Flowerbaskets hang from lamppole as the cruise ship Regal Princess backs out of dock after a Victoria visit.

Flowerbaskets hang from lamppole as the cruise ship Regal Princess backs out of dock after a Victoria visit.

Victoria tourism shipshape with cruise windfall

MS Zaandam arrival launches Victoria's cruise ship season

The first cruise ship of the year sails into Victoria harbour tomorrow (May 1), marking the unofficial start of the summer tourist season.

The visit by Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam is the first of 207 scheduled cruise ship calls this year. In total, 22 individual ships from 10 different cruise lines will call at Ogden Point.

More than 450,000 passengers are expected to arrive here this summer.

The economic impact from cruise ships’ passenger and crew spending is likely to reach $96 million this year, with $32.6 million of that coming from direct spending, said officials.

“The region continues to benefit from the strength of the Alaska cruise market,” said Curtis Grad, president and CEO of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

“For many tourism operators and local businesses, the healthy cruise business has been integral to their success.”

Ken Kelly, general manager of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said cruise ship passengers do help with the merchants’ bottom line – and their arrival tomorrow is a good launch to the tourist season.

“We want the passengers to stay they whole day to show them what downtown Victoria has to offer,” Kelly said.

“This is our opportunity to tantalize them and have them wanting to come back for more … to stay longer.”

The 2014 cruise season will be marked with the largest ship, the Celebrity Soltice, making its first visit on May 22. The Solstice can carry more than 3,000 passengers and 1,000 crew per call.

This year the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority will also run a cruise marine shuttle program to transport cruise passengers from Ogden Point to the Steamship Terminal Float. The move is expected to cut down on buses and other transportation weaving its way through the streets of James Bay.

The cruise ship industry has seen growth of about one to three percent over the last few years, said Grad. Victoria is the nation’s most popular destination for cruise ships.

Last year, 210 ships made port call at Ogden Point.