A windy welcome for Victoria's first cruise ship of the season

Rough waters and strong winds died down enough Wednesday afternoon to allow Holland America’s Westerdam to dock at Victoria’s Ogden Point on its third try.

The ship made it in shortly after 5 p.m. Environment Canada had said mid-afternoon that winds were blowing south-southeast at 31 kilometres an hour, with gusts to 46 km/h.

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The 936-foot Westerdam was the first ship to arrive for the busy Alaska cruise ship season, which has bookings for 248 ship visits.

If the wind had not died down, the Westerdam would have gone on to Vancouver, it’s next stop.

The ship had been scheduled to arrive at 1 p.m. Its expected departure time of midnight was not due to change. Some passengers planned to leave the ship when it docked in Victoria.

The next cruise ship scheduled to arrive is the Norwegian Sun, set to reach Ogden Point on April 20 at 7 a.m. and stay until 4 p.m. that day. That journey follows a refit for Norwegian Sun at Victoria Shipyards.

These day-long stops are highly desired by Victoria’s tourism sector because they bring in visitors during times when stores, restaurants, and attractions are open.

This year’s ships are to carry just over 600,000 passengers in total. Typically, they pull in on their way south from Alaska toward the end of their journey. They are often here from the late afternoon until midnight.

Not all passengers leave a ship when it docks. But many disembark and head into downtown Victoria, ride a bus to Butchart Gardens, go on tours, walk along Dallas Road and more.

“We’ve made some key changes to the operations here to prepare for another successful season,” said Lindsay Gaunt, director of cruise development for the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. This is the first year for bus operator Pacific North West Transportation, a partnership between CVS Tours and the Wilson’s Group of Companies, as it runs more environmentally friendly buses. Signs showing visitors how to walk downtown were installed by the Harbour Authority. About 30 per cent of visitors leave the terminal by foot.

The Norwegian Bliss will visit nearly every week after a first stop on June 1. That vessel has room for 4,250 passengers, the highest capacity of any ship stopping this year.

The season ends Oct. 25, when the Grand Princess is to be here 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Nanaimo cruise season was launched on Monday when the Star Princess tied up from noon to 9:30 p.m.

The Explorer of the Seas comes in on May 16 and again on Sept. 19. The NG Sea Bird pulls in on May 6 and the NG Sea Lion arrives on May 7.

To view the Victoria schedule, click here.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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