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Greater Victoria Harbour Authority unfazed by first cruise cancellation

COVID regulations won’t hamper 2022 season, says CEO
Princess Cruises vessel Caribbean Princess is seen in this promotional image. The ship was scheduled to dock in Victoria on April 6, marking the first time a cruise ship has docked in Canadian waters since the pandemic began, but maintenance schedule changes cancelled the visit. (Photo Courtesy of Princess Cruises)

The cancellation of Victoria’s first 2022 cruise isn’t abnormal for the start of any season, says Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s CEO, who has faith that Canada and the U.S.’s COVID protocols will allow cruises safely into Victoria throughout the summer.

The Caribbean Princess cancelled its Wednesday arrival to Ogden Point on Saturday (April 2) for maintenance.

However, the same day, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control listed the Princess with an “orange” COVID status, meaning more than nine (or more than 0.3 per cent) of their capacity of 3,080 passengers tested positive for the virus. The CDC has since started an outbreak investigation.

READ ALSO: First Victoria cruise ship port call cancelled due to maintenance changes

Holland America Line’s Koningsdam, the next cruise scheduled to arrive at Victoria this Saturday (April 9), has the CDC’s yellow status; less than seven of the 2,650 capacity are positive for COVID and the CDC is monitoring the vessel.

Despite the closeness of the Caribbean Princess’s cancellation to discovery of an onboard COVID outbreak, the lost arrival is typical for the start of any cruise season, said harbour authority CEO Ian Robertson. In the past two weeks, the authority has received at least 10 notices for added or cancelled cruises to Victoria. Their yearly budget accounts for five per cent of expected cruises cancelling arrival due to anything from maintenance to high winds.

The Caribbean Princess was also on a repositioning cruise – a shorter voyage transitioning from the Atlantic or South Pacific to the Pacific Northwest ocean which more often sees port-of-calls cancelled for maintenance.

Robertson said he has confidence COVID protocols set by Transportation Canada and the U.S. CDC will allow Victoria a successful 2022 cruise season. To board a cruise from Canada, crew and passengers must be fully vaccinated. As of April 1, vaccinated travellers are no longer required to take a PCR test before disembarking in Canada.

The harbour authority follows Transportation Canada’s ship-to-shore COVID checklist, which requires plans for isolating COVID-positive passengers on their cruise or in local hotels, among other measures.

READ ALSO: Government Street shop owners worry they’ll miss the boat on Victoria cruise passenger business

The shared responsibilities of cruise lines and ports balance the risk of COVID with the necessity of cruise tourism in Victoria, which Robertson said employs more than 800 people and provides $143 million to the local economy annually.

“We’ve always said the health and safety of residents of Victoria is the number one priority. The guidelines laid out by Transport Canada are there, and are going to protect,” he said.

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