Cruise ships will once again make port calls in Canada after two years starting Saturday.
Holland America Line’s Koningsdam ship will be the first ship to dock in Victoria, Canada on Saturday in 905 days since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the cruise line said in a release provided by spokesperson Erik Elvejord.
Cruise Lines International Association, the leading trade group for the industry, confirmed to USA TODAY that Koningsdam is the first major cruise ship to return to Canada.
“We’ve worked a long time to make this day happen, and we are delighted to be back,” Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA, said in a statement provided by spokesperson Laziza Lambert.
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And Canada is looking forward to welcoming back the cruise industry to its waters, too.
Rob Fleming, minister of transportation and infrastructure, said in CLIA’s release that British Columbia celebrates the return of cruise ships and their passengers while the region works to rebuild its tourism economy.
“We know that cruise ship passengers enjoy everything our communities have to offer, helping support thousands of jobs in the maritime, tourism, hospitality, and agricultural sectors across the province,” Fleming said.
Before 2020, the cruise industry added more than $4 billion to the Canadian economy annually and provided for 30,000 jobs, Beth Potter, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, added.
Canada last July cut short its ban on cruises, giving clearance to ships to sail in November 2021. The ban, which applied to cruise ships with more than 100 passengers, first went into effect in March 2020 and had been set to run through Feb. 28.
But major cruise lines haven’t sailed there to date. The policy change came too late last year to save 2021’s cruising season in the region.
The cruise industry sails in Canada primarily during the summer season. During the wintertime, ships shift to a different direction, Elvejord said. Typically, he said, in early May ships sail from New England up toward Montreal and the Alaska season on the West Coast starts in late April.
This year, Holland America got an early start.
“We are thrilled to be the first cruise line back into Canada after such a long absence, and we look forward to celebrating a great moment for everyone who loves to travel and for those in Canada and Alaska whose livelihoods depend on tourism,” Gus Antorcha, president of Holland America Line, said in the release.
When the ship arrives in Victoria on Saturday and Vancouver on Sunday, Antorcha will join local government officials to celebrate cruising’s return in Canada.
The Koningsdam Friday was on a coastal cruise from San Diego to Vancouver. From there, it is scheduled depart Sunday from Vancouver on the round trip sailing to Hawaii.
During the 2022 season, Holland America Line intends to operate 141 cruises on eight ships in Canada, with the expectation of bringing 250,000 passengers to visit.
Contributing: Bailey Schulz