A long-awaited Alaskan cruise turned into a special surprise for a visitor and her family from Trinidad and Tobago when they arrived at Ogden Point Thursday.
Reshma Balramsingh, 23, an operations manager at an advertising company in the Caribbean country, was the seven millionth cruise ship passenger to arrive in Victoria since records were first taken in 1978.
Balramsingh, her parents and brother and sister were whisked off in pedicabs for a tour of downtown Victoria, followed by bus sightseeing and a whale-watching trip.
“We always wanted to do Alaska,” Balramsingh said.
A family plan to take an Alaskan cruise last year to mark her father’s 50th birthday didn’t work out, but they made it happen this year.
“I’m really glad it worked out this way because if we did it last year then I wouldn’t be your seven millionth winner,” she said.
This is the family’s first visit to Victoria. They arrived on the Explorer of the Seas, which has room for about 3,000 passengers. They have already stopped in Juneau and Skagway, Alaska. The ship left for Seattle at 6 p.m.
“I look forward to experiencing Victoria, maybe trying some of your food, seeing the country. I’ve never been here before,” Balramsingh said.
The family is among 550,000 passengers who will arrive on cruise ships this season. That’s compared with 20,000 in 1978.
Ian Robertson, Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO, said the seven-million-passenger milestone is worth noting. “It is reaffirming that Victoria is a popular destination as part of the itinerary for Alaska cruises. We are finding that more and more people are enjoying their time in Victoria.”
The Alaska cruise route is the second largest cruise itinerary globally and continues to grow, he said.
Cruise-ship business injects an estimated $130 million a year into the local economy in direct and in-direct spending, Robertson said.
Cruise lines are operating larger ships capable of carrying more passengers than in the past, he said.
Next year, the new Norwegian Bliss ship will make its first trip to Alaska and stopping at Ogden Point, Robertson said. That vessel will have room for about 4,000 passengers and 1,700 crew members. “It will be home-ported out of Seattle and will make a stop here in Victoria on a regular basis. So we are seeing larger ships coming in. We’ve got lots of capacity here at Ogden Point.”
Overall, Canada is growing in popularity as a tourist destination, Robertson said.
“I also think quite honestly that world events are positioning Alaska as a very safe itinerary.
I was in London this year and, having conversations with my counterparts in the Mediterranean and the Baltic; they are recognizing that Alaska is seen as a very safe destination and we hope that it will continue to be.”
Victoria was chosen this week as one of the top-five Canadian destinations by travel agents across North America. Victoria ranked behind Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City in the 2017 Agents' Choice Awards, based on results of the annual Baxter Travel Media readership survey. “The Agents’ Choice Awards are watched closely by people in the tourism sector and we are proud to have a prominent place on this list,” said Paul Hawes, marketing officer with Tourism Victoria. “Victoria truly delivers above and beyond the size of our destination.”
Paul Nursey, chief executive at Tourism Victoria, noted the organization works hard to convert interest in our destination into confirmed bookings.
“It isn’t easy competing against cities with much larger marketing budgets, but our talented and creative team continues to inspire people to visit Victoria,” he said.
The survey noted Butchart Gardens was a top-10 attraction, alongside the Louvre in Paris, St. Mark’s Square in Venice and the French Quarter in New Orleans.