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Local officials go with the flow on cruise ship plan

Published on

Jack Poirier

It’s going to require a lot more than lip service to bring Great Lakes cruise ships to port in Sarnia.

That’s the opinion following a “positive” meeting between Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and Tourism Sarnia Lambton’s Marlene Wood last week.

“The publicity has been helpful, and we realize there is support to move on this,” said Bradley. “But if we are successful then the community will have to live up to those expectations.”

That would mean buy-in and investment from local business, as well as likely improvements to Sarnia Harbour.

Bradley said he is confident that a collaborative effort among local stakeholders will allow the City to satisfy the needs for Great Lakes tour companies like Haimark Travel.

As previously reported in the Sarnia Journal, the operator of the newest Great Lakes cruise ship rolled out the red carpet to city officials to pitch him on making Sarnia a port of call.

Thomas Markwell, managing partner of Haimark Travel, said the 2017 season would be the earliest opportunity for Sarnia as itineraries have been set.

Haimark operates the M.S. Saint Laurent, a 286-foot, four-level vessel embarking on its maiden voyage this July from Montreal for a 10-day tour of the Great Lakes.

Markwell said it is imperative that communities get behind these projects and provide a welcoming attitude.

The idea first gained traction after a coalition of Sarnia business and political leaders met to discuss ways to bring the Saint Laurent to Sarnia.

As both Bradley and Markwell pointed out, Sarnia would need to offer something to attract the attention of the passengers, made up mostly of seniors who are interested in historical and cultural amenities.

Bradley believes Sarnia’s rich First Nations history would make a great attraction to this demographic.

The Mayor, who in previous years expressed frustration with Tourism Sarnia Lambton’s efforts on attracting cruise ships, said he is pleased that the local office is working hard to make it happen.

TSL General Manager Marlene Wood said she has received a few calls from residents and business leaders expressing their excitement for the cruise ship possibilities that exist.

She has meetings planned with Haimark for June and later in the fall.

“We need to ensure we are catering to their clientele needs and ensure we have the right fit. Then, we make one heck of a sales pitch.”

Wood also said it would take a complete 100% partnership approach, involving local tourism officials, city officials and local business to make it happen.

The Great Lakes Cruise Company has 22 Great Lakes cruises planned of varying lengths this year. Sarnia hasn’t had a cruise ship dock since the C. Columbus in September 2005.

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