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Cruise season expected to bring record number of passengers to Victoria

An estimated 850,000 passengers are anticipated, up from last year’s record-setting 715,000.
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The Norwegian Bliss cruise ship is slated to return to Victoria on April 12, the second cruise ship of the season. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Victoria expects a record number of passengers to pull into Ogden Point between April and October, as the cruise industry rebounds from the pandemic.

An estimated 850,000 passengers are anticipated, up from last year’s record-setting 715,000.

Ian Robertson, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said Thursday the number reflects a continued pent-up demand for cruising. “It is going to continue to be another good year for cruise in Victoria.”

A total of 330 ship visits are booked this year, almost unchanged from the 329 in 2022, although stops are typically added or deleted depending on factors such as weather. Most of the cruise ships pulling into Victoria are on the popular Alaska cruise route.

More cabins will be filled this year than last, however — ships started the 2022 cruise season at about 40 to 50 per cent capacity and ended with an overall capacity of about 75 per cent, Robertson said.

“Based on what we are hearing from the cruise lines, they are continuing to see the demand for cruise is growing,” he said. “We expect that the ships will be more full than they were in 2022.”

The cruise sector brings an estimated $130 million to the local economy annually, Robertson said.

He noted that polling done by University of Victoria students last year found 53 per cent of cruise passengers surveyed said that they would return to the city within five years.

Almost a quarter of those planning to return expected to stay three to four nights and almost three quarters said they would spend one to four nights at other locations on Vancouver Island.

Jeff Bray, chief executive at the Downtown Victoria Business Improvement Association, said visiting passengers help support small and medium-sized downtown businesses, from gelato and coffee shops to pubs and retailers, which represent hundreds of jobs.

Robertson said the harbour authority remains committed to adding onshore power infrastructure at Ogden Point for cruise ships, and is seeking federal funding for the project. In 2020, it was estimated to cost about $25 million.

Between now and 2028, 85 per cent of new ships from cruise lines in the Cruise Lines International Association will have the ability to plug into onshore electricity, the harbour authority said.

That means they can cut their engines while moored and reduce emissions, something the James Bay community has been seeking for years.

“As cruise tourism continues, so does our commitment to sustainability and the environment,” said Christine Willow, board chair of the harbour authority, adding the organization recently hired a sustainability manager.

Meanwhile, the Pier B mooring dolphin at the cruise terminal, which was extended to accommodate larger cruise ships, was especially useful in recent weeks, Robertson said.

It allowed the massive 984-foot-long container ship CSL Eleni to tie up at Ogden Point at the beginning of January after it was towed to Victoria following mechanical difficulties. The ship has since left Victoria and on Thursday was moored in Seattle.

To view the draft cruise schedule, go to gvha.ca.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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