Ship sail

Record number of cruise ship visits forecast for 2022 after two years of absence

The cruise ships are coming back.

Two years after COVID-19 closed borders to large passenger ships and left ports empty, Victoria’s Ogden Point will be the first to welcome a cruise ship into Canadian waters on April 6.

The Greater Victoria Port Authority on Tuesday released a draft schedule for the Victoria cruise ship season 2022, indicating that 350 scheduled ship calls will bring about 759,000 passengers from April to October.

“This is the result of cruise lines asking for stopovers after several months, and it’s a sign of pent-up demand for Alaska as a destination,” Port Authority chief executive Ian Robertson said on Tuesday. of Grand Victoria.

The 350 planned ship calls are above the record 257 visits in 2019, and next year’s passenger estimate is also above the record 709,042 arriving passengers in 2019. Cruise industry passenger estimates are based on early demand, with ships at 50% to 75%. capacity. Robertson said those numbers could fluctuate.

The arrival of cruise ships is expected to be a boon for tourism and other businesses that have seen successive summers of border closures and travel restrictions amid the pandemic.

“I’m absorbing it and I’m feeling great… that’s great news,” said Simone Kearney, owner of the Beaver gift shop, which moved into the Mayfair shopping center after the port closed by the. pandemic, abandoning its stores. Kearney sold its tourism products to locals while trying to stay afloat, but said revenues fell 90% without cruise passengers.

Matt McNeil, owner of the Bard and Banker and Irish Times pubs on Government Street, called the return of cruise ships “the best possible news.” “Everyone wins, from the little shops to Butchart Gardens,” McNeil said. “There are pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages that meet a wall of people waiting for them. This is what people want when they are on vacation.

The port authority said health and safety measures will be in place for the season, including mandatory proof of vaccination for passengers and crew, and COVID management plans and reporting protocols for all ships.

He said he was working with Island Health and others to ensure the safe movement of passengers upon arrival at Ogden Point and the community.

In 2022, Royal Caribbean’s Norwegian Encore, Majestic Princess and Quantum of the Seas will make their first stopovers in Victoria.

The first ship arriving at Ogden Point will be the Caribbean Princess, at 9 a.m. on April 6.

The Majestic Princess will be the first ship to use the Pier B Mooring Dolphin Extension which was completed in early 2020.

The schedule is spread out, Robertson said, with a few ship calls on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays next year – and less the

weekends.

As the cruise industry picks up next year, its future here and in Vancouver remains in jeopardy, Robertson said, as US lawmakers consider excluding British Columbia from cruising in Alaska.

Alaska Congressman Don Young, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and Utah Senator Mike Lee have all presented plans to permanently exempt large cruise ships from the Ship Services Act. passengers for cruises between the United States and Alaska.

The change would mean that foreign-flagged cruise ships could travel directly between U.S. ports without touching a foreign country. It would devastate the cruise industry in Victoria, which collects around $ 143 million a year from cruises. The industry is worth an estimated $ 2.7 billion annually for the province.

U.S. lawmakers have said the Passenger Ship Services Act, meant to protect U.S. jobs and businesses, has ended up putting Alaskan businesses at the mercy of Canadians.

government when it closed its ports to cruise ships in 2020.

Robertson said federal and provincial leaders were pressuring the US administration to resist the plan.

One of the challenges for businesses in Victoria as the cruise season continues into the spring and summer is finding enough staff in a tight labor market.

“It will be great to see activity increase and the economy open up, but the double-edged sword is the staffing,” said Teri Hustins, who owns two Oscar & Libby’s gift shops in the city center. from Victoria. “It’s going to be a challenge… to find enough staff to take advantage of these feet in the street. “

David Roberts, chief executive of Pacific Northwest Transportation Services, said the Western Stevadoring-owned company is rebuilding and fine-tuning many of its 45 buses that have been put on hold since the start of the pandemic.

The company provides shuttle services to and from Ogden Point and carries cruise passengers to Sidney, Butchart Gardens and other destinations.

Many drivers have been retained thanks to government wage subsidies, but more drivers as well as ticketing agents, security personnel and clerical staff will need to be hired, Roberts said.

He said Pacific Northwest Transportation Services pays premium wages, starting at $ 21.46 an hour and $ 30 for drivers.

Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said the federal government can play a key role in alleviating the staff shortage by opening up immigration and providing more work visas to international students, who can work up to ‘to 20 hours per week while attending school.

“Employment was a challenge even before COVID, so for any business, operating seven days a week is a challenge. It’s like a blessing and a curse for some companies.

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