The cruise industry returns to Canada as the first ship docks in Victoria, BC

The first cruise ship to arrive in Canada since the beginning of the year COVID-19 Pandemic moored in Victoria, BC on Saturday.

Carrying about 1,200 passengers – less than half her capacity – Holland America’s Koningsdam arrived in the provincial capital, marking the return of one of British Columbia’s most important tourism drivers.

The return of the cruise industry comes as some experts are warning of a sixth wave of the pandemic amid rising hospital admissions and the spread of the new sub-variant Omicron BA.2.

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Canada’s new cruise rules require all passengers to be vaccinated and tested, and Cruisers Global News spoke to Saturday and said they felt those rules, along with the cruise line’s own precautions, were appropriate.

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“It was extremely safe. All the preparations that were constantly going on on the ship for cleanliness, safety, everything. When wearing masks, there was hand sanitizer around every corner. I wasn’t worried,” said passenger Brenda Gundersen.

Gundersen and Dale Short, both from Edmonton, said they booked the trip last fall and sometimes wondered if the trip would even go ahead.

“COVID hasn’t stood still – it’s worrying, it’s less worrying – so we’ve wondered about our ups and downs,” Short said.

“Some of the insurance benefits offered, refunds, etc. gave you some comfort that you wouldn’t necessarily be left out of the water if something did happen.”


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Environmental group sparks debate over economic impact of BC cruise industry in Victoria


Environmental group sparks debate over economic impact of BC cruise industry in Victoria

Sandy Boeshart, of Kansas City, Missouri, said the cruise was her first trip since 2019.

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“I think they are (safe),” she said.

“I have kids who disagree with me and they think I’m crazy for doing this, but I do. I don’t know if I would feel the same if they were full.”

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Environmental group sparks debate over economic impact of BC cruise industry in Victoria

Holland America President Gustavo Antorcha told Global News the cruise line has implemented a variety of safety protocols, including weekly testing and mandatory masks for staff, hand sanitizer and improved air filtration.

He said the company is confident these measures are enough to ensure safe travel.

“There are layers of protection so the communities we visit can be assured that we have taken every precaution to ensure the safety of guests, our crews and the communities we visit are safe,” he said.

“It’s not zero risk, but nothing in life is now. But we have taken every precaution and worked with local and federal officials to ensure we are confident.”


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The first cruise ship of the year abruptly cancels stops in Victoria and Vancouver


The first cruise ship of the year abruptly cancels stops in Victoria and Vancouver

Saturday’s arrival was also welcomed by business and government leaders, who described the event as a much-needed boost for the province’s struggling tourism economy.

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“It’s really a great thing to see all this robust activity here again. The Koningsdam’s berth is a fantastic sign that we’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Transport Minister Rob Fleming said at a media event marking the occasion.

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“Normal isn’t a word we can use yet,” added Bruce Williams, President of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

“But when we see things picking up, in the sense that we can gather together now as we are and see things like this ship coming back, it means we’re actually on the path of the recovery and getting us back on the path we were on before, so it’s such a great feeling of pride.”

The Koningsdam is the first cruise ship to dock in the city in 905 days.

The Victoria Cruise Industry Alliance estimates that cruises contribute approximately US$130 million to the city’s economy annually. Provincially, the industry is estimated to be worth nearly $1.8 billion to the economy.

The Greater Victoria Harbor Authority expects more than 350 ships to call this season, carrying about 780,000 passengers, up from the 709,000 that came through in 2019.


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Cruise season returns to BC


Cruise season returns to BC

The Koningsdam shouldn’t be the first cruise to land in BC waters this year.

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Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess was scheduled to dock in Victoria on April 6 and Vancouver on April 7, but canceled arrivals at the last minute.

The company said the move should give additional time for a planned dry dock on April 7.

However, the cruise had also made it onto the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “orange” status list, meaning 0.3 percent or more of passengers tested positive for COVID-19, prompting an investigation.

From Saturday, 44 out of 102 cruise ships tracked by the US CDC were listed as “orange”.

The Koningsdam remains listed as ‘green’, meaning no cases of COVID-19 or COVID-19-like diseases have been reported.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/8749049/first-cruise-canada-covid/ The cruise industry returns to Canada as the first ship docks in Victoria, BC

Brian Lowry

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