The departure of the 1,800 passenger Celebrity Century on Sept. 23 marked the end of the 2013 Prince Rupert cruise season, a season that Prince Rupert Port Authority director of public affairs Ken Veldman calls a resounding success.
“Overall we are pretty happy with this season. We held our own compared to last year and grew the passenger numbers from 2,700 the previous year to close to 5,000 this year, 4,856 I believe is the exact number. From an operational perspective, it was extremely positive. The weather cooperated and the ground transportation system went well. Passengers got to where they wanted to go for tours, and that makes for happy passengers,” he said.
“Based on exit surveys that were conducted, we got really strong feedback. We used a five point scale and generally the feedback came back in the area of 4.5 out of five.”
While the cruise ambassador program and the downtown shuttle were welcomed by those who didn’t go on tours, Veldman said this year the excursion program was the highlight for many passengers.
“Our strength continues to be the tour product. Our tour products operated at approximately 80 per cent capacity, which is extremely strong, and the feedback was very positive,” said Veldman.
“The ship size this year really fit the tour product as well. For example, the Oceania Regatta brings in around 600 people and if we can put 400 to 500 on excursion then that works well.”
While the size of the ship worked well with the Prince Rupert market, Veldman didn’t rule out larger ships like the Century calling at Northland Terminal next year.
“I am certainly not saying we are only going to target any certain size of ship. We are actively pursuing ships of all size … if we get more large ships, it is going to be easier to handle large ships because they arrive with a greater frequency, which allows businesses and the community to make preparations,” he said, Veldman, noting plans are well underway for the 2014 season.
“As the Alaska theatre continues to bounce back, we are optimistic that our opportunities will bounce back as well. We have, I believe, 10 cruise calls confirmed for next summer, which is a great start.”
The port authority currently has a call out for new shore excursion programs to be included as on-board offerings in the 2014 season, but Veldman wanted to clarify that any entrepreneur can benefit from the cruise industry.
“There is sometimes a misunderstanding that if a someone is not formally part of the shore excursion program with the cruise line and the port, they can’t participate. The reality is these are visitors just like any other … the only difference is they arrive in one large group,” he said.
“Knowing when the ships come in and having an offering the passengers are interested in is all you need.”