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Vancouver vs Seattle: The Great West Coast Battle
While things have changed in recent years, Vancouver still handled 960,000 cruise passengers last year (this number includes both embarkations and disembarkations) and will feature 252 cruise ship calls in 2008, meanwhile, the tide has been turning for Seattle in the past decade. The American gateway anticipates 211 sailings in 2008 with about 780,000 passengers.
Vancouver Yesterday and Today
Ever since the 1960s, when Canadian Pacific's Princess Patricia, Canadian National's Prince George and Alaska Cruise Lines' Glacier Queen and Yukon Star, were joined by P&O Cruises' first Arcadia, Vancouver had had a virtual monopoly on the Alaska cruise market.
As it enjoyed the advantage of being closer to Alaska, ships could take the Inside Passage along the British Columbia coast, make calls at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and other Alaskan ports and be back in Vancouver within seven days. Even Seattle-based Alaska Cruise Lines, owned by the West family, had based its two smaller ships in Vancouver. Seattle had not seen any passenger service since the Alaska Steamship Company had stopped carrying passengers in the 1950s.
While things have changed in recent years, Vancouver still handled 960,000 cruise passengers last year (this number includes both embarkations and disembarkations) and will feature 252 cruise ship calls in 2008. Lines serving Vancouver include Celebrity Cruises, Cruise West, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silversea Cruises.
Operating two cruise ship terminals, Vancouver offers three berths at downtown Canada Place and two more at Ballantyne Pier, a little to the east.
The Rise of an American Gateway
Meanwhile, the tide has been turning for Seattle in the past decade, for two reasons.
First, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, made flying less popular, provoking a trend towards what is called "homeland cruising."
Secondly, cruise ships were getting faster and with speeds of up to 25 knots they could make it to Skagway, at the head of the Lynn Canal, and back to Seattle within seven days. Even before the events of September 11, Seattle opened its Bell Street Cruise Terminal in 1999.
In that year, Seattle handled just six cruise ships and 6,615 passengers. By 2007, this had risen to 190 cruise ships and 781,000 passengers for Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean, a true revolution that cost Vancouver a great deal of business.
In 2009 Seattle will open a new cruise terminal at Pier 91, which will take the ships that more recently have been temporarily calling at Pier 30, a converted container terminal that will now revert to the container trades.
Seattle anticipates 211 sailings in 2008 with about 780,000 passengers.
This compares to 850,000 for Vancouver, down because of the shift of Celebrity Cruises' Celebrity Infinity from Vancouver to Seattle, which makes for a count of about 80,000.
One-Way Alaska Cruising
One saving grace for Vancouver is that it is in Canada and ships cannot make one-way cruises between Seattle and Alaskan ports such as Seward because the US Passenger Vessel Services Act prohibits foreign-flag ships from carrying passengers in coasting trade between US ports.
This effectively gives Vancouver exclusivity in the Canada-Alaska one-way cruise business where ships turn in Alaska and make alternating northbound and southbound voyages that include ground tours to Denali and Anchorage. Ironically, included in this number is Cruise West's Spirit of Oceanus, which is owned in Seattle but is not registered in the United States, but also the Holland America and Princess ships that operate extensive Alaska cruise-tour programs.
The Big Alaska Lines
The two biggest lines in the Alaska trade, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line, both happen today to be Carnival companies. Both also operate their own railcars in Alaska and both can be traced to the activities of Seattle businessmen.
Holland America Line's Alaska business dates back to 1947, when Seattle-based Charles West formed what became Alaska Cruise Lines. Holland America purchased 70 per cent of West's company, by now known as Westours, in 1971 and acquired full control in 1977.
This move was significant enough for Holland America Line to change its name to Holland America Westours, a name it would keep until 2002, and even to move its headquarters from New York to Seattle in 1984 after their traditional Transatlantic and Bermuda routes had ended.
Princess Cruises, on the other hand, was formed in 1965 by Stanley MacDonald, another Seattle businessman, to operate cruises from Los Angeles to the Mexican Riviera in the winter time. In 1974, Princess Cruises, which took its name from its original Canadian Pacific charter, was purchased by P&O, which had also been operating to Alaska. P&O's Spirit of London became Princess's Sun Princess and P&O then added two more ships, the first Pacific Princess, the original "Love Boat," and the first Island Princess.
Meanwhile, over the several years that followed, Charles West's sale of his business to Holland America, he rebuilt his small ship fleet and today the company operates eight vessels in the small ship sector under chairman Dick West and newly-appointed president and CEO Dietmar Wertanzl, a man with many years experience at Crystal Cruises and Celebrity Cruises.
In the past year or two, these developments at Seattle have allowed new itineraries to be tried by various lines, and particularly by Celebrity Cruises, who have begun to offer 3-4-and-5-day coastal cruises from Seattle to ports in British Columbia with the Celebrity Mercury.
The same ship this year also offered four 7-day round trips from San Francisco to Astoria, Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. Holland America's Zaandam meanwhile embarked passengers on April 22 for a cruise to Hawaii.
The rebirth of Seattle as a passenger port has also created a number of opportunities on positioning cruises at the beginning and end of the Alaska season, usually in May and October.
In order to position ships from Los Angeles, for example, to Seattle, direct passengers cannot be booked between those two ports, but they can be booked between Los Angeles and Vancouver, and the shorter positioning cruise that follows from Vancouver to Seattle is a good way to introduce thousands of new prospects to the whole idea of cruising.
There is no question that Seattle has now made a big mark in the Alaska business, accounting for almost an equal share with Vancouver of that trade, but it is also interesting that the same lines support both ports. In fact, Princess Cruises, which started in Seattle, still bases four ships in Vancouver but only two in Seattle and almost any day there are cruise ships in Vancouver there is a representative, sometimes two, from the Holland America fleet.
(Source: By Mark Tré - Cybercruises.com)