The newly renovated MS Saint Laurent, Haimark’s most recent addition to its fleet, debuts May 30, 2015 sailing from Montreal, Quebec through the St. Lawrence Seaway and the north Atlantic to Portland, Maine.
After undergoing a $3.5 million renovation, the ship will take on a fresh updated look with a new interior concept design that’s a little more traditional and keeps with the maritime feel, but is also a little more current, according to Thomas Markwell, managing partner sales & marketing for Haimark.
“What would be new is more or less taking the existing structure, and taking the services on board, and bringing them up to be better suited for today’s small ship cruise traveler,” he points out.
The new design has also capitalized on outdoor space. “One great thing about this ship is she has wonderful outdoor deck space. That’s where passengers spend the majority of their time, especially in the summer on the Great Lakes,” says Markwell. The areas that get the full sun have now been covered, and smaller viewing lounges such as the Pinnacle Terrace, which provides a lounge area for guests where they can view the landscapes from the bowel of the ship, have been added. “In a ship this small, to have multiple indoor and outdoor viewing areas is a big selling point for us,” notes Markwell.
A main lounge and the Seascape Tavern have been added, which offers evening acoustic entertainment before dinner and is also open after dinner for those guests who opt out of a show in the main lounge. There’s also a boutique and a hair salon, but no spa. “The ship is open bar, which is probably more important than anything. There’s free flow house wines, house spirits, beer, coffee, tea, and soft drinks,” says Markwell. “We’re trying to make it as inclusive as possible, which is the trend today.”
On the inaugural sail, TV news anchor Dan Rather will be the guest speaker. Markwell adds that he was chosen because he’s the face that Haimark’s travelers will identify with and easily recognize. “It’s great to have a godmother who just smashes the bottle on the ship, but rarely do they sail with the ship. We found more value in having an icon in modern history that these guests can connect with,” adds Markwell. Guests will get to sit in on lectures and enjoy an open cocktail reception where they can interact with Dan Rather. “It adds an educational content to the actual departure,” points out Markwell.
There will also be expert speakers on the Great Lakes throughout the summer sailings; and in addition to the guides and Dan Rather on the inaugural sailing, local experts will be on board giving lectures throughout the cruise on the maritime history of the Great Lakes, shipwrecks, and how shorelines developed, among others. Markwell says, “We want to build an element on board of learning beyond what you may learn while on excursion, and it makes a great use of your time while you are cruising in the afternoon or evening.”
Beyond the included excursions, when there is an open afternoon in port, there are “individual pursuits” available, which are customized excursions that guests can sign up for if they don’t opt for free time at the port. For example, in Quebec City, in the afternoon, there’s a wine tasting and a visit to a local sugar shack, which teaches guests the process of making maple syrup. In St. John, guests visit St. Andrews by the Sea, and in Bal Harbour, guests go to a lobster bake in the afternoon.
During the 10-day French Canadian Maritimes in the North Atlantic itinerary, guests go on a city tour of Quebec City, visit Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island (which is the setting of “Anne of Green Gables”), and the Acadia National Forest in Bal Harbor. “Our included excursions are comprehensive; we’ve learned to keep them at a comfortable duration, they’re more like half-day tours—keeping our audience in mind,” adds Markwell.
Haimark’s average guest is 65+, and consists of avid travelers who have done many of the line’s other products. Markwell describes them as the guest who is, “doing everything I can do now while I’m fit and young, and when I’m a little older, I’ll do things closer to home—this is that product.”
After the Great Lakes itinerary, the ship goes south for a Colonial New England itinerary, and in the winter she sails to San Jose and warmer climates in Latin America.
Agents who want to check out Haimark’s offerings can take advantage of the agent reduced rate program and FAMs, which will be announced throughout the season. The line also offers a series of webinars on the Great Lakes, Montreal, and Portland that agents can download for additional product knowledge. There are six webinars offered over the summer to help educate agents on the ships and itineraries. For more information, visit haimarktravel.com.