British Columbia cruise ports recently wrapped up a successful 2011 season, with an 8 percent  increase in total passengers over the previous year, according to the Cruise BC Association.  The communities of Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Prince Rupert, Vancouver, and Victoria welcomed 1.2 million cruise passengers on a total 435 calls in 2011, generating a total economic impact of $1.3 billion to the BC economy. Direct passenger and crew spending added up to $185 million and cruise line spending was $367 million in the province while overall business tax contributions were $50 million, according to the assocation.

“The growth in this year’s cruise visitations is a positive sign that the industry is turning the corner from the challenges of the previous few years” said Cruise BC Chair Doug Peterson. “More cruise ships are being positioned on the west coast to take advantage of the strength of Alaska. BC cruise ports play a key role as both homeports and destinations during the summer cruise season.

The 2011 cruise season saw multiple highlights and benefits extending across different regions of the province:

In early May, Nanaimo enjoyed the official opening of the city’s new $25 million port facility, complete with a floating cruise berth and uplands welcoming centre. The eight month infrastructure project culminated in a community open house celebration and an inaugural visit from the Norwegian Pearl on May 7th.  

The city of Victoria reported a total of 206 calls and 440,000 passengers, Victoria also welcomed its 4 millionth cruise guest to the city in August 2011.

The Prince Rupert Port Authority’s 2011 season concluded with more than 50,000 cruise passengers arriving on 21 ship calls from May through September. Two inaugural calls were made by the Oceania Regatta and the Norwegian Pearl, with weekly calls by Norwegian Cruise Lines. In the fall of 2010, PRPA engaged a study to evaluate Prince Rupert as a port of call on Alaskan itineraries. The results of this report were used to enhance the port's facilities and tourism offerings. The Prince Rupert Cruise Task Force was formed as a result, which expanded volunteer programs, excursions and interpretations featuring wildlife and wilderness, aboriginal and cultural experiences and the port's history. The strategy emphasized key elements common to the Alaskan theatre, but with a uniquely Canadian perspective and included a significant increase in activities for independent guests, resulting in guests spending more time ashore in the community and in greater numbers. In reflecting on the 2011 season, the Port Authority’s Vice-President of Marketing and Business Development, Shaun Stevenson, said: “2011 was a year that saw the community unite to showcase what Prince Rupert has to offer.”

Vancouver recently concluded a successful 2011 Vancouver-Alaska cruise season, posting a 15 per cent increase in passengers over 2010. Between May and October 2011, the Port welcomed 663,425 passengers on 27 different vessels over 199 cruise ship calls. New in 2011, Port Metro Vancouver welcomed Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder and Oceania Cruises’ Regatta for the first time, with both vessels home porting in Vancouver during their inaugural seasons in the Alaska market. Vancouver also saw the return of Crystal Cruises to Alaska with the Crystal Symphony making 10 port calls in Vancouver. The 2011 season also marked the second full year of shore power operations at Canada Place, which reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 1,318 tonnes. “Our cruise industry partners continue to play a key role in reducing our carbon footprint by participating in the EcoAction Program,” said Carmen Ortega, Port Metro Vancouver’s manager of cruise. Recipients of the Blue Circle Award, a recognition reserved for only the highest emissions reduction achievements, include Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Silversea Cruises. “Continuous improvement in our environmental performance is good for our communities, our customers and our business,” said Ortega.

The increase in volume of total passengers to BC ports is evidence of the potential for increased cruise traffic to BC. Communities benefited last season from an increase in number of calls, as well as a doubling of the number of vessels visiting three or more BC ports in one itinerary. “BC has enormous potential as a unique stand alone destination or as part of a larger West Coast itinerary,” Peterson said. “Our port facilities have the capability to handle more ships and can provide the cruise visitor with diverse and captivating shore excursion experiences that rival some of the best in North America.”