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Vancouver slips from being most popular luxury-cruise destination

Strike at Port of Vancouver has yet to impact the sector.
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A swimming pool on the deck of the Cunard line's Queen Elizabeth cruise ship is visible while the ship is docked at Canada Place

Vancouver has slipped to be the No. 2 luxury-cruise departure port after a couple months in the top spot worldwide, according to online cruise-seller CruiseCompete.com.

Miami passed Vancouver to be the most popular luxury-cruise departure port, the website reported today, based on customer quote requests and actual bookings in the past month. 

Vancouver also ranked No. 7 worldwide for being a premium-cruise departure port, according to CruiseCompete.com. Definitions vary slightly in the industry but luxury cruises tend to be on ships that hold about 500 people, while premium cruises are often on ships that hold several thousand people.

By definition that also means that many more quotes and bookings on premium ships than luxury ones.

One thing that may have helped Vancouver's rank as a luxury port is that the most popular luxury cruise ship in the world is Cunard's Queen Elizabeth vessel, according to CruiseCompete.com, and that ship is scheduled is to depart Vancouver eight times this year. The luxury Cunard line returned to Vancouver in 2019, after a more-than-20-year absence.

It is not clear whether the Queen Elizabeth is the most popular luxury cruise ship on CruiseCompete.com because it has so many Vancouver departures, or whether Vancouver is popular as a departure port because of its Queen Elizabeth sailings.

Some aspects of Cunard's Queen Elizabeth that set it apart from other ships is that it has a two-level library and a grand theatre. This is in contrast to ships at other lines that are known for amenities such as waterslides, to appeal to young families.

Victoria ranked as the No. 9 most popular cruise port visited, far below No. 1 Cozumel, according to CruiseCompete.com.

So far, the Vancouver cruise sector has not felt any impact from the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada (ILWU) strike, which involves about 7,400 waterfront workers disrupting Canada's largest port and terminals across the province.

"That caused a lot of concern last week, before the strike was initiated - whether the ILWU would continue to service cruise ships, as they have done in the past during other labor disputes," Cruise Lines International Association - North West & Canada (CLIA) spokesman Barry Penner told BIV this morning.

"We're very grateful that, up to this point, ILWU members are continuing to provide service to cruise lines and to their passengers."

Past labour disruptions not involving the ILWU have caused delays for cruise ships in Vancouver. Last summer, the Celebrity Eclipse cruise ship was stranded at Canada Place because of job action by tug boat workers. Striking workers prevented a fuel barge from being removed from the cruise ship, thereby preventing the ship from departing for Alaska.

Penner said the ILWU last week gave an "assurance" that its strike would not impact cruise ships. To his knowledge no picket lines have obstructed passengers needing to board ships, he said.

Cruise passengers usually book cruises at least many months in advance and often up to a couple years in advance.

"About 80 per cent or so of the people getting on ships in Vancouver have come from outside of Canada," he said. "So if people are traveling, that means they have to book their flights to get here. They're booking in advance. They've planned their family vacation, or their annual vacation, well in advance. If a strike occurs, it's very difficult for them at the last minute to make changes."

Vancouver's cruise sector remains on track for a record year, with between 1.2 million and 1.3 million passengers.

gkorstrom@biv.com

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