The future of cruise ships in Victoria’s harbour remains cloudy.
With B.C. cases of COVID-19 trending upwards and more than five million total cases in the U.S., Ian Robertson, CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA), says we can’t take a 2021 cruise ship season for granted.
“In the spring I felt positive about cruise returning in some form or another in 2021. I have a little bit more cautious optimism as we speak. A lot needs to change,” he said.
In mid-March, cruise cancellations began around the world and shortly after Transport Canada banned large scale port calls.
Now Robertson is working with the Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) to chart the next steps. Rules and guidelines could include anything from temperature scans to full COVID-19 tests, both before and during the trip.
With Royal Caribbean seeking a patent for ‘Seaface’ – a name for onboard face masks – Robertson speculates those could also be an onboard requirement for many cruise ships.
Any new protocols would need to be vetted, he added, with final approval needed from Transport and Health Canada.
“Once they give the go-ahead that will give us confidence that it will be safe for cruise ships to arrive,” Robertson said.
Victoria may also have the advantage of seeing how cruises are run this winter, with some companies intending to launch Mexican and Caribbean sailings.
“I think we’ll get a good sense of what the cruise season will look like and what protocols they put in place once they start sailing again,” Robertson said.
A typical cruise ship season brings about $130 million to the regional economy through tourism and jobs. Cruises represent about 70 per cent of the harbour authority’s annual revenues.