"An expedition vessel, compared to a regular cruise, is focused more on what's happening off of the ship," explained Matthew Swan, expedition leader for Adventure Canada, which is owned by his family.
"We want to go places that other, bigger, cruise lines are not going. We want something unique, different, something that's going to be a genuine experience. "We felt that Summerside, as a community, was going to be able to offer us that real, P.E.I., experience that we were looking for," he added.
The enthusiasm of local promoters was one factor that impressed Adventure Canada. The availability of the nearby experiences of Lennox Island First Nation and Green Gables at Cavendish, as well as the offer of shuttle service to various sites around the city during the afternoon, helped complete the package.
Arnold Croken, president of Summerside Port Corporation and executive member of Tourism Summerside, noted that attracting cruise ship traffic has been nearly three years in development. The resulting visit, as well as further traffic expected in the autumn, are about two years ahead of expectations. We've got a great group that has been working for the past two months to get ready for this. There's a lot of volunteer time involved, a lot of people behind the scenes, but it seems to be working quite well," he assessed.
Adventure Canada directly arranged the morning tour packages outside the city, while local organizers provided facilities for loading and unloading, security at the port gates due to the international registration of the vessel, welcoming services for the visitors, and shuttle service to extend visitations from Credit Union Place to the College of Piping, across the downtown, during the six hours that passengers had available to explore the destination.
Miriam Thomas, 84, of Rochester, N.Y., was impressed with the commentary during the bus ride to Lennox Island, as well as the reception they received on site. "I liked the crafts and the ability to get a full explanation of how each came about," and how the population has control of its culture, she expressed.
Chris Thomas, who was accompanying his mother through the tour, appreciated the opportunity to take a scenic ride to Lennox Island on his bicycle and return on the tour bus.
11-year-old Dylan Polvi, of Calgary, went to Green Gables, expanding on an introduction to L.M. Montgomery's story that he listened to on audio while touring QuĂ©bec City before the expedition voyage. Back in town, his mother, Tammy, used the shuttle to take them both to the College of Piping and the Shipyard before walking back to the ship through the downtown, where they stopped into a bookstore and purchased a couple of books recommended for the boy by the owner.
Though there weren't huge crowds, Farmers' Market vendor Patti Hawkins was pleased with the opportunity for a test run. "You've got to start somewhere. It will grow," she predicted.
The impact on the local economy from this cruise is undetermined, but purchases were seen being carried aboard. One of the most remarked impressions, among visitors interviewed, was the welcome that was received. "Everyone wanted to tell about their products, and how they were made, even if you weren't buying," said Lynda Johnston, of Oregon, who praised a number of venues on their tour.
The Ocean Endeavour departed Summerside at 7:45 p.m., heading for Cape Breton, the Magdalen Islands, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the final stop at the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon to allow passengers to collect an international passport stamp as they head home. Michael Nesbitt - Journal Pioneer - June 6, 2016