Travelers on the new ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, will be able to make the trip for as little as $79 one way, the ferry’s owners announced Wednesday.
The ferry plans to begin daily runs in May.
Travel experts say the $79 fare for a one-way ticket seems reasonable. But that fare does not include extras such as cabin rentals or fees for cars, motorcycles or bicycles. The fares also increase during peak vacation seasons.
The $79 fare will be in effect for the cruise ferry’s “Saver Season” from May 1 to May 21 and Oct. 12 through Nov. 2.
The fare increases to $99 per person from May 22 through June 11 and Sept. 9 through Oct. 11, and to $129 per person during the peak summer season – June 12 through Sept. 8.
The Nova Star will offer passengers amenities that were not available on previous Portland-to-Nova Scotia ferry services.
The 528-foot ship will feature three restaurants, three bars including a sun-deck lounge, an art gallery, a children’s play area, a casino gaming room, a conference center and movie theater, a retail store and duty-free shop, a fitness center, a smoking lounge and a spa with massage, manicure and pedicure services. The casino will feature slot machines and gaming tables.
“We are really happy to be welcoming the Nova Star to Maine,” said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “There has been a void (since the Scotia Prince went out of business in 2004). This is a state-of-the-art cruise ferry. It’s more about the cruise experience than it is about the fares. This is an entirely new experience for Maine. We haven’t seen this in the marketplace before.”
One-way fares for the nine-hour cruise aboard the Nova Star, will range from $39 to $64 for children 5 to 12 years old, depending on travel dates. Children under 5 will travel free.
Assigned recliner seats will cost $19 to $39 per chair, and private cabins that accommodate up to four people will start at $49, increasing to $89 from June 12 to Sept. 8.
The cost to bring a car will range from $129 to $179, motorcycles will cost $49 to $89 and bicycles will be $16 to $22, depending on the season.
“Your vacation begins when you step aboard Nova Star,” Owen John, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing said in a statement released Wednesday.
The Nova Star, which has a passenger capacity of 1,215 people, will operate from May 1 to Nov. 2 and will be the first passenger ship to link Nova Scotia and Maine since 2009. The vessel has the capacity to transport 336 cars or a combination of cars, RVs, motor coaches and commercial vehicles.
Company officials are estimating that more than 100,000 passengers will ride the cruise ferry in 2014.
“I think the fares are very reasonable. They certainly won’t scare anyone off,” said Lynn Tillotson, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau promotes Portland as a tourist destination.
Nova Star will leave Portland each evening at 8 p.m. and arrive in Yarmouth at 7 a.m., according to Nova Star Cruises. The ship will depart Yarmouth at 9 a.m. and arrive in Portland at 5 p.m.
Tillotson said the arrival time in Portland means that passengers will have time to shop or eat dinner here before returning to Nova Scotia. Some passengers might choose to spend the night in Portland.
“Our local businesses are very excited,” Tillotson said.
Donna Hanson is vice-president of the Maine Tour Connection, a South Portland-based company that arranges motor coach tours. Hanson said her company is reserving judgment on the new ferry service until it publishes its group rates – those rates were not available Wednesday.
“In theory the ferry will give us another option for getting to Nova Scotia. It sounds promising based on the individual traveler prices that they announced,” she said.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: