First cruise ship in two years arrives in Victoria following pandemic pause

Linda Angelo
The Victoria Harbour Ferry's welcomed the Koningsdam cruise ship as it arrives in Victoria.

After a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first cruise ship has arrived in Victoria.

Holland America’s Koningsdam ship arrived shortly after 10 a.m. at Ogden Point with 1,200 passengers on board.

This was the first cruise ship to dock in Canada after two years, and it was the ship’s first trip ever to Victoria.

“I stood out on our pier today beside my colleagues as we welcomed the first ship back to Victoria since October 2019, it was an emotional moment,” said Anna Pousty with the Victoria Cruise Industry Alliance.

The Koningsdam was originally supposed to be the second ship to arrive, but the Caribbean Princess from Princess Cruises cancelled its scheduled trip due to maintenance.

Victoria is anticipating 364 ship calls from now until early November and an anticipated 780,000 passengers although the harbour authority admits things are constantly changing.

“We see ships being cancelled and added every day and even will continue to see that through the season. It’s not uncommon during the early part of the season we’ll see those ships adjust, we’ll see ships being added, ships being cancelled, from what we can see it’s going to be a strong year for the return to cruise in Victoria,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

Earlier this week, the Koningsdam was listed on the U.S. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s website that tracks COVID cases on cruise ships at an orange level, but that has since been downgraded to a green level.

A green level means there are no confirmed COVID cases on board a ship, and an orange level means at least 0.3 per cent of people on board a ship have tested positive.

A spokesperson for the CDC told CHEK News in an email statement that a ship’s colour status is determined based on the past seven days.

“A cruise ship’s color status is determined using surveillance data submitted daily from the previous 7 days (regardless of voyage dates) and CDC investigation findings,” the statement says.

“If a cruise ship participating in CDC’s COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships is designated as ‘orange’ status on CDC’s Cruise Ship Status Dashboard, it means that the ship has reported cases of COVID-19 that have met CDC’s threshold for investigation. CDC notifies the cruise ship of the color status and reminds the cruise ship of CDC’s guidance on preventive measures.”

The statement said the investigation threshold was developed to reflect the desire for transparency about COVID cases onboard cruise ships, as well as to reflect the fact that cruises are not a zero-risk activity.

“This investigation threshold gives CDC and the cruise industry the ability to work closely together to protect the health and safety of those on board and in communities,” the statement says. “CDC’s objectives for establishing the threshold included reducing ongoing COVID-19 transmission between voyages and ensuring medical resources on board are not overwhelmed.”

Holland America issued a statement to CHEK News saying all their ships follow CDC standards, as well as any requirements from Canadian ports, including requiring all guests and crew to be vaccinated, testing guests before sailing, and requiring crews to wear KN95 masks at all times.

“By operating our cruises with protocols that are based on the latest advice and guidance from our global experts, we have seen a very low rate of cases among our guests, and in almost all of those instances, cases with mild or no symptoms,” the statement from Holland America says. “We remain committed to adjust to evolving circumstances while protecting the safety of our guests, team members and the communities we visit.”

However, not everyone is excited to see the cruise ships return.

Extinction Rebellion is protesting the cruise ships arrival in Victoria, hoping to raise awareness of the environmental harms of the cruise industry, including how ships dispose of waste water, the amount of garbage produced on ships, and the fuel type.

Holland America’s 2022 Sustainability Report says waste water on their ships is separated into three categories: grey water, black water and bilge water.

Grey water is the water that comes from sinks, showers and laundry facilities.

“It represents the largest volume of wastewater our ships generate, and we may or may not treat the water prior to discharge, depending on ship capabilities,” the report says. “In 2020 we discharged approximately 0.65 million metric tons of untreated gray water, which accounted for 51 percent of all wastewater discharged to sea.”

Black water is the water that comes from toilets and medical facility sinks.

“They use primary filtration, bio digestion, ultrafiltration and ultraviolet light technology to produce a discharge — called permeate — superior in quality to effluent most municipal wastewater treatment plants discharge in most communities,” the report says. “In 2020 we discharged more than 0.58 million metric tons of permeate, which accounted for 47 percent of our wastewater discharges to sea.”

And bilge water is water from the lower parts of the ship that contains oils released from equipment in engine compartments.

“To treat bilge water, we use a cascade treatment system which circulates and recirculates fluid through increasingly efficient oil-water separators until the oil content reduces to below 15 parts per million,” the report says. “In 2020 we discharged approximately 15,000 metric tons of treated bilge water, which accounted for less than one percent of all wastewater our fleet discharged.”

The report says the company is aiming to reduce the amount of single-use plastics and garbage used and created on the ships, and the company aims to reduce its “carbon intensity” by 40 per cent by 2040.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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