Forget cruise control—it’s full speed ahead for Greater Victoria’s cruise industry.
The first cruise ship to dock in Victoria since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic arrived Saturday, ushering in thousands of passengers who were met with environmental protesters.
The Holland America Koningsdam sailed in around 10 a.m. with 1,200 passengers on board, becoming the first ship to be called to a Canadian port since October 2019.
That’s a few days later than expected, after Princess Cruises cancelled plans to dock the Caribbean Princess in BC’s capital last Wednesday due to scheduling changes and amid COVID-19 cases onboard.
The delay pushed the time passed since the return of a cruise ship to Canada to 905 days, according to the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA).
“The safe resumption of cruise in Victoria, and in Canada, is the culmination of two years of hard work, advocacy, and planning. I am incredibly thankful to our partners and community for their support,” said GVHA CEO Ian Robertson.
In July 2021, Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that cruise ships would be allowed to return to Canadian ports, effective November 1st, 2021.
But some would prefer these ships don’t return at all. Last week, Extinction Rebellion Victoria said its members would be protesting Koningsdam’s arrival.
“Our goal is to set up an information picket, using banners to momentarily stop vehicles leaving the parking area at the Ogden Point facility so we can distribute flyers summarizing the climate and environmental damage caused by cruise ships to visitors and tourist operators,” the group said leading up to Saturday.
According to Extinction Rebellion, cruise ships leave a trail of greenhouse gasses, air pollution, toxic discharge, and garbage—and are also responsible for 90% of the gray water dumped in BC waters.
Holland America’s parent company Carnival Cruises describes gray water as wastewater drained from cabin sinks and showers, galleys, salons, and laundry facilities.
“We always discharge the water in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” reads Carnival’s 2022 Sustainability Report.
The report also notes that the company has set and surpassed greenhouse gas emissions intensity goals and looks to reduce carbon emissions across its fleet by 40% by 2030.
GVHA communications director Brian Cant says locals are welcome to express their opinions on cruise ships.
“While we take all concerns seriously, we must ensure that when we engage with people there is an understanding of respect and civil discourse,” Cant told Victoria Buzz.
“We continue to work with stakeholders, community, and partners on the viability and sustainability of cruise in a positive and constructive manner.”
According to Cant, an Insights West study finds nearly 80% of Victorians welcome the industry’s return, while 58% “strongly agree” that cruise ships benefit the region.
Mayor Lisa Helps says Victorians are looking forward to the visitor economy picking up after the slowdown from COVID-19.
“In the two years since cruise passengers last landed, we’ve made significant improvements in the downtown for locals and visitors alike, and we look forward to welcoming passengers this summer…” said Helps.
The return of cruise ships in Victoria will see 364 ship calls until early November and an anticipated 780,000 passengers, the GVHA adds.
All passengers and crew must be fully vaccinated to board ships entering Canada—a regulation and requirement put in place by Transport Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The next cruise ship set to arrive in Victoria is the Viking Orion. It sails in on Saturday, April 16th.