Business: Cruise Sector Ramps up as Embark Port Services Set to Expand

Re-Stocking the Viking Octantis
Re-Stocking the Viking Octantis

THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – Expect Marina Park and the Pool Six area to be far busier this year with the arrival and departures of 17 cruise ships. This is a positive sign not only for the cruise sector but also for Thunder Bay businesses.

The growth in the cruise section of the tourism economy has continued to evolve.

Thunder Bay is anticipating a boom as 17 cruise ships are scheduled to dock this summer. Local businesses, especially those serving tourists, are set to benefit.

Embark Port Services, a division of Maintair Aviation Services Ltd., is at the forefront of preparations. The company, launched in 2022, offers expanded transportation for cruise passengers, including airport transfers, sightseeing tours, and check-in/disembarking services.

“We’re adding staff and building partnerships with local suppliers,” shares Sean Davies, Maintair co-owner. “The arrival of the French cruise line Ponant Explorers means we need more buses and bilingual guides.”

Davies highlights a challenge: limited airline capacity due to pilot and aircraft shortages. Viking Cruises is tackling this by chartering flights to bring guests into Thunder Bay several days before ship departures. “These visitors will boost the local economy by staying in hotels, dining, shopping, and enjoying tours,” Davies explains.

To streamline the passenger experience, Embark is moving its check-in services to the dock this year and has plans for a semi-permanent dockside structure. Davies emphasizes the importance of collaboration with Tourism Thunder Bay and the city for long-term waterfront development plans.

Embark is also expanding its destination tours, like Silver Islet, to accommodate the growing demand. The company is hiring multilingual staff for the new French-language tours.

“We’re increasing tour frequency and staff due to the additional ships,” Davies says. “Overall, this summer is shaping up to be a very busy one.”

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