A bit of rain didn’t dampen the celebration at Harbour Quay last weekend as a cruise ship arrived in the Alberni Inlet for the first time in six years.
The MS Maasdam, operated by Holland America Line, arrived in Port Alberni early Saturday morning, carrying more than 1,250 passengers and crew. The ship anchored in the harbour and ‘tendered’ passengers to and from Centennial Pier, before leaving Saturday evening.
The ship was greeted by the Tseshaht Canoe Family, and guests were welcomed onto dry land by members of the Jane Austen Society dressed in costume. Throughout the day, visitors were entertained with First Nations dancing and welcomes, musical performances, food trucks and local vendors. Bus tours gave visitors a chance to check out Alberni Valley landmarks, including Cathedral Grove, Coombs Country Candy and Twin City Brewing.
Bill Collette, president of the Alberni Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the feedback received from both tourists and vendors was positive.
“We were pretty pleased with it,” said Collette. “More importantly, the feedback we got suggested it was really good. The (Port Alberni) Port Authority said the feedback they got was exceptional as well.”
City of Port Alberni economic development manager Pat Deakin added during a council meeting on Monday, May 27 that 84 percent of passengers got off the ship, as well as 100 crew members. He spoke to a number of the passengers, who were on Day 19 of a 21-day trip.
“They said it was the best welcome that they’d received in any community,” said Deakin. “It was the only Canadian city where the mounties turned out in red serge.”
There are two more cruise ship visits scheduled for this summer on June 15 and July 6. In the coming days, a survey will go out to the city’s cruise ship committee to determine what may have been overlooked or could be improved.
“Overall, it’s just a matter of tweaking a few things,” said Collette.
The cruise ship committee will also be looking at the possibility of increasing vendor capacity down at Harbour Quay, as a number of vendors had to be turned away.
“I think we can revisit that,” said Collette. “The more action down there, the better.”
If you are interested in setting up a vendor table on June 15 or July 6, contact the Rollin Art Centre at email@example.com or find the registration form online at albernichamber.ca. The cost for the day is $30. The Chamber of Commerce is also looking for volunteers—reach out at 250-724-6535 for more information.