Why Vancouver is an iconic cruise homeport

Carmen Ortega tells Rebecca Gibson how the Canadian city is capitalising on its unique position as a cruise gateway to Alaska

Why Vancouver is an iconic cruise homeport
Vancouver's location on the Pacific Coast and its close proximity to Alaska make it an ideal homeport

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

Canadian city Vancouver has a unique selling point. Its iconic Canada Place terminal is the only homeport cruise lines can use to sail one-way or roundtrip itineraries through the scenic Inside Passage along the west coast of British Columbia to Alaska.

“Passengers can sail from Vancouver, disembark in Alaska and enjoy land tours before flying home, or vice versa,” says Carmen Ortega, manager of Trade Development at Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA). “Meanwhile, Vancouver has plenty of short and extended shore excursion options for the 70% of cruise passengers who typically stay in the city pre- or post-cruise.”

These factors are driving cruise growth in the city. In 2018, the port welcomed almost 890,000 passengers during 241 ship calls – a 7% increase from 2017 and the highest number since 2010. “Highlights of the season included the arrival of the 25-millionth cruise passenger and a call from Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Bliss, the largest cruise ship to have ever visited Canada Place,” says Ortega. “Several ships also homeported in Vancouver for the first time, including Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend and Norwegian Jewel.”

Passenger numbers are set to soar 20% to hit a record 1.1 million this year. “Viking Cruises’ Viking Orion, Azamara Club Cruises’ Azamara Quest and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Eclipse and Hurtigruten’s new Roald Amundsen will all be based in Vancouver for the first time in 2019,” says Ortega. “Meanwhile, Silversea will replace Silver Shadow with the larger Silver Muse and Cunard will return to the city for the first time in almost 20 years with Queen Elizabeth. Ponant, which usually makes a yearly transit call, will instead operate four Alaska itineraries from Vancouver. Plus, we’ll host vessels from regular homeporting lines such as Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line.”

To accommodate this increasing cruise traffic, VFPA has embarked on a multi-year, multimillion-dollar project to upgrade the infrastructure at Canada Place.

“We’ve installed new fenders and camels at all three cruise berths and we’re refurbishing the gangways so they can handle larger and more modern cruise ships that are designed slightly differently to older vessels,” says Ortega. “We’ve also redesigned the ground transportation area to improve passenger flow, reconfigured the terminal to expand passenger processing areas, and implemented a new wayfinding system.”

Feedback from passengers and cruise lines has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly regarding the new signage and wayfinding system. “Passengers must go through US Customs and Border Protection before they embark on ships cruising to Alaska and when they return to Vancouver, they must pass through Canadian Customs,” says Ortega. “The new colour-coded signage system makes it easy for passengers to navigate their way to the correct place.”

Next, VFPA will expand the taxi area and work with government agencies to develop and pilot a new biometrics solution for processing passengers. “We’re excited to welcome the cruise lines and showcase our beautiful port city and shorex offerings to their guests – we hope they’ll enjoy our record year as much as us.”

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Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson
Tuesday, May 28, 2019