Vancouver’s largest cruise season in eight years to start April 10

The 2018 season is expected to include a visit from a 4,000-passenger ship – the largest that the city has ever seen

Vancouver's 2018 cruise season is expected to welcome more people than any year since 2010 | Vancouver Fraser Port Authority

Vancouver’s 2018 cruise season is set to launch April 10, and welcome what Vancouver Fraser Port Authority executives expect to be 895,000 passengers, or 7% more visitors than last year.

Those passengers will be on an anticipated 241 ship visits, with each of those visits expected to stimulate the local economy by about $3 million, according to the port authority.

Vancouver’s cruise industry has been growing in recent years with 2018’s estimated passenger count being larger than any year since 2009, when there were 898,473 passengers.

The sector hit a high of 1,125,252 passengers in 2002, when Vancouver was the dominant port for cruise ships in the region. Seattle, back then, welcomed 244,905 passengers.

Since 2002, the size of Seattle’s cruise sector has soared to surpass Vancouver and cruise ships carried more than one million people to Seattle last year.

Despite stiff competition from Seattle and the setback of cruise lines operating ever-larger ships, some of which are too tall to pass under the Lions Gate Bridge, the Port of Vancouver is expected this year to welcome its largest cruise ship to date – the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss.

Other ships in the market can carry around 6,000 passengers.

“We always look forward to the start of the cruise season and are thrilled this year to welcome even more visitors to our cruise terminal at Canada Place,” said Robin Silvester, president and CEO of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, in a release.

Vancouver’s 2018 cruise season will see several new vessels visit the city, including Windstar Cruises’ Star Legend luxury cruise ship and the Norwegian Jewel, which will replace the Norwegian Sun on the Vancouver route. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Sun recently made headlines for the wrong reason. It conducted a cruise between Miami and Los Angeles while construction workers revamped several of the ship’s decks and toxic fumes wafted through corridors. Passengers were first offered a 25% discount on a future cruise as compensation, but that was later upped to be a 100% discount on a future cruise to be taken by March 2023.

Business in Vancouver reported last July that the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority has hired a consultant to produce a report outlining options for what to do if the allowable clearance under the Lions Gate Bridge starts to significantly hurt Vancouver’s cruise ship business.

Options include raising the bridge and building a new cruise ship terminal elsewhere in Metro Vancouver – both of which would be expensive.

It is unclear when that report will be made public.

(Note, this article has been updated. It originally incorrectly said that the Vancouver cruise sector's record number of passengers was 1,060,383 in 2002. In fact, 1,060,383 passengers visited Vancouver on cruise ships in 2001. The record number of passengers in 2002 was 1,125,252.)