Canada’s cruise advantages for ports is witnessed by nearly 2 million passengers per year. The country has a variety of cruise regions including the Pacific Coast/Alaska, Atlantic Canada, Saint Lawrence Seaway, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Within each theatre, cruise lines offer distinct itineraries with their respective homeports and ports-of-call.

Pacific Coast and Alaska Cruise

The cruise industry in Alaska and the Pacific Coast operates in a mature market. From 1992 to 2007, Alaska cruise visitors increased from about 200,000 to over one million. In 2000, the Alaskan market was the third largest cruise destination worldwide, trailing only the Caribbean and the Mediterranean regions in popularity. Due to Alaska’s demand, British Columbia’s (BC) cruise visitors increased from 988,954 passengers in 1999 to 1.4 million in 2007, an average annual growth rate of 4.8%. Due to increased international passenger sourcing, new destinations and itineraries the Alaska cruise market will drop to a 4.1% capacity market share in 2016.

Within Canada, BC’s ports have been the most exposed to the past decade’s rise in international cruise passenger sourcing and the impact of increasing vessel size. North American passenger supply drove the early growth of the cruise industry.

United States home port itineraries depend on a British Columbia port of call, primarily Victoria, and sometimes Prince Rupert, Nanaimo, Vancouver, or Port Alberni. There are also a variety of cruises at the beginning and end of the Alaska season (May-September) in which ships reposition between B.C. ports and other destinations (i.e. California, Hawaii, Asia, Panama Canal). More recently, the cruise lines have been expanding their itineraries by offering cruises from Vancouver to Hawaii. As a result, Port Metro Vancouver’s cruise season extended until December last year.

Atlantic Canada Cruise

The Atlantic Canada cruise theatre, while considerably smaller than Alaska, is the second largest region in Canada. It has it has experienced a healthy rate of annual growth. The increase in cruise traffic is in part driven by Canada New England itineraries and trans-Atlantic voyages. Canada New England itineraries are three, four and seven-day round-trip cruises that originate in north-eastern U.S. ports. The seven-day cruises make as many as two port calls in Canada and two or three calls in New England ports.

The Atlantic region has perhaps the most balanced profile of cruise brand operating in this cruise theatre including contemporary, premium, luxury and expedition or soft adventure cruise companies. Itineraries in this region include passengers sourced from the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. The Atlantic cruise theatre includes vessel calls from Trans-Atlantic voyages (from the United Kingdom and Germany), and ships travelling to the Canadian Arctic. Trans-Atlantic voyages and their associated itineraries can range from 10 to 25 nights with port-of-call visits to Canadian cities.

The Saint Lawrence Cruise

The Saint Lawrence has a balanced profile of cruise brand types operating in this cruise theatre including contemporary, premium, luxury and expedition or soft adventure cruise companies. While the region is an important cruise market in Canada, the overall size of the market compared to other worldwide destinations has resulted in mid-size and smaller vessels serving the market.

The average vessel size visiting the Saint Lawrence area can vary considerably. The largest ships would have approximately 3,000 passengers and the very smallest less than 130. Small to medium size cruise ships for 400 to 1,266 passengers are some of the most frequent visitors to the Port of Montreal.

Newfoundland and Labrador Cruise

Within this very broad geographic region, there are four areas where cruise vessel tourism could occur: Newfoundland and Labrador, Eastern Arctic and Hudson Bay.

The Newfoundland and Labrador region participate in a number of cruise line itineraries. Claire Sullivan, marketing manager cruise Newfound and Labrador Canada stated, ‘’Newfoundland and Labrador’s product offering and global positioning allow the region to function as a multifaceted cruise destination, catering to Adventure/Expedition, Arctic, Canada-New England, and Transatlantic North itineraries.

A variety of cruise brands from excursion and premium brands make port calls. Cruise ships in the region can range in size from the very small 118 passenger vessels to large ships with small and medium size cruise ships being the most frequent type of visitor. The province saw the biggest ship to date call in St. John’s in 2015, the Regal Princess, carrying 4,789 passengers and crew.


Canada’s cruise advantage includes diverse passenger sourcing, great visitor experiences at the local destinations and the low value of the Canadian dollar.

For further insights and analysis on this subject read the April 2016 article in BC Shipping News.