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Cruise ships set to return to Nanaimo this year after a 5-year absence

Port authority targets pocket cruise market with hopes to expand cruise tourism in coming years
Nanaimo’s cruise ship dock is set to welcome two ships this year. (News Bulletin file photo)

Cruise ships have charted a return course to Nanaimo with two visits scheduled for the 2024 cruise season.

The first of the vessels, MV Seabourn Odyssey, of Seabourn Cruise Lines, will dock May 9 to mark the start of what Andrea Thomas, Port of Nanaimo’s manager of cruise development, said she hopes is the start of a growing cruise ship business in coming years.

“Given that we haven’t seen a cruise ship here since 2019, it’s pretty exciting,” she said. “We’re starting over again, really, and it’s a great opportunity to show what Nanaimo is and what we can do and who we are and why we’re great and why we have a unique product offering in terms of, not specifically the port, but the city itself and the excursion opportunities.”

Thomas noted Nanaimo’s local features, such as its craft breweries, as well as its location as a hub for excursions, such as winery tours, Cathedral Grove and other attractions the central Island has for tourism.

She said expanding tourism is important for communities and cruise ships are good vehicles for that.

“Something like one in three passengers on a cruise ship is testing destinations and they’ll return to places that they’ve enjoyed during their port of call, so it’s future growth for tourism, as well, even though they may only be here a few hours on a given day, so the likelihood of many of the guests returning is high,” Thomas said.

She said the initial focus will be on drawing the pocket cruise vessels. Seabourn Odyssey accommodates about 450 passengers and the Oceania Cruises’ MS Regatta, scheduled to arrive Aug. 26, carries about 830 passengers.

“I think we can better show them what Nanaimo is and has to offer than we could if we had the 5,000- or 6,000-passenger gigantic cruise ships,” Thomas said. “We can accommodate those too, but that would be a pretty big shock to our city’s infrastructure, 5,000 people on a ship unloading all at once. Hopefully, in the future we can build up on that and we can take bigger ships, but for now we’re targeting those pocket luxury ships.”

The port already has visits from four ships booked for the 2025 season and more booked for 2026.

Thomas said she’ll be attending Seatrade Cruise Global, the world’s largest cruise ship trade conference, next month, and has a number of meetings set up with cruise lines to draw more traffic to Nanaimo.

“The goal is to grow it and keep growing, so we’ll see what happens. Wish us luck,” Thomas said.

READ ALSO: No cruise ships scheduled to come to Nanaimo

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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