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Cruise ship market changing, cutting visits to Nanaimo port

Nanaimo will see far fewer big cruise liners in its harbour this year. The big ships are passing up Nanaimo so they can go full speed ahead for traditional winter routes in the Caribbean and emerging markets in Asia at the end of the Alaska cruise season.  - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Nanaimo will see far fewer big cruise liners in its harbour this year. The big ships are passing up Nanaimo so they can go full speed ahead for traditional winter routes in the Caribbean and emerging markets in Asia at the end of the Alaska cruise season.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo Port Authority is hoping 2015 will pan out better than the 2014 cruise season.

Only two cruise ship visits by large vessels are scheduled for this year.

It’s a sharp drop from the six visits by major cruise lines plus two pocket cruise vessel visits through 2013 and it is currently unknown when those visits will return to significant numbers.

“This year, confirmed, are two large vessels,” said Doug Peterson, manager of marketing and sales for Nanaimo Port Authority. “The pocket cruisers, I’m still waiting to see if they’re going to come out. I suspect they will, but they haven’t formally notified yet.”

The pocket cruisers, while welcome, only bring in about 50 passengers per visit, but the big cruise liners can disgorge hundreds of tourists and their cash into downtown Nanaimo and outlying regions.

Peterson said cruise lines have changed their itineraries and must quickly re-deploy their vessels to other emerging cruise markets at the end of the summer Alaska cruise season. Nanaimo primarily received big cruise vessels during the cruise season “shoulders” in spring and fall when the cruise ships were transferring to winter markets.

This year, Peterson said, the cruise ships are departing local waters more rapidly to meet demand in traditional and emerging winter markets.

“We’re a repositioning port, so we’re kind of one of those optional destinations,” Peterson said. “What we’re finding is that some of the lines have just decided that they need to re-deploy their vessel into their next cruise theatre as quickly as possible and unfortunately they’ve decided to eliminate these repositioning cruises and I guess that unfortunately hits us.”

Another factor that could be influencing the hastened move is new environmental regulations that require ships within Canadian waters to burn cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuel, which is more expensive than regular marine diesel, Peterson said.

Some of the ships are returning to existing seasonal routes in the Caribbean, but others are sailing directly across the Pacific Ocean to serve emerging markets in Australia and Asia.

“We’re working with our community partners to increase the visibility of Nanaimo in the cruise trade,” Peterson said. “That’s very important to try and establish ourselves to make it easy for cruisers to say, ‘Gee, what does Nanaimo have?’”

Some plans include refreshing shore excursions and coming up with new activities for passengers visiting Nanaimo, although, Peterson said, cruise ship passengers rate Nanaimo highly as a stop in surveys.

Peterson said discussions with cruise lines indicate visits numbers will likely rise again in 2015.

“We’re optimistic for ’15 and we’re working real hard with the lines to increase our visibility and see what we can do to address concerns that they have,” Peterson said.

photos@nanaimobulletin.com

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