By Tina Comeau THE VANGUARD
YARMOUTH - The chief operating officer of Nova Star Cruises stands in awe when he looks at Yarmouth and when he hears about what this community has been doing to prepare for the return of ferry service after a four-year absence.
Steve Durrell already knew that Yarmouth is eager to see ferry service return. Just how eager he witnessed during last month’s All Hands on Deck follow-up session.
“I was just absolutely amazed at the number of things and the amount of work that the community has taken on to get ready for this. When you hear it all at once and you see all of the people and the army that is obviously behind putting all of this together, it’s amazing,” Durrell says.
“People should be extremely proud of that they’ve done,” he adds. “I’m proud to just be associated with it. I’ve never seen such a great community effort before.”
The Nova Star ferry makes its first North American port of call in Yarmouth this week. The ferry has been on a month-long voyage from Singapore, where it was built, to Nova Scotia and Maine, where it will sail. It was scheduled to arrive at the terminal in Yarmouth at noon on Tuesday.
“It’s really beautiful,” Durrell says about the ferry. “It’s been dry docked, the underwater hull inspection has taken place, all of the mechanical and technical inspections have been done.
“We’ve tested every bit of equipment. It’s been inspected. There’s been some things that the builder replaced and fixed for us,” he adds. “As well, it will undergo the modifications that are required to get it ready for the casino and get it ready for the theatre and to outfit the final seating.”
That work will take place in Portland after the ferry’s brief stopover in Yarmouth.
Before the season starts the Nova Star will make other port of call visits. It’ll be in Boston on May 12, where it will also be officially christened. On May 13 it makes a visit to Portsmouth. It’ll be back in Portland on May 14 in advance of its maiden season voyage when it leaves Portland on May 15, arriving in Yarmouth the following morning.
Durrell says the company is working to create a buzz about the ferry service.
“Coming into Yarmouth there is going to be a natural buzz already and that’s great,” he says. “The Portsmouth and Boston visits be a good draw because everyone will get to see it.
“From everything we’ve heard in the past with the great connection between Yarmouth and Nova Scotia and Boston it’s been a big draw for other events in the past. That’s the type of energy we expect to see.”
Durrell says he hears a lot of talk about the ferry.
“It doesn’t matter where you go, not just in Nova Scotia but throughout New England. I was also told of a story about a fellow who was in the Virgin Islands and they were talking about the ferry there, so it’s everywhere. This has gotten a lot of media coverage.”
The sailing season is starting two weeks later than had been originally planned due to delays that came about because the ferry company needed to secure the proper approvals from the United States Federal Maritime Commission. Because of this Nova Star Cruises could only begin advertising fares and start selling tickets last month.
Durrell says the company knew heading into this season that there were already some business opportunities that had set sail, namely bus tours.
“We missed this season before the ferry service was announced because last August the bookings had already taken place,” he says. “We’re already in line next year tour bus business, but we’re also developing our own packaging group called the Nova Star Discovery Program, which is value-added touring packages. It provides a lot of variety and a lot more choices.”
Meanwhile, Durrell is asked if knowing the importance of ferry service to Yarmouth puts added pressure on the company. To this he says, “You couldn’t put anymore pressure on it than what we have. There’s a lot riding on this for everybody, not just for us as a company. We feel committed to the province and to the area. We’re doing everything we can possibly do to make sure that this is a success.”