The Cruise Comeback: Small Ships Leading the Way

As safety restrictions continue to be relaxed around the world, the travel industry is preparing to open its doors in preparation for the summer travel season. This is especially true for cruise ships; many of which were sidelined in 2021. Most international cruise lines have already restarted their programs over the past six months, and within the travel industry, some are calling this resurgence in activity “The Great Cruise Comeback”.

However, while this represents a comeback for the large multinational cruise companies, some small ship cruise lines have lead the way throughout the pandemic, with a handful of vessels running in North America in 2021. In Canada, these ships were able to remain active due to their small ship profiles – carrying less than 100 passengers – and the ability to enact strict and effective health and safety regulations in line with federal and provincial standards.

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines is one of these cruise lines. With an all-Canadian crew and routes that stay in Canadian waters, the line was able to successfully operate for one month in 2020 and four months in 2021 with robust health and safety standards, resulting in two seasons of clear sailing and no stoppages or outbreaks.

This Kingston, Ontario-owned tour operator has a 41-year history, founded by local business owner Robert Clark in 1981. The line continues to be family-owned and operated, and as the region’s most experienced cruise operator, they have become experts in calm water river cruising on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. St. Lawrence Cruise Lines has confirmed operations for the upcoming season and will provide overnight cruises on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers from May to October.

Some key features of their cruises are the small ship profile of the 32-stateroom CANADIAN EMPRESS, an experienced all-Canadian  crew, and a robust Health and Safety program that allowed the company to operate over the past two seasons in compliance with federal and provincial pandemic guidelines.

St. Lawrence Cruise Lines President Jason Clark comments, “We are excited to offer Canadian travellers a small ship cruising alternative for the 2022 season. Our overnight cruises stay close to shore in Canadian waters and our Covid-19 Health and Safety program has been recognized for its high standards.”

The line will offer a variety of cruises from 4 to 7 nights in length, with departures from Kingston, Ottawa, and Quebec City. The vessel will travel exclusively in domestic waters and stop at select ports such as Brockville, Prescott, Morrisburg in Ontario, and Montebello, Montréal and Trois Riviéres in Quebec. Daily excursions will consist of private guided tours of historic attractions such as Upper Canada Village, Fort Wellington, Parc Omega, and Montreal’s Space for Life. These cruises are known for both the natural beauty of the rivers and the history of the regions, which includes the Thousand Islands, St. Lawrence Seaway, and the rich cultures of Montreal and Quebec City.

The atmosphere aboard the classic riverboat is warm and friendly and the crew is well-trained to deliver top notch hospitality service while keeping passengers comfortable and safe. All staterooms have access to fresh air, climate controls, and an intimate view of the river. River cruising is all about relaxation, and the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers provide the perfect atmosphere to get away without leaving Canada.

“The river is our home. We have known it and loved it for more than 40 years and we want to share it with Canadians who want to travel close to home in the coming year.” said Jason Clark

The 2022 cruising season will run from May 8 to October 16. Their free travel brochure is available at

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