B.C.’s cruise industry is poised to grow yet again as the popularity of Alaskan itineraries shows no sign of abating. This year’s most notable observation is the significant number of new lines and new ships coming into the market, including some of the largest vessels ever to visit the West Coast.
Here’s how the season is shaping up for B.C.’s ports in 2019:
Port Alberni back in the game
Port Alberni Port Authority (PAPA) learned from West Coast Agencies early last year that it will be hosting three cruise ship visits in 2019. PAPA and the community of Port Alberni have been busy preparing for the Holland America Group’s MS Maasdam that is scheduled to call on May 25, June 15 and July 6. Port Alberni last hosted a cruise ship in 2013 and is excited to showcase its evolving community once again.
The MS Maasdam is offering its guests (capacity of 1,258 passengers) an opportunity to explore ports of call, like Port Alberni, in new ways that match their unique personal interests and passions with Holland America Group’s new EXC In-Depth Voyages. These new voyages offer passengers new itineraries that focus on unique interests and passions of seasoned travellers looking for different, authentic local experiences. With a wide variety of eco, outdoor, historical and cultural offerings, Port Alberni fits this new cruise experience perfectly. For example, a new shore excursion for 2019 features a visit to a working water buffalo farm and tasting of artisanal cheeses made from their milk!
In preparation for cruise ships this year and to continue to attract more in the future, the Port partnered with the City of Port Alberni and Alberni Valley Tourism to host community cruise capacity evaluation and training by Aquila Centre for Cruise Excellence. Aquila found that the community has a terrific base of volunteers organized under the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Community Cruise Committee. The committee includes representatives from local First Nations; arts and entertainment, heritage, adventure, tourism, business and local government. Aquila was also impressed by the wide variety of shore excursions that can be further developed to meet the diverse interests of cruise passengers seeking authentic First Nations, environmental, outdoor adventure and culinary experiences. Furthermore, Port Alberni has available port infrastructure already in place that meets cruise ships’ operational needs. PAPA is actively evaluating its existing infrastructure and is open to making further investments to exceed cruise industry expectations.
Port Alberni’s harbour is ideally located in the heart of the City at the end of the Alberni Inlet — a spectacular fjord of approximately 65 kilometres from the open waters of the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The cruise through the Alberni Inlet is worth the voyage on its own but given its terrific location, diversity of activities, available infrastructure and broad community support, Port Alberni is ready to host cruise ships in 2019 and poised to expand for years to come.
Waterfront access projects improve passenger flow in Prince Rupert
“2019 looks to be another successful year for cruise in Prince Rupert,” said Jeff Stromdahl, Manager of Trade Development at the Prince Rupert Port Authority. With 22 vessel calls and 11,138 passengers projected for 2019, this year will hold steady in terms of numbers over the past three seasons.
With the completion of the Atlin Promenade Project that connects Northland Cruise Terminal to the Atlin Terminal, located in the popular Cow Bay District, visitors now have improved access to the community. “The Atlin Promenade Project is another example of the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s commitment to enhancing waterfront access while building long-term infrastructure to support the cruise industry,” said Stromdahl.
Another waterfront access project that cruise visitors will be able to enjoy this season is the Rushbrook Trail. This 1.2-kilometre walkway runs adjacent to the north end of Prince Rupert’s inner harbour and links the Rushbrook Floats area to Seal Cove. The trail is anchored by two hubs of activity — the Rushbrook Floats, a busy commercial and recreational fishing marina with a fish and chips stand at one end and the Seal Cove Seaplane Base, a scenic location where you can watch seaplanes come and go on the other. The re-opening of the trail was made possible through the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s Community Investment Fund in partnership with the local Rotary Club and other corporate contributors.
“These projects represent the Prince Rupert Port Authority’s continued efforts to enhance year-round waterfront access as well as improve the flow of cruise passengers looking to experience the best of Prince Rupert during their visit,” said Stromdahl.
Prince Rupert has become increasingly popular with luxury cruise lines operating in the Alaska market and has positioned itself as a full-service port of call with unique attractions and excursions. Most cruise lines visiting Prince Rupert in 2019 operate vessels with between 200 and 900 passengers, enabling nearly every disembarking passenger to take advantage of shore excursion offerings.
The 2019 season will see the return of vessels from Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Ponant.
Nanaimo sees positive trends in pocket ship market
Nanaimo’s Jason Michell, Vice President of Terminal Operations, reported that the Port would again be seeing pocket-sized ships visit in the summer. The largest, the Azamar Quest, will see upwards of 1,400 passengers dock for the day in mid-July. While only three visits are scheduled for this year, Michell was looking forward to a much busier 2020. “We already have tentative bookings for five pocket ships and two of the larger ships,” he said.
Noting the City’s popularity with the pocket ship market, Michell felt this was an upward trend that would continue. “While Nanaimo has adeptly handled ships with greater passenger capacity many times in the past, the charm of the City really shines through when the smaller ships visit,” he said. “As we continue to work on marketing strategies, the focus on this market will always be a significant priority for us.” Michell added that the Passenger Welcome Terminal continued to receive high approval marks from passengers of both large and small vessels.
A key development for the Port of Nanaimo is the recent announcement of a five-year contract between Tourism Vancouver Island (TVI-Tourism Nanaimo) and the City of Nanaimo. As the destination marketing organization responsible for tourism marketing and visitor servicing, TVI will be working with the Port and other community and industry stakeholders to deliver on a goal of strengthening Nanaimo’s position as a tourism destination. “We have already started discussing the development of a strategy,” Michell said. “We engaged with the Cruise Line International Association and had Donna Spalding, their local representative meet with the group to provide some insights into how the industry works.”
Michell expressed great support for the initiative and noted that having a long-term strategy in place will provide a foundation for steady growth. “We’re excited to work with Tourism Nanaimo, tour operators and the local community to be able to increase our profile with the industry,” Michell said. “The initiative is in its infancy but it’s a very positive move for the City.”
Victoria’s busiest season yet about to get underway
Following a busy 2018 that had Victoria welcome the Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Bliss for her inaugural season, the Victoria Cruise Ship Terminal is planning for a series of milestones during the 2019 season.
Kicking off on Tuesday, April 16, the 2019 cruise season will see more than 260 ship calls, carrying close to 700,000 passengers. The season includes a series of highlights and inaugural calls for the city, including the arrival of the Royal Caribbean International’s Ovation of the Seas, Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, the Azamara Quest, and the Norwegian Joy, sister ship of the Norwegian Bliss. 2019 will see an increase in full-day, mid-week calls. In addition, the city will welcome the eight-millionth cruise ship passenger in May 2019.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, the not-for-profit organization that owns and operates the Victoria Cruise Terminal, is continuing with its multi-year capital improvement project on three deep-water berths. As part of the project, the organization has a planned a $6.8-million extension to the mooring dolphin at Pier B. This project was to be completed prior to the 2019 season, however rough seas in December 2018 saw the loss at sea of the custom-built steel monopile structure which was being shipped from China to Canada.
“To say the loss was unexpected is an understatement, but we worked with Western Stevedoring, Royal Caribbean International and BC Coast Pilots Ltd. to run simulations for alternatives to welcome the Ovation of the Seas to the city,” said Lindsay Gaunt, Director, Cruise Development for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. For the 2019 season, the Ovation of the Seas will call to Pier A at the Victoria Cruise Terminal. Construction on the dolphin will resume this fall, having the 58-metre extension completed in time for the start of the 2020 cruise season.
On-the-ground improvements include improved wayfinding for all visitors, with an emphasis on pedestrian movement. In 2018, 30 per cent of cruise visitors chose to walk downtown from the terminal. A multi-platform promotional plan is in place to further encourage human-powered traffic. This will be tied in to a new pedestrian gateway that links the terminals to the street front.
An all-time record for Vancouver
The Port of Vancouver will be achieving an all-time record for Vancouver’s cruise industry which runs from March 29 to November 1 this year. With 290 calls and 1,077,000 passengers, Vancouver is seeing an approximate 21 per cent increase over last year (with 241 calls and 889,162 passengers). “Our numbers will have nearly doubled in 2020 since 2010,” said the Port’s Carmen Ortega, Manager, Trade Development.
“Year over year, not only are the number of passengers increasing but we are seeing larger ships as well as new lines coming to Alaska,” adding that 2020 is anticipated to be another record year, reaching close to 1.2 million passengers. Ortega also noted that nearly half of all calls this year will be shore-power enabled.
As noted, part of the increase in activity can be attributed to new lines bringing ships into the Pacific Northwest cruise theatre. Cunard is coming back to Vancouver after many years, bringing the Queen Elizabeth; Viking Ocean Cruises is bringing the Viking Orion; Azamara will be homeporting the Azamara Quest; and Hurtigruten’s brand new Roald Amundsen will make its inaugural sailing from Canada Place in September following a month-long voyage starting in Copenhagen and sailing through the Northwest Passage and Alaska.
The Roald Amundsen is the first of two hybrid ships Hurtigruten will add to its fleet over the next few years, cutting emissions by sailing with electrical propulsion. Hybrid technology, combined with the advanced construction of the hull and effective use of electricity on board will reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions on the ships by 20 per cent. The Roald Amundsen will be homeporting in Vancouver in 2020 offering 14 and 18-day cruises focused on “Wilderness, Glaciers and Culture.”
Other new ships to Vancouver this year include:
The Royal Princess will be homeported in Vancouver in 2019 and doing one-way itineraries. This will be the largest vessel homeported in Vancouver with a capacity of 3,600 passengers.
Windstar Cruise’s Star Legend.
Celebrity’s Eclipse (sister ship to the Solstice) will be homeported in Vancouver with weekly roundtrips on Sundays.
The Norwegian Bliss and its sister ship, the Norwegian Joy, will be making a couple of repositioning calls, along with Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. These are the largest ships sailing to Alaska this season.
Silversea is bringing the Silver Muse to replace the Silver Shadow.
Compagnie du Ponant is bringing L’Austral, making this the second ship (in addition to Le Soléal) for the cruise line in the Pacific Northwest.
To help with the significant increase in throughput traffic, enhancements have been completed at the Canada Place cruise terminal that will improve efficiency as well as passenger and vehicle flows. These improvements include an expanded and reconfigured ground transportation area. New fenders and camels are also being phased in at all the three berths and all gangways are in the process of being refurbished in order to accommodate the largest vessels.