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V2V eyes second Victoria-Vancouver ferry as first launches on Saturday

Passenger ferry service between Victoria’s Inner Harbour and Coal Harbour in Vancouver will start Saturday with an 8 a.m. departure from the docks at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Passenger ferry service between Victoria’s Inner Harbour and Coal Harbour in Vancouver will start Saturday with an 8 a.m. departure from the docks at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

V2V Vacations’ inaugural trip — originally been scheduled for May 1, but delayed to provide further training for staff — is expected to carry about 140 passengers on its first run, said V2V owner Hume Campbell.

Campbell, whose 91-year-old company Riverside Marine is based in Brisbane Australia, was in Vancouver ahead of the launch and sees the first trips this weekend as the start of proving the route is viable and ripe for expansion.

Hume, the third generation of Campbells to run Riverside, has heard the naysayers who say the Victoria-to-Vancouver service, which was last attempted in 1993, is unworkable. But he dismisses them as out-dated.

“It’s easy to be cynical. I’m positive and I see a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to growing the business,” Campbell said. He added the landscape is very different than in 1993, when Royal Sealink Express shut down after losing millions of dollars due to low ridership after just 19 months.

“I think Victoria has changed a lot in 23 years. Vancouver has changed, the world scene has changed dramatically,” Campbell said, noting the emerging wealth of the Pacific Rim region and the fact there are now untold millions of people who are more aware of Victoria and Vancouver make a huge difference.

“I don’t dwell upon [what happened] then, I think about the now,” he said. “It’s about the doing of today, and we are here and we have a beautiful ship.”

Campbell has seen the difference in the region for himself. Fifty years ago, he was sent to Canada from Australia when he was 22 by his father, and worked for a Vancouver tugboat company. He also spent time in Victoria and said he feels like this region is a second home for him, which is why he set up V2V.

“I just think it’s one of the most exciting places to be, it’s beautiful,” Campbell said. “I only invest where I am prepared to live. We’ve had many offers to go places like New Guinea, Africa and Asia, but this is a place I feel at home.”

He’s preparing to double-down on the investment in the region. Campbell said they have their eye on a second vessel for the route, and hope to eventually run two trips a day on it.

“We will prove it with this ship, but I think another ship is required so you can leave both ports early in the morning,” he said. “We know we are a little bit late in arriving for this summer, but we will be ready for next summer and want to be ready for the next one with two vessels.”

The vessel that’s in place now, named the Empress, has been completely rebuilt and is now fully staffed. It had been torn down to its shell and rebuilt and refinished in Victoria. All in, the company spent about $10 million to launch the service.

The Empress features leather seating in three classes — 22 seats in Royal Class, 74 in First Class and 160 in Premium Comfort — with flip-out or built-in tables, power outlets at each seat and on-board Wi-Fi.

The 24 built-in tables feature wooden topographic outlines of Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver and the Salish Sea designed and assembled by artist and boat builder Jerry Kool. During the voyage, guests may order beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. The V2V Empress will also carry food items developed by Truffles Catering.

The cost to travel on the Empress is not cheap, and Campbell makes no apologies for it. A regular one-way fare in Premium Comfort is $120, while First Class is $199 and Royal Class is $240.

“It’s a private investment. There’s no government money and that’s why the fares are where they are,” he said. “They are comparable to other forms [of transportation] in B.C.

“It’s not a ferry, it’s a cruise.”

By comparison, a mid-week fare on Harbour Air is $207 one way. For a car and driver on B.C. Ferries between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen it’s $74.70 one way. A typical flight to Vancouver on Helijet is $285.

V2V Empress will depart from Vancouver at 8 a.m. and arrive in Victoria at 11:30 a.m. at the Steamship Terminal building.

The return voyage will depart at 2 p.m. for Vancouver, arriving at 5:30 p.m.

The company is offering an introductory fare in Premium Comfort for $60 for those who book online ( using the promo code START.

Clipper Navigation intends to also offer a Victoria-Vancouver passenger service. It is expected to begin in 2018.