British Columbia’s first cruise season in three years appears to be getting off to a bumpy start, with the cancellation of the first vessel scheduled to dock in B.C. since the beginning of the pandemic.
Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess was scheduled dock in Victoria on April 6 and Vancouver on April 7.
The company says the cancellation is due to work it wants to do on the vessel, however U.S. officials have confirmed they are also investigating cases of COVID-19 on board.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Infection has listed the vessel with an “orange” status, meaning the number of reported cases on board (0.3 per cent or more of passengers and crew) meets its threshold for investigation.
Princess Cruises confirmed the Caribbean Princess’ planned four-day sailing from San Francisco to Vancouver had been cancelled, but did not cite COVID-19 as a reason.
“Princess Cruises has made the difficult decision to cancel the coastal portion of the upcoming cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver to allow added time to prepare for the planned extensive dry dock scheduled for April 7,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“This additional time will help assure the vessel is up to our highest standards in advance of the upcoming busy summer season.”
The company said it had offered the ship’s 1,600 passengers a full refund and a 100 per cent future cruise credit of equal value, as well as helping them book hotels or flights.
Gord Halverson and his wife were due to meet her brother and sister-in-law in Victoria when the vessel arrived.
“They’re being disembarked tomorrow in San Francisco and Princess Cruises is flying them directly home from there. And so we’re going to miss that visit,” he said.
“We haven’t seen them since pre-pandemic and in the fall of 2019, so it’s a little disappointing that we’re not going to be able to see them, and we were looking forward to a couple of days in Victoria as well and so forth. And I feel sorry for all those folks in Victoria that were counting on that ship and then Vancouver the same way.
Despite the setback, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority remains bullish about the coming season, which it estimates will see 350 cruise ships dock in the city.
“You know, we’ve waited two years for this to happen, 902 days would have been from the last time a cruise ship was in Canada to April 6,” harbour authority spokesperson Brian Cant said.
“And now it’s 905 days, that helps us put it in a bit of perspective.”
Cant said officials were expecting about 780,000 cruise passengers to come through the port this year, up slightly from the 709,000 it saw in 2019.
The Caribbean Princess began its voyage in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in March, and was meant to retrace its path after stopping in Vancouver next week.
The next cruise ship scheduled to dock in Vancouver is Holland America’s MS Koningsdam and is scheduled to arrive Sunday, April 10.
Canada lifted its pandemic-induced ban on cruise ships in Canadian waters on Nov. 1, 2021, after two missed seasons.
Under the new cruise rules, all passengers must be fully vaccinated in order to enter Canada as well as take a molecular test within 72 hours before boarding and an antigen test within one day of boarding.
The cruise industry is worth an estimated $4 billion to the Canadian economy.
With files from the Canadian Press