Canada’s cruise advantages, by Darryl Anderson Managing Director, Wave Point Consulting

By BCShippingNews
March 31 2016
Canada’s cruise advantages
Lower Canadian dollar, international passenger sourcing influencing Canada's cruise industry...

Canadian ports receive nearly two million passengers per year. The country has a variety of cruise regions including the Pacific Coast/Alaska, Atlantic Canada, Saint Lawrence Seaway, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Within each theatre, cruise lines offer distinct itineraries with their respective homeports and ports of call. While there are indeed regional differences, there are two significant influences currently shaping Canada’s cruise industry: international passenger sourcing and the value of the Canadian dollar. In addition to evaluating the impact of these influences, this article further looks at a trend being seen in other parts of the world and whether the same applies for Canadian destinations — namely that, as vessels become increasingly larger and with more amenities and activities, the ship itself has become the destination.

Pacific Coast / Alaska 

The cruise industry in Alaska and the Pacific Coast operates in a mature market. From 1992 to 2014, Alaska cruise passenger visits have increased five-fold, from about 200,000 to almost one million. In 2000, for example, the Alaskan market was the third largest cruise destination worldwide, trailing only the Caribbean and the Mediterranean regions in popularity. Today, Alaska accounts for only 4.1 per cent of cruise deployment however, given the global expansion and increased popularity of cruise, the actual number of passengers and sailings within this region continue to climb. Simply put, the pie has become much larger due to new destinations, new ships and itineraries, and increased passenger sourcing. 

Cruises to Alaska are primarily seven- or 10-day sailings following two major itineraries: Round-trip cruises originating from Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco; and one-way cruises that sail from Vancouver or an Alaska port, usually Seward or Whittier. The round-trip cruises operate on voyages with a well-developed network of cruise ports-of-call within Alaska. Those home-ported in the U.S. must include a B.C. port of call to satisfy requirements of the Jones Act — primarily Victoria, but also Prince Rupert, Nanaimo, Vancouver, and Port Alberni.

With repositioning cruises — between B.C. and the likes of California, Hawaii, Asia or the Panama Canal — B.C.’s cruise season can start as early as April and last through to October. More recently, cruise lines have been expanding their itineraries by offering a Vancouver-to-Hawaii sailing and as a result, Port Metro Vancouver’s cruise season was extended until December last year.

The Alaska cruise theatre attracts contemporary, premium and luxury cruise brands including a very small number of the expedition or soft adventure cruise companies. The average vessel transiting the West Coast carries about 2,200 passengers — and ranges in size from 700 to almost 1,000 feet (the length of two to three football fields).

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