PORTLAND, Maine — A day after tickets went on sale for the newly revived Portland-Nova Scotia ferry service, all of the lowest cost cabins were sold out for the first trip.
The Nova Star website began accepting reservations at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and by the end of the business day, about 40 percent of the May 15 voyage from Maine’s largest city to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, were booked, spokesman Dennis Bailey said.
Included in the sales were all eight of the vessel’s least expensive interior cabins and cabins accessible to people with disabilities. Each cabin sleeps four people and can be rented at the beginning of the season for $79 each in addition to the per-person ticket prices.
Bailey said about a third of the reservations taken by the ferry service thus far have been for the first trip to Canada, while the rest have been for trips throughout the rest of the season, which extends to Nov. 2.
“Bookings have been quite steady, about half from the website and half phone calls. People seem excited,” Bailey said Wednesday. “Calls have come from as far away as Australia and England. … We’re very pleased with the response.”
The hot initial ticket sales came after two weeks of high activity for the burgeoning ferry service. Construction of the cruise ship, Nova Star, was completed in Singapore. On March 15, the vessel began its monthlong, 10,000-mile trip to Nova Scotia for service.
Four days later, Nova Star Cruises announced it had finalized a seven-year lease to use the Yarmouth Ferry Terminal in Nova Scotia, and had received approval from the Federal Maritime Commission to begin advertising fares and selling tickets.
The Yarmouth lease payments will be determined in part by ticket sales, according to the company, so using Nova Star’s expected ridership of 100,000 people in its inaugural season, the municipal terminal operators will make about $350,000 from the deal this year.
The Portland City Council is expected to consider a lease for the company to use the Ocean Gateway Terminal at the Maine end of the connection next month. City Economic Development Director Gregory Mitchell told The Forecaster that Portland’s lease could generate between $150,000 and $400,000 in annual revenues for the city.
Tickets for the Nova Star range from $79 to $139 one-way for adults, depending on the season, while children between the ages of 5 and 12 will see ticket prices from $39 to $54. Children younger than 5 will be able to travel free.
The Nova Star is a new 528-foot cruise ship that will have capacity for 1,250 passengers and 300 vehicles. It will feature a casino, three restaurants, a theater, spa and art gallery. The ship will depart at 8 p.m. daily from Portland. It will arrive in Yarmouth the following day at 7 a.m.
Return trips will leave Yarmouth at 9 a.m. and reach Portland at 5 p.m.
The restoration of ferry service will come after five years without the seabound connection between Portland and Nova Scotia. The 2009 demise of the high-speed CAT ferry ended more than 50 years of Maine-Nova Scotia ferry service, starting with a Bar Harbor connection and going on to include about 35 years of routes to Portland as well.