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PORTLAND — As she stood at the base of Fort Allen Park last Thursday, city resident Lori Dell summed up what it was like waiting for the Nova Star to arrive.
“I feel like we are expecting a baby,” she said.
Out on the Fore River, the 529-foot ferry was steaming into port, escorted by a fire boat and observed by about 30 people in and above the park.
After a 10,000-mile trip from Singapore, the Nova Star arrived April 17 and is scheduled to begin daily trips between Portland and Yarmouth on May 15. The10-hour trips are expected to run through Oct. 31.
The ferry, which can hold up to 1,250 passengers and 300 vehicles, berthed at the Ocean Gateway terminal just after noon, while city officials including Mayor Michael Brennan, City Manager Mark Rees and Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell waited and watched.
The official welcome had to wait.
Nova Star Cruises spokesman Dennis Bailey said he and passengers including company CEO Mark Amundsen knew it would be at least two hours after arrival they would be cleared to disembark.
But the delay was extended as ship and terminal crews worked out the details of linking a gangplank in the bow of the ferry to the ramp extending from the pier.
“It is like our shake-down cruise, it was just technique,” Bailey said Monday about linking ship and land.
Built in 2010 for service on the English Channel, the Nova Star had never left its shipyard in Singapore until March 15, when it set out across the Indian Ocean and through the Suez Canal and Mediterranean Sea before a brief stop in Lisbon.
The first North American port of call was Yarmouth, on the western end of Nova Scotia. Then it was on to Portland, where the ship will stay until May 11, when the Nova Star sails to Boston for its official christening.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood will be in Boston for the ceremony, and Bailey said Brennan has been invited, too. He is in Japan this week, and Bailey said he has not received a response to the invitation.
Boston was chosen for the christening because the business will be marketing extensively in southern New England and into the Mid-Atlantic states, Bailey said.
“Let’s bring it to where our market is,” he said.
Before returning to Portland on May 14, the Nova Star will also stop in Portsmouth, N.H. When it returns to Portland, Bailey said more ceremonies with city and state officials are planned before trips begin the next day.
The regional approach to marketing the ship may be matched by local enthusiasm. The arrival last week became a family outing for city residents Aaron Richard and Will Kessler.
While Richard’s children, Molly and Sam, preferred playing in the grass, he said he hoped they would all board the ferry when the children are a bit older.
Kessler perched his son, Willy, on his shoulders as they watched the Nova Star emerge from behind a tanker docked at Portland Pipe Line Corp. in South Portland and then turn for the terminal.
“I think it is exciting to see a new ship coming into the harbor,” he said.
Off-season one-way fares through May 15 and after Oct. 12 begin at $79, not including port charges and amenities. In season, from June 12 through Sept. 8, basic fares are $139. Cabin fares are extra, as are vehicle fees.
The city’s last ferry service to Nova Scotia, provided by the Cat, ended in 2009. The city and Nova Scotia were also linked for about 35 years by ferries including Prince of Fundy, Bolero, Caribe, Marine Evangeline and, more recently, the Scotia Prince.
The Nova Star is underwritten by about $20 million in subsidies from the Nova Scotia provincial government. The company has a seven-year lease with the city for use of the terminal.
Dock hands tie down the Nova Star ferry at Portland’s Ocean Gateway on Thursday, April 17, after its arrival from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Daily trips to Yarmouth are scheduled to begin May 15 and run through Oct. 31.
The Nova Star ferry enters the Fore River on Thursday, April 17, escorted by a Portland Fire Department boat. The 529-foot ferry docked at the Ocean Gateway Terminal around noon and will be in town until May 11, when it leaves for Boston and Portsmouth, N.H. Daily trips from the city to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, begin May 15.