure could be the problem. He says the company does its own marketing and advertising but that “people are just not being made aware by the Greenland Tourism Bureau what a great destination it is and that one of the best ways to visit out of the way adventurous places is on board a vessel like ours.”

When asked about the situation in Nunavut, Gross asked: “What’s Nunavut?”

After being told that Nunavut was Canada’s eastern Arctic, Gross told Nunatsiaq News that “we’re basically getting no support there at all.”

“The only attention we get from those destinations are people wanting us to come there but once we’re there, there’s no infrastructure support in promoting the fact that we are there.”

Clipper operates four cruise ships that travel the world each year, offering a total of 69 different itineraries. Gross says the company has no difficulty selling out Antarctic cruises on the Clipper Adventurer from November to February.

He says that Tourism New Zealand has helped the company to sell out December, January and February departures in the far South, and credits Tourism New Zealand, and its web site, www.newzealand.com/travel for helping to generate interest with a splash page about cruise ships in cruise season.

Gross had never heard of Nunavut Tourism, but that may be because that agency’s current focus is on developing a tourism industry across Nunavut that has the capacity to welcome visitors.

For some cruise companies, that approach is paying off.

Adventure Canada has run cruises in Canada’s North since 1991 and has built relationships with a number of small communities in the Baffin region, as well as Iqaluit.

Cedar Bradley-Swan, logistics operations manager for Adventure Canada says that community visits are a highlight for her company, and that they try to visit one or two new communities each year, “sort of spread the wealth.”

Land programs are popular with the 100 passengers who board their ship each year, says Bradley-Swan. Square dancing in Coral Harbour is well received, and “Inuit games are always popular with our guests.”

Experience and commitment have paid off for the cruise line. Bradley-Swan says there has been a “definite increase” in passengers in the last three years, 80 per cent of whom are Canadian, in their mid-50s to 70s.

“Lots of companies with less experience in the Arctic don’t realize how small the communities are,” Bradley-Swann says. “We know who to work with. I think it’s just a matter of respect.”

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