By R. Bruce Striegler

Since the beginning of the cruise season in May, Port Metro ­Vancouver has seen a steady stream of passengers embark through its two terminals, Canada Place and Ballantyne. Port Metro Vancouver is home Port to Vancouver-Alaska cruises and continues to provide an outstanding cruise experience for passengers.

Carmen Ortega, Port Metro Vancouver’s Manager of Business Development, provides projections for the 2012 cruise season. “This is shaping up to be a good year for us. We’re expecting passenger volumes to reach 670,000, which represents a modest growth over last year. Although we anticipate fewer 2012 cruise ship calls, we will handle more passengers.” Contributing to the passenger growth, Princess Cruises’ Sapphire Princess, returned to home port in Vancouver, with 11 one-way cruises to Alaska.

Next season, Port Metro Vancouver will experience even more growth. The Port expects to see a significant increase in business with more than 800,000 passengers. Ortega says next year’s increase is due to the return of home-porting vessels. “We are pleased to welcome the Disney Wonder back to the port in 2013, which will carry 75,000 passengers during the season through Vancouver. We’re also excited to welcome back Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun, as well as Holland America Line’s Amsterdam.” Completing the list of ships returning to home port in Vancouver is Oceania Cruises’ Regatta. Port Metro Vancouver also looks forward to welcoming back long-established partners like Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises.

Unique itineraries and award-winning operations

Customer surveys have consistently shown that passengers enjoy their visit and experiences in Vancouver. Port Metro Vancouver offers a variety of itineraries, including the choice of round-trips or one-way trips through B.C.’s scenic Inside Passage, exclusive to the Alaska market. Passengers sailing through B.C.’s Inside Passage are treated to the full experience of the glaciers, mountains and wildlife along the West Coast. In addition, the shorter travel distance to Alaska allows guests more time to spend in Alaskan ports.

Alongside a superior product, Port operations were also proven first-rate. Cruise Insight magazine recognized Port Metro Vancouver’s home-port operations with an award in 2011 for Best Turnaround Port Operations. The awards are voted by cruise lines, with the Port candidates selected from a vast list of international cruise destinations.

Economic and environmental benefits

This season marks the Port’s third full year of the award-winning shore power installation at Canada Place. Port Metro Vancouver was the first Port in Canada and third in the world to install shore power for cruise ships. The installation allows ships to shut down their diesel engines and connect to a land-based electrical grid while docked.

Ortega explains the benefits of shore power, “Since launching in late 2009, the successful initiative has seen more than 90 vessels connect – the equivalent of taking more than 1,500 cars off the road. We will see that number further increase in 2012 and 2013.”

Shore power is an important priority for the cruise industry. “It’s a great example of how the cruise industry and Port Metro Vancouver are working together to reduce air emissions,” says Ortega. Sustainability is important to the cruise line industry, which has invested significant sums in modifying its ships to connect to the installation, each conversion costing up to $1.5 million.”

Cruise ships are a healthy contributor to the British Columbia economy, and in 2011 alone, contributed an estimated $1.3 billion to the B.C. economy and $50 million in provincial taxes, while also providing over 7,000 jobs. For every cruise ship call in Vancouver, there is $2 million worth of stimulus to the regional economy.