Port of Call: Group aims to make Sarnia a stop for Great Lakes cruise ship

The M.S. Saint Laurent is a 286-foot luxury passenger vessel set to begin touring the Great Lakes this summer. Local officials have been meeting to discuss how Sarnia could become a port of call. Great Lakes Cruise Company photo

Jack Poirier

Anchors a-stay.

That’s the hope of a growing coalition of residents who want to bring the Great Lakes’ newest luxury cruise ship to Sarnia.

The 286-foot M.S. Saint Laurent is a four-level vessel billed as a four-star cruise ship. It will embark in July from Montreal and stop at several cottage country destinations on all five Great Lakes.

David Noel, of The Investors Group, wants to make Sarnia a stop for the Great Lakes Cruise Company, and many like-minded “can-do” people here can make it happen, he said.

The ship’s current itinerary shows no ports of call between Manitoulin Island and Windsor.

“This is real tourism. There is a lot of potential here,” Noel said.

Sarnia has a lot to offer visitors including fantastic beaches and shopping in a border city, he added.

Sarnia Harbour is more than deep enough to accommodate the 105-stateroom Saint Laurent, which was designed to reach smaller ports other luxury passenger ships can’t.

Noel, who grew up in Montreal and moved to Sarnia more than a decade ago, said people don’t fully appreciate what the city has to offer.

“I see this as Ontario’s Riviera. Our potential is being wasted. We could be like the Victoria of Central Canada.”

Despite its rich marine history Sarnia hasn’t had a cruise ship dock since the C. Columbus in September 2005.

Bridgeview Marina operator Dave Brown said the passenger ship market has real potential for Sarnia, and some city councillors agree.

Brian White is working with Noel on investigating the concept. Attracting cruise ships to Sarnia could help change the culture and create a positive outlook for the city, he said.

“Based on my experience living in Halifax, this could be a major economic driver.”

Coun. Matt Mitro has also met with Noel.

“A lot of the logistics already exist. The wonderful opportunity that I see is people are excited for new ideas and now is the time to jump on it.”

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, Shaun Antle and Tourism Sarnia-Lambton have also expressed interest in the opportunity.

The Saint Laurent is one of several cruise ships travelling the Great Lakes this summer.

The Great Lakes Cruise Company alone has four ships in its fleet.