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The Vancouver Cruise Experience

If there’s a more beautiful arrival port than Vancouver — this side of Venice — we haven’t seen it. The one time we arrived at the Port of Vancouver, on the Coral Princess, it was breathtaking. Considering that we once lived there, that says something.

Breathtaking, until we disembarked. Then, we were out of breath for a different reason. Trying to negotiate our way through the terminal, past the buses, carrying and wheeling four or five pieces of luggage was, in a word, exhausting.

Good news is on the horizon.

Next year, when the Alaska season brings cruise ships to the West Coast, the Port of Vancouver terminal will be only the one at Canada Place (an older one, called Ballantyne VancouverPier, is being retired). What’s more, changes to Canada Place will mean, in the words of Port authorities: “cruise terminal passenger flows to improve efficiency and optimize the passenger experience.”

About time!

The improvements come in the form of two new escalators, plus additional check-in and marshaling space, which hopefully also includes additional check-out space.And there’s more good news…

Royal Caribbean ships were able to use shore power for the first time, joining ships from Disney, Holland America and Princess. That has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 11,000 tonnes. While we are unable to put that into global context, we know this: It’s good.

Vancouver is closing in on a million visitors a year from cruise ships, resulting in near half a million hotel stays in British Columbia and an estimated $2 million in economic activity each time a cruise ships arrives. But the best part for us is still that getting off the ship — hopefully — will be easier.

We’re happy to have our breath taken away once, not twice.

Today at portsandbows.com: On board the new Quantum of the Seas

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
December 21, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $379
Cost per day: $63

Questions with Victoria's Environmental Change

Photo: Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

The people of Victoria, British Columbia's capital city and a regular port for cruise ships going to and from Alaska, are choked. Or maybe that should be "choking."

Here, point by point, is why:

• The city scrapped plans to install shore power (electrical plug-ins) to improve air quality from visiting cruise ships.

• The reasoning for the $9-million decision was that stricter environmental rules would do the job.

• Residents have long complained about emissions from not just ships but also buses and related shuttle vehicles that service passengers.

• The 'scrubbers" that ships are using to meet environmental standards won't be in place until sometime in 2016.

• Between now and then, residents want to allow only one ship without a scrubber to be in port at any one time.

All of this raises at least a few questions:

1. If Canada's busiest cruise port is right, that scrubbers will eliminate the need for shore power to meet environmental regulations, then why did "neighboring" cities like Seattle and Vancouver install them?

2. Do residents really think schedules can be adjusted so that only one non-scrubber ship is in port at once without alienating the cruise lines that stop there?

3. Whether it's shore power or scrubbers, neither will address air-quality complaints from the exhaust of buses, shuttles and taxis.

4. Does Victoria have a bigger decision to make, about whether it wants to be a cruise port or not?

This year, there are 207 cruise-ships visits scheduled for Victoria.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: A photo essay about cruising

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
June 15, 2014
New York (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71

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