Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Victoria set for another strong cruise season; Nanaimo welcoming first ships since 2019

Season starts April 3 when Norwegian Bliss pulls in to Ogden Point to mark the first of 315 visits from ships mainly plying the popular Alaska route.
People pass the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship at Victoria’s Ogden Point in August 2022. A return visit by the ship kicks off the 2024 cruise season on April 3. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Despite fewer scheduled trips, Greater Victoria is anticipating another strong cruise ship season starting April 3 when ­Norwegian Bliss pulls into Ogden Point to mark the first of 315 visits from ships that mainly ply the popular Alaska route.

Nanaimo is also celebrating the return of cruise ships — two are booked for this season, the first since 2019.

This will be a “good year,” Robert Lewis-Manning, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority, said Thursday.

Last year, the harbour authority estimated that 326 ship visits delivered about 970,000 passengers and 370,000 crew members to Ogden Point.

The final day of this year’s season is Oct. 27 when Norwegian Sun pulls in. By then, Lewis-Manning figures ships will have brought about 950,000 visitors into the capital region.

A few new ships will make inaugural visits to Victoria, including Explora One on April 17 and Celebrity Edge on May 23.

A new rule came into effect globally last year requiring ships to slow down in order to reduce carbon emissions. That means vessels arrive later in Victoria, resulting in less time for passengers to tour the region.

As cruise lines adapt to new regulations, they are thinking about adjusting their itineraries, Lewis-Manning said.

“I think the difference from last year is that so many of the local businesses are really engaged in trying to find ways to make it work even with the later and shorter stays.” he said.

While there’s little change in itineraries expected for this year, Lewis-Manning anticipates 2025 will see some lines testing new offerings, such as spreading out the days they come into port. Instead of focusing on Friday through Sunday for example, we may see more vessels pulling in on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“It sort of spreads the same number of passengers over a longer period of time and hopefully for longer stays as well,” he said.

Many of the ships stopping at Odgen Point are heading south on their way to their home port in Seattle.

That sees them arriving in evenings for short stays. Ideally, the local business community would like ships to stay for a full day becuase that brings larger economic benefits.

The region’s tourism sector hopes cruise passengers will get a taste of Victoria and want to make plans for return visits.

“We want them to be here longer to spend more money and we want them longer so that they fall in love wiith the place and come back again,” Lewis-Manning said.

Harbour authority officials are working with Destination Greater Victoria, the Downtown Victoria Business Association and the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, Lewis-Manning said.

He anticipates that the number of families travelling will see this season’s ships sailing above capacity, similar to last year. Families stay in cabins with pull-out bunks.

“The demand for cruises is still incredibly strong.”

He has heard anecdotally through the cruise lines that passenger demographics are getting younger.

Lines are also saying that travellers are looking for genuine cultural experiences, he said. “It’s a real opportunity for Victoria and the region.”

The harbour authority has been working on bringing in shore power. The engineering schematics are complete and a business case is being prepared for the harbour authority’s June board meeting for a decision on what direction to take, Lewis-Manning said.

“It’s a very complex project.”

The province contributed $9 million last year and the harbour authority is applying for a $25-million federal grant, he said.

It’s too soon to state the final price tag, he said.

In Nanaimo, two ships are scheduled to arrive this ­season.

The last time a cruise ship arrived with passengers was 2019. Ship calls slated for 2020 were cancelled because of the pandemic.

The Silver Muse cruise ship stopped in Nanaimo in May 2022 for maintenance but there were no passengers on board.

So far, four ship visits are confirmed for 2025 and two for 2026, said Andrea Thomas, Port of Nanaimo manager of engagement, content and cruise development.

She is promoting 2025 and 2026 to further develop cruise business to Nanaimo.

On May 6, Seabourn Odyssey, with capacity for 450 passengers, will pull in at 8 a.m. and stay until 6 p.m.

Then on Aug. 26, Oceania Regatta, with up to 850 passengers, arrives at 8 a.m. and departs at 11 p.m.

With the longer stays, cruise-ship passengers could tour Nanaimo’s museum, Old City quarter, historical displays, galleries or visit Cathedral Grove or Horne Lake Caves, Thomas said.

She is focusing on “smaller luxury ships” with up to 1,000 passengers to offer more intimate experiences. “We can do small ships really, really well and provide them with unique tour offerings.”

Thomas will be travelling to the Seatrade Cruise Global 2024 conference next month in Miami to promote Nanaimo to the various lines that always attend.

[email protected]