Mammoth cruise ship brings travel-agent invasion to capital

Greater Victoria will show off its best features Friday when close to 2,000 cruise line officials and travel agents disembark from the brand-new Norwegian Bliss cruise ship — the largest to dock at Ogden Point — to tour the capital region.

Those travel agents will take their on-the-ground experiences back to their respective communities in Canada and the U.S.

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Such exposure is fantastic, said Cathy Scott, owner of Departures Travel and of Niche Travel, which offers tours to incoming visitors.

“It’s phenomenal for our tourism industry because they are going to want to send their clients here after that.”

Travel agents typically work with higher-end clients, Scott said. Their day-long visit means they will be able to talk about the many locally owned, unique, boutique businesses.

The 20-deck, 1,094-foot-long Norwegian Bliss is scheduled to arrive at Ogden Point between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Friday, staying until 5 p.m. when it returns to its home port of Seattle.

A 9 a.m. welcome ceremony at Pier A is planned for the ship.

The ship was christened in Seattle on Wednesday and is heading out on its inaugural cruise prior to docking in Victoria. This is a corporate trip, filled with Norwegian cruise line executives, officials from ports where it will be stopping, as well as travel agents and media.

Ian Robertson, chief executive officer of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, is on board and promoting Victoria to cruise line executives and travel agents. It’s a rare chance to spend time with senior cruise line representatives, who will also tour the capital region.

An estimated 1,000 travel agents are on board and Robertson figures the number is higher. What this means is: “There will be lots of opportunity to network and talk about Victoria and what there is to do in Victoria.”

Tour operators will be taking travel agents around the community. “For a lot of them, it is going to be their first trip to Victoria.”

Such an opportunity to promote B.C.’s capital city does not happen often, Robertson said.

The Norwegian Bliss features a mural depicting whales that was created by artist Wyland, who is responsible for a mural of killer whales at 1250 Wharf St.

Built for the popular Alaskan cruise market, Norwegian Bliss will be a regular visitor this year. It will arrive every Friday between June and October. The ship has a capacity of 4,250 passengers and 1,500 crew.

On-board attractions include a go-cart track, two waterslides, laser tag and spa.

About 245 cruise ship visits are scheduled at Ogden Point this year, carrying a total of 600,000 passengers. The majority of the ships stop in Victoria as part of an Alaska cruise.

“Alaska is a very, very popular destination,” Robertson said. Spectacular scenery and a safe and secure trip have seen demand growing for these cruises.

In 2019, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ Ovation of the Seas will be pulling in at Ogden Point. At 1,142 feet long, that ship, built in 2016, will become the largest to dock here.

Norwegian Bliss is visiting during Tourism Week in Canada.

“Tourism drives our economy, creates jobs and strengthens communities, making B.C. a better place for people to live, work and visit,” Lisa Beare, B.C. minister of tourism, said in a statement.

B.C.’s tourism sector generated $17 billion in revenue in 2016 and employs about 133,000, the province said. Last year, 5.7 million international visitors came to B.C., up 3.3 per cent from the previous year.

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