PORTSMOUTH — Market Square Taxi’s Doug Cormier was among the excited visitors to the Nova Star, a 528-foot cruise/ferry ship that is restoring service between Maine and Nova Scotia.
“It’s funny how things happen,” Cormier said, noting he learned about the vessel’s stop at the New Hampshire State Pier Tuesday when the mayor of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, got into his cab Monday night.
Mayor Pam Mood told Cormier she had just christened the ship a couple of hours before. Mood will return home Thursday when the ship makes its maiden voyage between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia — the first such ferry service since 2004.
Mood, who rallied her community to prepare for the return of the cruise/ferry, said she is honored to see this happen during her tenure, especially since her grandfather, Fred Emin, was the mayor when the Blue Nose came to town.
“He had the Blue Nose, I have the Nova Star,” Mood said.
Between May and November, Nova Star Cruises — founded by Mark Amundsen of Eliot, Maine — will offer daily service to reconnect the regions. The 10-hour, one-way cruise is scheduled to depart Portland at 9 p.m. and return from Yarmouth at 10 a.m. daily. “Saver season” fares begin at $79 and rise to $139 during high season.
The $165 million Nova Star will follow a similar route to that of Nova Scotia Prince Cruises, which provided ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia from the 1970s until 2004.
Amundsen said the project would not have come to fruition without the people of Nova Scotia, “whose demand for the cruise never abated,” and the support of the province, which provided $21 million to help prepare the infrastructure for the daily service.
Alison Colby-Campbell, media and marketing specialist for Nova Star Cruises, said “it was economically devastating for Nova Scotia to lose the ferry.”
The cruise line anticipates up to 70 percent of passengers to come from the New England area, according to Steve Durrell, chief operating officer of Nova Star Cruises
“The ties between here and Nova Scotia are deep and long-lasting,” Durrell said, adding the cruise/ferry will help support the economy of both areas.
Portsmouth Mayor Robert Lister said the ferry will allow Canadian passengers to explore the White Mountains, the Seacoast, Boston and beyond while northbound visitors can tour the Maritimes and Canada.
“Both regions will benefit from this,” Lister said.
Currently about 1 million Canadians visit New Hampshire annually while about 200,000 Granite State residents — about a fifth of the population — travel across the international border, according to Patrick Burns, Canadian Consulate General in Boston.
Burns suspected the new ship will encourage an increase in travel, trade and tourism between the two countries.
“We want you to explore the different cultures,” Colby-Campbell said, adding the ship will feature food, artwork, crafts and history from both Maine and Nova Scotia.”
The Nova Star has a capacity for 1,215 passengers and up to 336 vehicles. It will have cabins available as well as three restaurants, 70 slot machines and three blackjack tables. Those are activated once the ship travels into international waters three miles from Portland, according to Colby-Campbell.
For more information, visit www.novastarcruises.com.