The Prince Rupert cruise business achieved a major milestone last Thursday, welcoming its 500,000th cruise guest to the city since the Northland Cruise Terminal opened in 2004. The honour could not have been bestowed on a more fitting passenger, 10-year-old Jacob VanBuren, sailing on Norwegian Star, with his family from Glenville, New York, as a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
“Jacob’s wish was to sail to Alaska and to see grizzly bears,” says Kristi Bayne, NCL Manager of Corporate Communications. “We are a family-oriented cruise line and appreciated the opportunity to make Jacob’s wish come true with a cruise experience that he and his family will always remember. We were confident that our Port of Prince Rupert partners would supply the grizzly bears.”
The Prince Rupert Port Authority rolled out the red carpet for its special 500,000th guest, greeting Jacob and his parents, James and Anne, and sister Hannah at the Northland Terminal. They were escorted to the adjacent Atlin Cruise Terminal dock where Director Operations & Security Gary Paulson, accompanied by Norwegian Star Captain Lars Bengtsson and several of his chief staff, ceremoniously presented Jacob with a unique plaque designed by a local First Nations artist. The plaque is normally reserved for captains of vessels on maiden voyages.
“This plaque is to bring you good fortunes on all your future voyages,” Mr. Paulson told Jacob, who is struggling with a life-threatening medical condition. “Godspeed to you all on your journey.”
The Prince Rupert Port Authority and Prince Rupert Adventure Tours, a local tour operator, presented Jacob with another surprise, a complimentary bear-watching excursion for his family aboard the catamaran, Inside Passage, to the remote Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Reserve. The area is a protected grizzly bear sanctuary, home to the largest concentration of grizzlies in British Columbia, and a highlight of Prince Rupert’s tour program for cruise ship operations.
“I saw three grizzly bears and a baby bear too,” an excited Jacob exclaimed on his way back to the Norwegian Star.
The trip has been “everything we could have wished for,” said Jacob’s father, James VanBuren. “The cruise ship staff has been incredible throughout the entire trip, and these amazing surprises for Jacob never stop coming. We have no idea what to expect next.”
Prince Rupert Port Authority Cruise Development Coordinator Phil Westoby said helping fulfill Jacob’s wish also reinforced the importance of Prince Rupert’s cruise business partners to work collaboratively to make the Alaska cruise vacation of each passenger an experience to remember.
“A successful cruise business requires all partners from the cruise line to the port and shore service providers working seamlessly together toward the common goal of ensuring each guest’s cruise vacation is indeed an experience of a lifetime,” notes Mr. Westoby. “Jacob reminded us of this, which we will carry forward in welcoming our next 500,000 guests.”
Prince Rupert’s cruise business is a significant contributor to local employment and the economy. Since the arrival of the first cruise ship in 2004, guests and crew have spent in excess of $38 million in the community on tours, restaurants, attractions, supplies and services.
Prince Rupert is continuing to develop capacities and services to contribute to improving the overall Alaska cruise guest experience, and is well positioned to participate in the projected growth and expansion of the Alaska cruise market.