Another successful Alaska cruise season is coming to an end in Vancouver, while ships offering itineraries from California to Hawaii will continue to call on Canada Place through to December. Overall, the 2015 season is shaping up to be another strong year, with more than 800,000 passengers on 228 calls by 32 different vessels, a 22 per cent increase in passengers since 2012. “This reflects the commitment we’ve made to the cruise business and the very strong working relationship we have with industry partners,” says Peter Xotta, Vice President of Planning and Operations at Port Metro Vancouver.

The season got off to an exciting start with the March 22 launch of Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess, offering a new and increasingly popular itinerary of back-to-back sailings between Vancouver and Hawaii. These new itineraries through Canada’s largest cruise homeport provide passengers with compelling new cruise options, while also extending the use of Vancouver’s cruise facilities in to the shoulder season.

Ships visiting Vancouver this season continued to connect to shore power, with 96 calls by 11 vessels made during the 2015 season. Shore power allows vessels docked at Canada Place to shut down their engines and connect to BC Hydro’s electrical grid. With three connection points available at Canada Place, shore power has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11,000 tonnes since its inception.

As a leader in port sustainability, Port Metro Vancouver is working with industry stakeholders to reduce air emissions through a variety of environmental programs. The EcoAction program encourages the use of shore power and other emissions-reducing technologies and practices by offering financial incentives to marine vessels that have implemented reduction measures. Marine carriers with the highest participation rates in the program are recognized through EcoAction’s annual Blue Circle Awards. Cruise lines participating in the program include Celebrity Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess Cruises. [See sidebar for complete list of winners.]

During the 2015 season, a series of new features at Canada Place enhanced the services offered to cruise lines and their guests. These included the installation of two new escalators and an elevator, adding more check-in space at the Vancouver Convention Centre, and the revision of the entire passenger check-in experience. These improvements, identified through a collaborative, multi-year process involving representatives of Port Metro Vancouver and the cruise industry, were selected to improve passenger flows and maximize the efficiency and capacity of the terminal.

An exciting new technology was also introduced at Canada Place in May. Ten automatic BORDERXPRESSTM passport kiosks were installed, making Canada Place the first cruise terminal worldwide to use automated passport control technology for U.S.-bound passengers. These kiosks, supplied by the Vancouver Airport Authority, allow U.S. Customs officers to process four times more passengers than traditional clearance methods. As a result, wait times are now shorter and passengers enjoy faster customs processing times prior to embarking on U.S.-destined cruises.

With the designated capital infrastructure improvements now operational, Xotta says passengers and cruise lines are already benefitting from improved customer service and efficiencies. “We’re capturing data from the cruise lines as well as data on a day-to-day and ship-to-ship basis, and we’ll review that with them at the end of the season. At this point, it looks like the improvements are working and delivering many of the benefits we anticipated, and we are monitoring and reviewing data to identify other opportunities.”

In March, Port Metro Vancouver was recognized at the Seatrade Cruise Global Conference in Miami. The Port received awards for Best Turnaround Destination, Most Efficient Port Facilities and Most Efficient Terminal Operation. While capacity and efficiency are clear benefits of the innovations and capital investments made to cruise facilities at Port Metro Vancouver, the passengers are the other beneficiaries, enjoying increasingly efficient and streamlined embarkation and disembarkation processes. “It’s not new for us to identify opportunities to improve, implement them, and then for those improvements to be recognized,” says Xotta. “It’s really just about offering passengers the best possible experience and serving our customers well.”