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 Canada.

Victorian locals gathered to welcome Holland America’s Koningsdam and more than 1,200 passengers to the city’s cruise terminal at Ogden Point on Saturday morning.

Visitors and residents also told CTV News that the tourist season is starting to welcome after two years of applying COVID-19 related restrictions.

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

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

Businesses in Victoria’s hard-hit tourism and hospitality industries have eagerly awaited the arrival of the first of more than 350 cruise lines scheduled to visit the city between now and November. .

Alan Thilmot, manager of Victoria Pedicab Company, said: “I literally choked up a bit when I saw the train coming in.

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

Now, he is in the process of re-hiring employees.

“It will be a great summer,” he said.

The Greater Victoria Port Authority estimates large ships will bring around 780,000 visitors to the city this year. In the past, cruise ship visitors have been estimated to bring in about $140 million to the local economy.

“To see Koningsdam right by the breakwater is an amazing sight and has been a long time coming and it is just an amazing feeling,” said Ian Robertson, CEO of GVHA.

Yet to all that the ship’s arrival brings with it a sense of relief and normalcy, the specter of the pandemic remains.

All passengers and crew members on ships docked in Canada are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and the federal government has strict procedures in place for the safety of cruise lines.

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

The Koningsdam is not the first train to arrive in Victoria this year. Princess Cruises called the ship’s arrival the Princess of the Caribbean, originally scheduled for Wednesday.

The ship is currently docked in Oregon for maintenance, and the company said the decision to skip the visits to Victoria and Vancouver was made to allow more time to prepare for its extended drydock stay. ship.

The Caribbean princess is also listed as “Status Orange” on the US Centers for Disease Control website, meaning there have been enough COVID-19 cases on board to prompt an investigation.

The Koningsdam to Victoria is listed as “Green Status”, meaning there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 or similar illness on board.

“The fact that our first ship here today is green – meaning it’s all clear – is a great sign,” said BC Transport and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming said on Saturday.

“It probably won’t be on every visit, but let’s hope it does for the vast majority of them.”

With files from Anna McMillan of CTV Vancouver Island

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