Members of the Prince Rupert Cruise Task Force were guests of the Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, and spoke of the importance of the coming cruise season.
The first cruise ship of the season will arrive on May 4 as Holland America returns to Prince Rupert for the first time in five years. Holland America is part of a much larger cruise company, Carnival Corporation, and panel member Andrew Hamilton of the Prince Rupert Port Authority said that makes the May 4 visit that much more important.
“This is a significant opportunity to not only secure Holland America, but also Princess Cruise and other Carnival Corp. lines,” he said, noting that increased fuel prices and Seattle’s emergence as a launching point for the Alaskan cruise theatre bode well for Prince Rupert’s cruise future.
But, said panelist John Farrell, it is going to take a community effort to make Prince Rupert the Canadian cruise port of choice along the west coast. Last year the task force undertook a program aimed at the passengers who don’t take shore excursion tours, a program that included buskers, carvers, an enhanced ambassador program and projects like a touch tank and a children’s fishing derby to keep passengers busy.
“Did it work? Yes it did. Cruise line CEOs are very intrigued that we were the only stop on the Alaska cruise theatre that had that level of community involvement,” he said, while another panel member stressed the importance of having the business community on board as well.
“Businesses need to be part of this program. Prince Rupert needs to prove to the cruise line CEOs that this collaborative effort is worth investing in,” said Jason Scherr, president of the Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce.
Passengers ranked Prince Rupert higher than other BC ports of call in terms of food and beverage, and spent more on excursions in Prince Rupert than at other BC ports. However, Farrell noted that the group is working on identifying potential new excursions as business opportunities for people in the community.
“The CEOs said ‘great, you have the community involvement, now beef up your excursions’. The 12 that we have are great experiences, but we’re looking to incubate more business as part of the excursion opportunities in Prince Rupert,” he said, with panelist Derek Baker adding that a lot of what is developed for cruise benefits residents.
“If you look at the amount of energy that went into Cow Bay and the waterfront area, a lot of the improvements were done using cruise as a catalyst. Now we enjoy those improvements, so this is not just for cruise,” said the Economic Development Officer.
This year there are four cruise ships stopping in Prince Rupert, while in the Alaska cruise theatre there are 26 ships making 460 sailings and carrying approximately 900,000 passengers.