The cruise industry and the Port of Vancouver closed a record season with the final cruise ship call of the year in the port. It marked the first year without pandemic-related restrictions and with the continuing popularity of Alaska as a destination saw the industry return to pre-pandemic growth levels.
The season began on April 12 with the arrival of Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess and concluded with a total of 332 ship visits. The last cruise ship of the season was Holland America Line’s Koningsdam. Port officials during a farewell ceremony today reported that Holland America’s five cruise ships represented a quarter of the total number of passengers visiting Vancouver. When the final number is calculated, the Port of Vancouver estimates it will be a record 1.25 million passengers.
“Cruise returned to Vancouver emphatically this year after several seasons impacted by the global pandemic,” highlighted Peter Xotta, vice president of operations and supply chain at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the federal agency mandated to operate the Port of Vancouver.
The record passenger total represents a 54 percent increase compared to 2022. The port was closed to cruise ships in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic-related restrictions on travel. Signaling the overall return to growth for the Alaska market, Vancouver also reported that this year’s passenger total is an increase of more than 13 percent over the record set in 2019 of 1.1 million passengers.
In a positive sign for the cruise industry, the ships were busy with the port reporting an average occupancy rate of 95 percent for the 2023 season, which compared with an average of just 69 percent occupancy in 2022. Occupancy peaked at 96 percent occupancy during the summer months, which compared favorably with the industry’s pre-pandemic average of between 93 and 99 percent occupancy. They reported an average 98 percent occupancy in 2019, but the port had 15 percent fewer cruise ship calls or a total of 288 in 2019.
Looking forward to the 2024 season, Xotta said indications from the cruise lines based on preliminary bookings are for a similar number of cruise ships calling at the port of Vancouver.
The Port of Vancouver highlights that the 2023 season also included 15 of the 20 busiest days ever for cruise passengers at the Canada Place cruise terminal. The 332 cruise ship calls between April and October 2023, set a new record for the Canada Place cruise terminal, and an increase of nine percent compared to 307 visits in 2022.
While the number of cruise ship visits continues to increase, port officials also highlighted that the emissions from ships are declining. This year nearly 75 percent of the cruise calls used shore power, up from 70 percent last year. and 50 percent in 2019. The Port of Vancouver in 2009 became the first port in Canada, and the third in the world, to introduce shore power for cruise ships.
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