Canada’s cruise season begins after a 2-year hiatus

For the first time in more than two years, a large cruise ship has docked in Canadian waters.

Residents of Victoria gathered to welcome Holland America’s Koningsdam and its more than 1,200 passengers to the city’s cruise ship dock at Ogden Point on Saturday morning.

Visitors and residents told CTV News the launch of the cruise season was a welcome one after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.

“To me, this just represents a real return to something normal and positive,” said Nancy Schrader, a resident of Victoria’s James Bay neighborhood who celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary aboard the Koningsdam there. three years.

“It’s absolute proof of renewal to see this here,” added her husband James Gannon.

Businesses in Victoria’s hard-hit tourism and hospitality sectors have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first of more than 350 cruise ships due to visit the city by November.

“I actually got a little choked up seeing the ship coming,” said Alan Thilmot, director of Victoria Pedicab Company.

Over the past two years, due to a lack of tourists caused by the pandemic, Thilmot’s business has shrunk from 28 bike taxis on the road to just three.

Now he is rehiring staff.

“It’s going to be a great summer,” he said.

The Greater Victoria Ports Authority estimates the large ships will bring around 780,000 visitors to the city this year. In the past, cruise ship visitors were estimated to contribute around $140 million to the local economy.

“Seeing the Koningsdam right next to the breakwater was a magnificent sight and it took a long time to come and it was just a fantastic feeling,” said GVHA CEO Ian Robertson.

Despite all that the ship’s arrival brought a sense of relief and normalcy, the specter of the pandemic remained.

All passengers and crew on ships docking in Canada must be vaccinated against COVID-19, and the federal government has strict security protocols in place for cruise passengers.

Canada is also in the midst of a resurgence of coronavirus transmission, fueled by a combination of relaxed public health orders and the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

The Koningsdam was not supposed to be the first ship to arrive in Victoria this year. Princess Cruises has canceled the arrival of its ship the Caribbean Princess, originally scheduled for Wednesday.

The ship is currently in drydock in Oregon for maintenance, and the company said the decision not to visit Victoria and Vancouver was made to allow more time to prepare for the ship’s extended stay in drydock.

The Caribbean princess was also listed as ‘orange status’ on the United States Centers for Disease Control websitemeaning there were enough cases of COVID-19 on board to trigger an investigation.

The Koningsdam arrived in Victoria with “Green Status”, meaning there were no reports of COVID-19 or similar illness on board.

“The fact that our first ship here today is code green – which means everything is clear for covid – is a good sign,” the British Columbia Minister of Transport and Infrastructure said on Saturday. , Rob Fleming.

“It probably won’t be like this every visit, but hopefully it will be like this for the vast majority of them.”

With files from Anna McMillan of CTV Vancouver Island