Port Alberni is preparing for a day of entertainment on Saturday, May 25 as the first cruise ship of the summer arrives in the Alberni Inlet.
Three Holland America Line cruise ships will be docking in Port Alberni on May 25, June 15 and July 6.
“Each of those days will be a day-long Harbour Quay event,” explained Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce president Bill Collette. “Right now we’re focused on one visit at a time.”
Saturday, May 25 will kick off with a Cruise Ship Festival at Harbour Quay from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The main event is a craft and farmers’ market that will run throughout Harbour Quay with more than 45 different vendors. Traffic will be blocked to the Quay starting at Port Boat House.
When the ships arrive, the Tseshaht Canoe Family escort will lead them into the harbour. Other First Nations have been invited to participate, as well.
Entertainment is scheduled to take place at four different locations: Harbour Quay, Spirit Square, the Maritime Heritage Centre and the Thunderbird Building. Musical performances will run throughout the day, and there will be songs and welcomes from Tseshaht, Hupacasath, Uchucklesaht, Tlaoquiaht and Huu-ay-aht First Nations.
Various businesses throughout Harbour Quay will be open, and the Industrial Heritage Society will have their classic trucks on display. The city-owned “Esso Beach,” located between the Harbour Quay Marina and Harbour Quay, is currently undergoing a makeover that will shape the area into something more pedestrian-friendly.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we have more local people than cruise passengers down there,” Collette said.
A committee of about 20 people has been working on and planning to welcome cruise ship passengers for the past year, and the committee has seen “a tonne of interest” from Port Alberni residents, said Collette. The chamber of commerce is still looking for volunteers for May 25. Those who are interested can call 250-724-6535 or visit the chamber in person.
The ships will be docked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., which will give people plenty of time to explore, said Collette.
The last time the city hosted a cruise ship was in 2013—also a Holland America vessel. These new cruises are part of Holland America Line’s market test, aimed at a younger demographic capable of outdoor recreation.
Holland America is offering six on-board tours, which will take visitors to nearby icons such as Cathedral Grove and Stamp Falls. Another tour package will offer a “Taste of Port Alberni,” with trips to Emerald Coast Vineyards, Twin City Brewing and Coleman Meadows Farm. A “City Highlights” package will take tourists to the Alberni Valley Museum (featuring an exhibit on the Franklin Expedition), Victoria Quay and Coombs Country Candy.
But not everyone on the ships will be taking these tours.
“Some will come off the ship and just want to enjoy the community, maybe partake in a local tour,” said Collette.
Although there are only three stops planned for 2019, Collette and the City of Port Alberni are hoping the ships will be returning next year and beyond.
“That’s a prime objective in all of this,” said Collette. “We need to impress Holland America and we want to remain on their radar for future stops.”
The Holland America Line cruises are 21-day trips, and Port Alberni is the second-to-last stop.
“We see that as a good thing,” said Collette. “It gives us an opportunity to be a lasting impression.”