The Port of Vancouver has reported fantastic mid-season cruise numbers up from 2022, with a pace aiming for a record overall season. This is helping the port return to pre-pandemic levels and helping the local economy recover, in combination with other port operations.
Strong Cruise Season in Vancouver
The Port of Vancouver is likely to break records for the cruise season. Compared to the same time period in 2022, passenger numbers are up 82%, a strong post-pandemic recovery without ongoing restrictions or other difficulties that were inherent in the initial restart.
From April 1 through June 30, 2023, nearly 500,000 cruise passengers passed through the Canada Place cruise terminal at the Port of Vancouver, from a total of 134 ship visits during the first half of the Alaska sailing season.
“We saw average cruise ship occupancy rates reach 96% in June for the first time since 2019—marking a full return to pre-pandemic passenger levels and helping the local cruise sector continue on its way towards a record year in terms of passengers and cruise ship visits,” said Victor Pang, CFO and interim president and CEO at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority.
“The strength of the Vancouver cruise sector’s comeback after the pandemic is benefitting the local economy, and in particular tourism and hospitality businesses throughout the region.” Pack cites the cruise travel sector as one of those rebounding strongly.
Many popular cruise lines use the Canada Place terminal, including Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Cunard Line, Oceania Cruises, and Disney Cruise Line. Smaller regional and expedition lines such as American Queen Voyages, Hurtigruten, and Lindblad Expeditions also use the cruise port.
The Alaska cruise season extends from April through October, with the summer months the most popular for voyages from Vancouver. Autumn sailings that also specialize in fall foliage views are also popular options for many travelers.
The first cruise ship of the season – Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess – arrived at the Port of Vancouver on April 12, 2023, officially opening the season. The final ship – Holland America Line’s Koningsdam – will close the season when it departs on October 24, 2023.
Port of Vancouver and the Canadian Economy
The Port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada, serving both cargo and cruise industries. The diversity handled through the port contributes 115,300 jobs, $7 billion in wages, and $11.9 billion total economic impact to Canada.
In addition to direct contributions of the port – fees from berthed vessels and transiting passengers – cruise guests also contribute with pre- and post-cruise stays in the region, with hotels and other accommodations, retail purchases, restaurant visits, rental cars or other transportation, and more.
In addition to growth in the cruise sector for 2023, different aspects of the cargo sector are also showing growth at the Port of Vancouver. Overall cargo volumes have increased by 11% in the first half of the year compared to the same time frame of 2022, despite a “softening” economy. Grain and automotive sectors, in particular, showed increases.
It should be noted, however, that labor disputes in July 2023 are not reflected in the mid-year numbers, that only correlate data from January through June. The labor disputes did not have a significant impact on cruises at the Port of Vancouver.