This year is expected to set another cruise traffic record for Victoria, the fifth in a row, according to Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. He told Cruise Industry News that the port has booked 265 calls for 2019, up from 250 calls last year, and is forecasting just over 700,000 passengers, up from 640,000 last year.
“Looking back,” Robertson said, “the Norwegian Bliss was last year’s highlight for us. For the first time, we had a brand-new ship making her inaugural Alaska run and calling in Victoria. She generated a lot of excitement here for the public and for our shore excursion providers. We had been working more than a year preparing for her arrival, making modifications to one of the piers and investing almost a million dollars in new bollards.
“For this coming season, we will continue to see the trend of larger ships with the arrival of the Ovation of the Seas, and the Norwegian Joy, which will replace the Pearl, and sail alongside the Bliss.”
In other news, Cunard is returning to Victoria with the Queen Elizabeth, and Azamara will be calling for the very first time.
With the continued growth, Robertson said: “We are very mindful of how many visitors we have on any one day. We have several Saturdays with three ships at the same time, but the larger ships are only adding about another 1,000 passengers, so we are able to manage that not just from a port perspective but also the destination.”
As an example, he said that 4,800 passengers on the Bliss were cleared and on their way in 45 minutes.
Looking ahead, Robertson said he sees continued growth in Alaska and has what he calls a “fourth berth strategy.” However, the fourth berth will not be at Ogden point, but somewhere else on the southern side of the island to disperse the passengers
The long-term strategy also calls for becoming a homeport for a small cruise ship. Robertson would not commit to a timeline, but said the port authority was working with U.S. authorities to gain pre-clearance.
“Based on conversations we have had with cruise lines, they see viability in a small ship homeporting in Victoria,” he added.
The port authority has also been working to upgrade the fleet of buses that takes passengers downtown and on shore excursions.
Instituting a minimum age requirement for buses in 2015, the average age has since dropped from 29 to 10 years.
An electric bus trial, however, has not worked out as well as hoped, with two double-decker buses spending more time off the road than on. Citing new technology, Robertson said he was hopeful that the buses will be operational this season and is committed to having a 100 percent electric fleet of shuttle buses between the port and downtown by 2022.
Robertson attributed the success of the port to all the stakeholders working together – the port authority, stevedores, shipping agents, transportation companies, environmental waste management and the destination.
“Cruise lines want to see that there is collaboration and partnership across all providers in the port and the destination,” he added.