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Luxury cruise ship will stop in Clayton almost a dozen times this summer season

Great Lakes Cruise Company
The St. Laurent holds 210 passengers and will stop in Clayton, N.Y., 11 times between May and October on its voyages from Montreal to Chicago.

A luxury cruise ship on its maiden voyage up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Chicago will stop in Clayton this May. It will be the first visit there for the MS Saint Laurent. The ship’s new route will bring it to the Thousand Islands village almost a dozen times this summer, each time with as many as 200 people aboard.


Clayton has been scrambling to get ready for the first visit, coming up May 10.
Village Mayor Norma Zimmer said it is critical for Clayton to look its best because on this trip, the ship will be carrying the owners, tour guides and staff.

“Everyone who is going to take a look at us to see how we do so they can come back again,” said Zimmer.

The ship’s cruise passengers will bring an economic boost to the area during the critical tourist season. But Clayton was the cruise company's second choice.

The luxury liner had originally planned to make a stop at the port of Ogdensburg, but last week, executives with Heimark Limited, the company that owns the cruise ship called the city to say they changed their minds.

“It really is unfortunate. It really is,” said Laura Pearson, director of the Ogdensburg Chamber of Commerce.

She said in January the city began planning an itinerary of fun things for the passengers to do once off the ship. But a few weeks ago, the U.S. Coast Guard told Ogdensburg in order to welcome the mostly-Canadian passengers, they needed a secure port — a fenced area to hold visitors as they check into customs. Building a fence was not an option where the ship had first planned to dock. Ogdenburg’s plan B was the Port Authority.

“The Port Authority is a port building for transportation for things like salt and goods. It is not really geared for passengers. Maybe it was the looks of the place. I don’t know. They just said the port was not secure,” said Pearson.

The cruise liner then resorted to their plan B — Clayton. Zimmer said Clayton secured their port in 2011.

“We wouldn’t have gotten it if we weren’t ready. That’s the whole thing. You can’t get a port clearance overnight,”  Zimmer said. 

She said the cruise company promised to pay the town a visit this summer to consider them as a stop next year. When Ogdensburg fell through, they visited Clayton for the first time a few weeks ago. Their new liner, the St. Laurent, will make its first stop there May 10.

 “It is really two weeks early for us to have everything going but the museums have all kicked in and they are going to have everything ready. We really have pulled out all the stops to make this happen,” Zimmer said.

 Passengers are not the only visitors Clayton expects when the ship docks. “A lot of people will come out just to see the cruise ship. They’ll drive to Clayton and they’ll stop in our pavilion and buy and ice cream and walk around town. And maybe they wouldn’t have come here for any other reason.”

The St. Laurent will stop in Clayton 11 times this summer between May and October. This is the first time a liner this size will make port in the town so frequently in one season.