The Prince Rupert Port Authority, First Nations, City of Prince Rupert and other community cruise stakeholders are welcoming the first call of the Norwegian Pearl today marking the start of the 2011 cruise ship season.  The 2,400 passenger Pearl arrives on Friday, May 13th at 4pm en route from Alaska to Seattle.  The Pearl is the first of 21 ship calls for the 2011 cruise ship season expected to see 50,000 passengers and 20,000 crew visit the City of Prince Rupert between May and September.  The season will also feature the inaugural call of Oceania Cruises’ Regatta in August.

“This is our seventh successful year of operation at the Northland Cruise Terminal where we have welcomed over 500,000 passengers and 14 different cruise ships since opening in 2004,” said Shaun Stevenson, Vice-President, Marketing & Business Development of the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

In December 2010, the Prince Rupert Port Authority initiated a collaborative process with community cruise stakeholders, resulting in the creation of the Prince Rupert Community Cruise Task Force.  The Task Force, includes representatives from the Prince Rupert Port Authority, Community Futures Development Corporation of the Pacific Northwest, business leaders, the City of Prince Rupert and related agencies including Prince Rupert and Port Edward Economic Development Corporation and Tourism Prince Rupert. The primary role of the Community Cruise Task Force is to coordinate enhancements to the cruise passenger experience and lead cruise destination development initiatives for the future. Key initiatives for the 2011 season include:

Buskers, musicians, and actors performing throughout the city streets and waterfront, a program coordinated through Harbour Theater and Treena Decker of Community Futures, providing a creative backdrop along main routes for visitors en route to key areas of interest.

An enhanced ambassador greeting program that assists visitors with orientation and wayfinding, complimented by 19 “interpretation points”, local volunteer citizens who will tell “chapters of the story” of  Prince Rupert such as the arrival of the Grand Trunk Railway, the halibut fishery, and the heritage of boat building

An interpretative center at Atlin Terminal featuring exhibits and displays of local ecology and First Nations culture

A waterfront market featuring Salmonberry Trading Company, offering local, handmade goods, First Nations artists, craftspeople, produce, non-for-profits, food vendors, specialty retail, as well as new tours and excursions.  The market is both a great opportunity for cruise guests to mix with locals in this weekly festival.

The launch of a new and enhanced “Cruise Discovery Guide” for cruise guests tells the story of Prince Rupert with maps and listings of attractions, walking tours, information on the area’s ecology, aboriginal culture and the port history to tell the story of Prince Rupert, its unique features and people to assist guests in making their experience in Prince Rupert a great one.

“Many of the 16 different taskforce initiatives were successfully launched even before the arrival of the first ship,” said John Farrell, Manager of Community Futures Development Corporation of the Pacific Northwest in Prince Rupert.  In partnership with community organizations and business leaders like Scott Farwell of the Crest Hotel, a cruise-friendly business program was undertaken that features products and experiences that appeal specifically to cruise guests, and have launched social media training to connect visitors to local business products and excursions.”

“The Prince Rupert City Council supports the cruise industry and the opportunities it brings for residents involved in the tourism sector,” said Mayor Jack Mussallem of the City of Prince Rupert. “The City of Prince Rupert is actively supporting the wide array of initiatives to improve cruise ship passenger experience during the 2011 season and we look forward to the successes of this initiative.”

The Cruise Taskforce has been an effective alignment of community agencies, businesses and governments to advance cruise destination development, enhancing Prince Rupert’s position as a viable and attractive port of call within the Alaska cruise market.  With forecasts of expansion of the Alaska cruise theater in the coming seasons, the alignment and support at a community level, from taxi drivers, to tour operators, to restaurant owners, is critical in ensuring Prince Rupert is well positioned as a destination of choice for cruiselines and cruise guests alike

“We feel confident that the 2011 cruise season will be a resounding success and these enhancements led by the Cruise Taskforce will build upon the strength of our diverse excursion program and attractions to create a truly memorable experience for our cruise ship guests” said Shaun Stevenson.  “We hope the cruise industry will take notice of the tremendous potential Prince Rupert holds for growth and expansion of cruise ship activity.”