Skip to content

First cruise ship of the year pulls into Ogden Point

The Norwegian Bliss cruise ship, which arrived early Wednesday afternoon for a 10-hour stop, was carrying more than 4,000 passengers.

Jennifer and Dan Hedden of Indiana were among the first passengers off the Norwegian Bliss cruise ship early Wednesday afternoon, saying they couldn’t wait to visit downtown Victoria again.

In 2022, they arrived in the city on a cruise ship for a four-hour evening stop, but many stores were closed, and they’ve since been keen to return.

The couple booked this latest cruise specifically to return to Victoria, where the Norwegian Bliss made a 10-hour stop, giving them plenty of time to tour the city centre on foot and to shop.

The 1,092-foot-long ship’s arrival, carrying more than 4,000 passengers, marked the first cruise-ship stop at Ogden Point for the season.

“Now we want to take our time,” Jennifer Hedden said, as her husband added: “We love this place.”

Dan was looking to buy a vest, take a water taxi and visit Swan’s Pub, while Jennifer was hoping to find a new purse. They planned on visiting Fisherman’s Wharf, the Fairmont Empress Hotel — where vibrant tulips are lining the front walk — and Government Street.

About 60 people showed up to snap photos and marvel at the ship, decorated with a massive marine-themed Wyland mural on its bow, as it pulled in at Ogden Point.

Calgary’s Linda and Michael Rainey, who previously lived in B.C., were among those watching the Bliss inch into her spot at Pier B. “It’s celebratory,” Michael said, while Linda added: “It’s fun to watch the expressions on peoples’ faces — excitement and joy” when they disembark.

Passengers poured off the ship to take buses to Butchart Gardens and Butterfly World, tour the city, ride in pedicabs, on horse trolleys and in classic cars.

Some rented bikes, while others walked into downtown. Many clutched maps of the city handed out by volunteers from Destination Greater Victoria who were ready with information for visitors.

Cruise-ship spending in the capital region was most recently calculated pre-COVID at about $143 million per season, said Robert Lewis-Manning, chief executive of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority. The sector generates about 800 direct jobs.

This year, 315 ship visits bringing about 910,000 passengers are expected.

The harbour authority has been meeting with businesses and Lewis-Manning is hoping to see more stores open in the evenings when many of the big ships come in.

Many passengers opt for activities such as walking and cycling when they arrive, he said, which indicates the cruise-ship passenger demographic is getting younger.

Alan Thimot, manager of Victoria Pedicab Co., is hoping for a strong season because of high booking numbers on the Alaska cruise-ship run. He had about 20 of the company’s pedicabs at Ogden Point, and said he was pleased that all of last year’s team returned for the season.

“I’m anticipating that it is going to be a good summer.”

Passengers were welcomed by Lekwungen traditional dancers.

Chief Councillor Jerome Thomas of Esquimalt Nation granted permission to the ship’s crew and passengers to come ashore. Traditionally, visiting communities coming into the harbour by canoe would seek the nation’s permission before entering the territory.

Thomas said he recently participated in a cruise symposium and is excited for future opportunities for members in the industry.

Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto said she’s expecting a “fantastic season,” noting cruise lines are trying to attract passengers who haven’t been here before as they drive the Alaska cruise route as a destination, including Victoria.

The city is “excited about the fact that we are going to see a lot of passengers who come from different places and new places,” said Alto, who hopes many of those passengers will return.

One of the most faithful fans of the cruise sector in Victoria is Raechel Tupman of Saanich. A regular visitor during cruise-ship season, she said the Norwegian Bliss is her favourite ship because of its large size.

Tupman and her mixed-breed dog Leo go to Ogden Point two to three times a week when the ships are in. “I find it exciting. I never tire of it.”

Often passengers who miss their own dogs will stop to pet Leo.

“He’s a real ambassador,” said Tupman, who is happy to offer help and directions to cruise passengers.

[email protected]