When you think of a sleek cruise ship carrying tourists eager to explore the next port of call and enjoying perfect, sunny skies, you think Cuba, Jamaica, Florida.
But Botwood? A cruise liner, in Botwood?
But there was the Clipper Adventurer, docked at the same wharf where stevedores once loaded and unloaded bales of newsprint for shipment all over the world.
And Botwood Mayor Jerry Dean, an ex-stevedore who saw his job disappear with paper giant AbitibiBowater’s departure from the area, was thrilled to board the vessel as part of welcoming ceremonies when it arrived in Botwood Sept. 27.
“It was wonderful to get back on this wharf and get on this ship after 30 years of newsprint,” he said.
While Botwood has had its share of commercial and non-commercial ship traffic over the years, the arrival of the Clipper Adventurer marked the first time a group of tourists have arrived in the community via sea instead of by land.
“We’re used to groups like this, with the trailer caravans who’d stop here,” said Deputy Mayor
Scott Sceviour, who also greeted passengers on arrival.
“We used to deal with about 50 people, now we’re dealing with 130 people. It’s something that we’re used to, though the mode of travel is different.”
Now that Botwood has possession of the port once controlled by AbitibiBowater, the mayor and deputy mayor said the visit of the cruise ship is an indication the town is open for business in terms of commercial and non-commercial marine enterprise.
“I think it’s something we’ve worked on for a long time, and it was frustrating, because we were seeing some of the bigger ports get the traffic,” said Sceviour.
“We’re not expecting 600- and 700-passenger cruise ships. But I think this is the right size for our community.”
Dean said the town is looking to build on its tourism industry.
The port-of-call idea arose shortly after the flying boat festival in August, when Bill Evans, who works with Adventure Caravans, contacted Sceviour.
Evans is from Grand Falls-Windsor, but spent much of his time growing up in Botwood, as he has relatives in town.
He told the deputy mayor the ship had some openings in its itinerary for ports of call.
“He asked if we were interested, and I said, ‘Sure we would!’” said Sceviour. “We did emails back and forth, we did the arrangements, and … I think we accomplished what we set out to do.”
The passengers were entertained with live music at the former Abitibi shipping building at the dock, then treated to a reception at Connaught Hall. They also had an opportunity to walk around town and tour the heritage centre at the Botwood Airbase.
Evans, who helped to organize the Clipper Adventurer’s voyage, said the owner of Adventure Caravans had visited the province last year and thought Botwood would be a great place to add to the ship’s itinerary.
Passengers on the vessel agreed that Botwood was worth the visit, including Lisa Ennis and Juliette Dondenault, who loved the friendliness of the people and the landscape, as well as learning about the town’s history.
“It’s been great, the sights are beautiful, and all the towns have been really welcoming,” said Ennis.
“People have been so nice and friendly, and it was great meeting Misty, the (Newfoundland) dog,” added Dondenault. “She just came right up to meet us.”