Before I ever began writing about cruises for a living, I used to work in Vancouver’s animation industry. From April to October, I’d usually walk from our offices on Howe Street, and later Water Street, over to Canada Place to spend my lunch hour watching the cruise ships at Canada Place take on provisions and guests.
On a good day, there might have been four ships in port – three at Canada Place, and one at Ballantyne Pier. The bustle on the pier was always electric; you could feel the excitement. On one memorable September day back in 2005, I hopped aboard Holland America Line’s Veendam for a Pacific Coastal cruise to Los Angeles, to find us docked bow-to-bow with the line’s Ryndam at Canada Place’s Eastern Berth. Five ships were in port that day – four at Canada, one at Ballantyne.
Sadly, after having been the de-facto turnaround port for cruises to Alaska for decades, things are changing. We’ve been bleeding traffic to Seattle since 1999, when Norwegian Cruise Line first set up shop there. Over the course of 18 years, Seattle has invested in new terminals. Vancouver has not. Seattle has expanded its berthing capacity to hold more ships. Vancouver has reduced it, thanks to the 2014 closure of Ballantyne Pier. Ballantyne was never the crown jewel of cruise terminals, but it could take up to two cruise ships at a time. Now, only three vessels can tie up at Canada Place. When it was opened in time for EXPO ‘86, Canada Place was designed to accommodate five.
Now, Vancouver – with its iconic cruise terminal, gorgeous scenery, world-class hotels, and award-winning airport – is going to start losing these ships not because it’s not good, or somehow unworthy as a port. It is going to lose them because ships are becoming too tall to clear the Lion’s Gate Bridge, and too long to berth at Canada Place. Click here to read more at The Province, Sept. 29, 2017