A cold February day drives home the silence of Ogden Point, with not a cruise ship in sight.
But in less than six weeks, it’ll be transformed.
That’s because the first port of call for a cruise ship is the Caribbean Princess, scheduled to dock at 9 a.m. on April 6.
Brian Cant with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority said it’s the first note of optimism for the industry since the start of the pandemic.
“We’re excited for the first ship to come to Canada in two years,” Cant said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming the passengers to Victoria.”
In 2020, Canada closed its borders to all traffic, including cruise ships.
Late last year, the federal transport minister lifted the ban.
But now, in case Canada closes its borders again, Alaskan politicians want to extend the waiver of a law requiring Alaska-bound cruise ships to stop in Canada.
Barry Penner, legal advisor to Cruise Lines International Association, said the industry is worth $2.6 billion in economic activity and 17,000 jobs in B.C.
“The cruise line’s goal is to have a successful return to cruise this year,” Penner said.
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It’s just another cloud of uncertainty for Government Street vendors who’ve waited for two and a half years for the return of the cruise ships, according to Brock Eurchuk, owner of Pacific Ports Mercantile.
“It’s not just icing on the cake. It’s not a little bit of extra income. It represents half of my revenues,” Eurchuk said. “So it is critical to the survival of a large number of merchants on lower Government Street.”
For the businesses that rely on the cruise industry the focus is on the return of cruise ships in a few weeks, according to Anna Poustie, Chair of the Victoria Cruise Industry Alliance.
“It’s definitely something that sort of a bit of a cloud, but we’re keeping our focus on preparing for the return of cruise. That’s our priority,” Poustie said. “I’m very confident in our members ability to welcome cruise back and I think as soon as we see a ship sail into port a lot of these concerns will wash away.”
And B.C.’s Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said the cruise ship industry is critical to economies, on both sides of the border.
“I think Alaska and the cruise ship industry, which is international using both Canadian and American coastal waters, for the Alaska cruise product, understands better than ever how important ports like Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince Rupert are to Alaska’s economic interests,” Fleming said.
For now, all eyes are waiting for April 6, with the arrival of the first cruise ship in Victoria in two and a half years.