Carnival Cruise Lines departing Vancouver in 2010 

Cruise ship line not a big customer of Whistler Mountaineer

This is the last summer that Carnival Cruise Lines will base all its Alaskan cruises out of Vancouver, opting to move part of its operations to Seattle in 2010.

It's estimated that every sailing contributes about $2 million to the Vancouver tourism industry, and a total of nine sailings are being moved to Seattle out of the company's 17 sailings.

Carnival cited "economic circumstances" for the move, and economics that allow it to charge less for each trip. They also pointed out that the bulk of passengers making the trip are American.

A spokesperson did not mention the fact that a new passport requirement will be phased in on June 1 where Americans would are required to carry passports or new forms of enhanced identification to travel to Canada. Just 28 per cent of Americans currently carry passports.

There are 270 sailings from Vancouver every summer, and Carnival's decision lessens that number of sailings by less than four per cent.

It's unknown what the impact might be on Whistler. However, the Whistler Mountaineer summer train service actively targets the cruise market for its business, bringing tourists to Whistler and destinations further north.
Hubert Wat, VP of marketing for the Whistler Mountaineer, said it would likely have a minimal impact on business, but any loss of visitors is a concern.

"Overall, it's never a good thing for our province when we lose visitors, and we're accustomed to having those visitors coming into our ports here," he said. "The impact won't be much because one of our bigger partners is Holland America (Cruises), but we do get guests from Carnival and it will have some impact."

Wat said his is disappointed for the industry in general, and the impact that Carnival's decision will have on hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to tourists.

"One of the things we hear from guests is that had they known about Vancouver or Whistler they would have changed their schedule to stay longer," said Wat. "A lot of people want to come back for that reason."

As for the passport issue, Wat expects that it will impact visitor numbers in the short term but eventually people will get used to the idea.

"In general, any type of restrictions or extra hoops for travelers to jump through always plays us for a bit of a low," he said. "In this case we're hoping people will understand... And we're hoping it's not a long term deterrent.

"If we need to carry passports, so be it. It's like smoking in restaurants - at first there was an uproar but after some time people understand, and bars and restaurants continue to exist."

The Whistler Mountaineer's spring operations get underway on May 12 this year.

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