Pacific Coast & Alaska
Passenger vessels have been cruising along British Columbia’s coast for over 100 years, with the first one servicing Prince Rupert in 1909. Today, BC is Canada’s largest cruise region, accounting for over 50% of all Canadian cruise traffic, with Vancouver and Victoria being the first and second largest cruise ports in Canada. The main reasons for British Columbia’s strong cruise industry presence are voyages to and from Alaska and cruises along the Pacific Coast from California and the Pacific Northwest.
In 2000, the Alaskan market was the third most important cruise destination worldwide, trailing only the Caribbean and the Mediterranean regions in popularity. Due to Alaska’s popularity, BC’s cruise visitors increased from 988,954 passengers in 1999, to 1.4 million in 2007, an average annual growth rate of 4.8%. The 2008 recession led to a 9% contraction in the number of cruise visitors to BC since the 2007 peak. Due to increased international passenger sourcing, new destinations and itineraries the Alaska cruise market will represent a 4.5% capacity market share in 2014 down from previous years.
Since the Alaska cruise region is a mature market, many cruise lines already own developed infrastructure there, including hotels, shore excursions, transportation operators, gift shops and more. Therefore, cruise lines emphasize selling their own tourism products which brings additional in-house revenue to their bottom line.
The introduction of successful Indigenous tourism products will need to be mindful of these pre-existing supply chain relationships. The Cruise BC Association indicated that BC-only itineraries would benefit significantly from Indigenous tourism experiences along the coast. The association has been promoting BC-only itineraries to the cruise industry enticing them to extend the Alaskan cruise season by adding BC cruises in April and October.
Cruises to Alaska are primarily 7 or 10-day cruises. There are two major Alaska itineraries: roundtrip cruises that originate from Vancouver, Seattle or San Francisco, and one-way cruises that sail between Vancouver and an Alaskan port, usually Seward or Whittier. Roundtrip cruises from US home ports make at least one port call in Canada, primarily Victoria and sometimes Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Nanaimo or Port Alberni.
There are also a variety of cruises at the beginning and end of the Alaska cruise season (May and September) in which ships reposition between BC ports and other destinations (California, Hawaii, Asia, etc.). The ports of Vancouver and Victoria are also included in cruise itineraries along the Pacific Coast from California and the Pacific Northwest involving San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.
Other ports that that have welcomed cruise ships include Port Alberni and Campbell River. Some expedition / soft adventure type of ships travel to Haida Gwaii or explore the Inside Passage and stop at smaller communities such as Alert Bay or Klemtu.
Average Vessel Size