In the “bad ideas that just won’t go away” department both Port Metro Vancouver and the Delta Optimist are out in force saying how important it is that new facilities are designed to accommodate mega cruise ships. These mega ships have been called “floating skyscrapers laid out sideways” and accommodate over 5,000 people. The gross tonnage is  over 100,000 tons, and these vessels are over 1000 feet wide by 225 wide. These floating cities are designed for the cruise companies to have great economies of scale, but set up logistical problems for ports that have to accommodate these vessels. Indeed there are already lists of places online that are purportedly being ruined by the visits of these behemoths.
But here is what Port Metro Vancouver says~they’ve had a two per cent increase in passenger volumes over the year and the Port says that cruises are a “critical economic driver” bringing in an average 3 million dollars per vessel stay into the economy.
Of course this means that the Port is already embarking on a “pre-feasibility” study to ascertain where this mega cruise ship dock is going to be. As Price Tags Vancouver has previously written the two potential locations are Port Metro Vancouver locations in Richmond  or Delta. Delta port is already trying to expand its facility to accommodate more cargo, despite the fact that such expansion will wipe out critical habitat for the  migratory western sandpiper. But back to those mega ships.
Such ships could provide more customers for the ailing Tsawwassen Mills mall which is failing to attract a mega amount of  customers outside of their annual Boxing Day sale. The ships could also bring candidates to the new casino which will be  potentially placed beside the Massey Tunnel. And in the words of the Delta Optimist “…the port has also been saying cruise lines are building bigger ships which Canada Place won’t be able to accommodate. This summer, a top official with Cruise Lines International Association told the media that Vancouver is behind other cities, such as Seattle, that are investing heavily in their port infrastructure. The Vancouver port shut down Ballantyne Pier to cruise ships in 2014, leaving Canada Place as the city’s only cruise terminal.”


  1. Really?
    Imagine booking a cruise that included a stop in ‘Vancouver’ and pulling up to Richmond or Delta?
    Seems like a bait and switch (though maybe I’ve just never properly explored those areas).

  2. The investment may not be all that great as most cruise passengers would prefer Vancouver as they can walk off the ship, right downtown within walking distance to Stanley Park. Delta or Richmond thus will be far less desirable. Too industrial, flat, boring and too far from the sights of Vancouver like Stanley Park, seawall or side trips to Whistler or N Shore mountains. Any investment as such has to consider that this potential new port will only be a second choice, at lower rates.
    Tourists go off the boat to a mall that looks like any other mall in the US ?

    1. Thomas, these are people who do cruises. They’d probably be happy with a mall that looks like any other. Downtown they need to walk. If they build a cruise ship dock in Delta I’m sure they’d have shuttles from the dinning room on board to the food court in the mall.

      1. I have done many cruises. Most folks want to see what is worthwhile in the area, ie Whistler, Capilano Bridge, seawall, Stanley park, downtown, Granville Island etc
        I have yet to see any offer by cruiselines to pay $s to drive to a mall. Some, very few, cruise passengers might take a public bus. A mall or casino visit is NOT usually high on the list of cruise passengers, and as such any suggestion by city official it is good for their local economy is ill advised. Cruise passengers will NOT go to Delta or Richmond for a stroll, unless perhaps Steveston but then you might as well go to the real seawall around Stanley Park or Vancouver !

        1. Perhaps you didn’t notice the bump in my cheek. Yes, that was my tongue. The notion of a cruise ship dock anywhere in that area is so absurd it’ll probably happen. Next time the Libs are in they’ll get it past the point of no return.

  3. On this one I agree with Thomas. The best location for cruise ships is Canada Place. Every other location speaks to bypassing what makes Vancouver attractive to visitors. There is no other place on the continent like the juxtaposition of Canada Place to a decent downtown at your feet, the North Shore mountain views, adjacent diversity of transit, Harbour Green Park, Stanley Park and the unique walkable seawall system. Seattle may count only one or two of these kinds of advantages of location.
    The idea of docking a vessel with 5,000 people on board next to the piles of coal at Roberts Bank so far away from the city attractions will not stick to the wall when thrown. Every international travel writer would have a field day poking fun at that. Shuttles to Tsawwassen Mills mega-mall do not make up for Stanley Park and downtown being within walking distance.
    Richmond would be marginally better, but the disconnect to downtown will also greatly overwhelm local services and facilities when two arrive at once, flooding the area with 10,000 people. Victoria does a little better with the cruise ships docked at Ogden Point because the historic core is only a 5-minute charter bus ride away.
    If these behemoths cannot fit under the Lions Gate Bridge, then the Port has to admit there are limitations ad write off the idea while accepting even more medium-sized cruise ships downtown.
    The sheer size of these things speaks more to the state of the industry than anything else where quantity and cost cutting reigns over quality. Honestly, the thought of cruising with 5,000 others in a floating mall / casino turns me right off. It also speaks to the natural constraints of our geography and the whims of the Port Authority that calls for major expenditures (by other agencies of course) to assist with external efforts like dredging and transit expansion to fight against the natural flow to follow a flawed dream.

  4. Are many other cities facing these sorts of retrofits to accommodate the larger cruise ships? Part of me wonders if it makes sense to say that Vancouver won’t support these ships for the next X years until there’s broader adoption. We’ve already seen cargo ship companies build boats that are so big that ports are turning them away and surely there must be a breaking point with cruise ships as well. This may not be it, but let’s not rush into expensive retrofits without some idea of the longer term payback.

    1. A floating dock in English bay with ferries to downtown, Granville Island, West Van , Bowen Island & Gibsons would be great for locals too

      1. The floating dock idea certainly has more merit than anything along the remote western banks of our region. But the logistics are pretty complicated. A Seabus type service running at a frequency of every ten minutes to load or unload would take a minimum of three hours if everything went super smoothly. It would take half an hour to sail from the floating dock to the Seabus station or nearby and that excludes wait times and the logistics of transfers on the dock. That ‘s still a huge inconvenience, a high operational cost and an big investment for a service that operates for less than half the year. Shore power would be much more difficult too.
        I’m with Ross (below). What’s wrong with continuing to offer the same excellent experience and just letting go of the idea of an inferior service to cater to the greater masses? Growth is not always good. Bigger is often not better.

        1. That’s what a bridge is for. Float a 2-4 lane road on pontoons and connect it to Sunset or Stanley Park, and then TransLink could run shuttle buses or even a LRT/SkyTrain up to the cruise terminal.

        2. Suddenly the floating dock looses all of it’s merit. A floating bridge is far too disruptive. But hey, if the port/cruise-industry wants to build a subway to the dock without taxpayer support we’ll see how far that gets.

  5. Two of the mega cruise ships are starting cruises from Seattle in 2018:
    Ultimately, not “all” cruise ships servicing Alaska will be “mega” ships, so Vancouver could serve the smaller ships, and Seattle the bigger ones.
    Also, not all cruise ship terminals are “downtown”.
    Los Angeles (which has no downtown waterfront) has its terminal at San Pedro (some ships go to Long Beach).
    If a terminal is built in Richmond, then Canada Line access would be crucial.

      1. If TransLink doesn’t cover passengers’ trips downtown, the taxi and rideshare companies sure as hell will. The idea is to reduce vehicle traffic across the Fraser.

      2. (1)The ships docking fee would cover ferry costs, not local taxes. No need to walk (or swim) (2) Another Seabus idle in the winter would allow repairs on the others without disrupting regular service

  6. With the exception of a few departures at the beginning and end of the season, for the overwhelming majority of sailings Vancouver is the start and/or finish of the voyage. Passengers come from the airport or hotels to the ship and vice versa. Very few would get off the ship for a day excursion and then get back on.
    As alluded to above in a few posts, how on earth are all of those passengers going to get from Richmond/Delta to the airport or a hotel? There is already not enough taxi service downtown on days when three ships are at Canada Place–let alone getting even more cabs out to Richmond/Delta in the first place for a one-way fare.
    I don’t see anything wrong with a steady parade of mid-sized ships to Canada Place.

  7. Well obviously, if it’s just the Lion’s Gate Bridge that’s stopping these mega liners reaching Vancouver, it would be much easier to build a new terminal on the waterfront in West Vancouver. It would be much closer to Vancouver’s Downtown and the hotels, and nobody could possibly object to it, could they?

  8. The US Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (The ‘Jones Act’) requires vessels carrying passengers and cargo solely between US ports to be crewed by Americans. To stay in compliance with US law and to keep their Indonesian/Philippine crew, cruise ships leaving Seattle on the Alaska run have to make one stop in Canada. It’s usually Victoria. Incidentally, in my opinion this makes Vancouver a much better departure point. You are closer to Alaska, resulting in more time up there, and you don’t have to make a pit stop along the way just to satisfy regs.
    The first of these behemoths, the Norwegian Bliss (4000 passengers, 2100 crew when full), will make her initial port call in Victoria on June 8 from 1600 to 2200. We’ll see just how chaotic it is around Ogden Point and in the city.

  9. Cruise ships are weird – a massive misallocation of cash. More interesting than a visit to ikea, but not by much. Nice place to pick up a norovirus. Love boats they are not.
    Better to repurpose them for homeless people – like Sweden – making them refugee shelters. One Silicon Valley type suggested an SRO model combined with Airbnb to defray expenses – the rich door poor door model. Hong Kong is contemplating floating villages.

  10. This is a perplexing issue – but several solutions available -“floating dock” is a good idea & take a look on You Tube for”Seawalk” to give you an idea of how easy this would be. A great spot for a “Seawalk” option is Ambleside pier-as it is very close to Vancouver harbour and has the critical element of deep water right near the shore(big cruise ships need min 50 ft) -so no expensive dredging and Seawalk is a very affordable option- but not a full cruise terminal where voyages can start/finish. Im sure the NIMBYs in W. Vanc would be concerned about Mega ships parking at Ambleside – but the investment required for planning, developing & dredging is not a small issue in this agenda. As well, the mid size cruise ships will be around for decades- Port of Vancouver must expand & we all benefit from the growth of tourists-on a side bar, we need to find better solutions to minimizing forest fires, as any reputation of “smoke in Vancouver”- would really hurt our tourism industry.-Suggestion: funnel some of the cruise $ into preventing forest fires – we all win!

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