Vancouver takes $18-million hit with Carnival cruise ship move to Seattle


Carnival Cruise Lines is shifting its Alaska cruise ship operation from Vancouver to Seattle next year, a move that’s expected to mean an annual economic loss of $18 million to Vancouver.

“This means the loss of nine sailings out of Vancouver,” Greg Wirtz, manager of trade and development for the Port of Vancouver, said in an interview Monday.

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“Each sailing contributes approximately $2 million in economic activity. So Vancouver will lose approximately $18 million.”

The Miami-based company announced last week that the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit — its only ship operating out of Vancouver — will operate from Seattle starting in 2010 from May 11 to Aug. 31.

Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said in an interview that the ship typically brings about 23,000 passengers through Vancouver, which will see departures from the city drop from 10 trips this year to one next year.

He said that a total of 17 week-long Alaska cruises will operate from Seattle and that port calls on these voyages include Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan in Alaska and, for the first time, Victoria.

Prior to the start-up of the new program, Carnival Spirit will operate two special voyages — a six-day Inside Passage voyage from Vancouver to Seattle departing May 5, 2010 and a seven-day Glacier Bay cruise from Seattle to Vancouver Sept. 7, 2010.

Gulliksen said in a later e-mail that the change means cheaper options for their customers.

“Seattle represents another exciting new North American home port option for us that will enhance our industry-leading position in providing our guests with the widest variety of North American homeport options.

“This new itinerary will provide our guests requiring air transportation with more convenient air options and significantly lower air costs. It will also allow our guests in some areas of the western regions of the U.S. and Canada to drive to Seattle, making our Alaska cruises even more affordable.”

Wirtz said that the economy was the main reason for the change.

“The economic climate has created circumstances [whereby] cruise lines are scrambling and doing things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Vancouver cruises tend to be a higher end product, because they’re open-jaw. [That means] customers take a one-way cruise, from between Vancouver and Alaska, or between Alaska and Vancouver. Passengers pay to fly into Vancouver [or Alaska] and take the cruise. All of the Seattle cruises are round trips.”

Wirtz said that laying down money for the higher-end cruises normally isn’t an issue, but that because of the economic downturn, “there’s a lot less [higher-end] passengers travelling and there’s a lot more discount travelling going on.”

He said it will be easier and cheaper for American tourists to leave from Seattle.

“And it will be easier for people making direct flights domestically.”

He added that the Carnival Spirit’s Victoria stop won’t even come close to making up the difference for Vancouver’s loss.

Wirtz said there are approximately 270 cruise ship calls in Vancouver per year. The Carnival Spirit is also an average-size ship, he added.

Wirtz said he knows of no other cruise lines planning a similar move, although six weeks ago the Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines announced that its ship the Serenade of the Seas — now based in Vancouver — will be moved to the Caribbean.