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Second largest Vancouver cruise season set to start March 29

Port officials expect about 1,077,000 passengers to be on 290 cruise-ship voyages
If the cruise season goes as planned, it will be the first time since 2002 that Vancouver has had a cruise season with a record number of passengers |Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

What happened: When the Emerald Princess docks in Vancouver on March 29, the ship will launch what port officials expect will be the second largest cruise season in the city’s history.

Why it matters: Each cruise ship that visits Vancouver stimulates about $3 million in spending in the local economy, say port officials. The sector is said to generate nearly 7,000 jobs across Canada, $300 million in wages, and an $840 million bump to national GDP.

Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) officials are projecting that about 1,077,000 people will be passengers on 290 cruise-ship voyages that dock in Vancouver in 2019 – that is the second highest number of passengers ever to visit Vancouver in a season. The record, in 2002, was 1,125,252 passengers.

This accomplishment comes despite increased competition from Seattle and Victoria, as Business in Vancouver documented earlier this year.

The number of passengers this year is an 18% jump from the approximately 895,000 passengers who visited the city on 241 cruise-ship visits last year. 2018 was the largest cruise season in the city since 2010.

The expectation is that 41 different ships from 24 cruise lines will visit Vancouver’s three-berth Canada Place cruise terminal and that the range of options for passengers will include everything from luxury to expedition-style ships that are designed to carry small groups of passengers.

“We’ve re-designed the ground transportation area to improve passenger flow, reconfigured the terminal to expand passenger processing areas, and made a number of upgrades to all three ship berths,” said VFPA’s manager of trade development, Carmen Ortega.

The first ship of the season, the Emerald Princess, is expected to arrive on the east side of Canada Place at 7 a.m. March 29. The last cruise ship of the season, the Star Princess, is set to leave Vancouver on November 1.

Vancouver's long climb back to a near-record number of cruise passengers has been helped of late by a boom in the cruise sector that shows no sign of slowing. This is despite some high profile incidents, such as Viking Ocean Cruises' Viking Sky ship's harrowing journey last week, where hundreds of passengers had to be lifted off the ship in the middle of a storm by helicopter, after the ship's sensors detected a fuel shortage and shut off engines, leaving the vessel to toss around in rough waters. 

The cruise industry is projected to grow throughout 2019, with an estimated 30 million travelers expected to be on board ships, according to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade organization. That is up about 6% from the 28.2 million cruise passengers worldwide in 2018.

In 2019, 18 new ships are on order worldwide from cruise lines that are part of CLIA. A total of 272 CLIA-member cruise ships are projected to be in operation by June.

Cruise lines expected to dock in Vancouver this year include Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Disney Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International, Seabourn, Silversea Cruises, and Windstar. These cruise lines all have ships that use the Port of Vancouver as a home port to begin and end each cruise.

(Note, this article has been updated. It originally incorrectly said that the Vancouver cruise sector's record number of passengers was 1,060,383 in 2002. In fact, 1,060,383 passengers visited Vancouver on cruise ships in 2001. The record number of passengers in 2002 was 1,125,252.) 

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