On October 4th the last Cruise Ship leaves Vancouver for the season. Fittingly named the Island Princess, either because she cruises islands everywhere she goes or because she is an island all unto herself with all the amenities 1,970 passengers could expect; including a fitness centre/spa, casino and a wide variety of restaurants. The Island Princess is part of the Princess Cruise line which, in turn, is owned by the Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise ship operator, which also owns the Carnival, Holland-America, P&O, and Cunard lines amongst others. Royal Caribbean is the 2nd largest cruise ship operator but it has the biggest ships with 9 of the top 11 including the very biggest, Oasis of the Seas, which, at 220,000 gross tons, 362 metres in length, and 63 metres in beam, is more than 4 times the size of the Titanic in gross tonnage, 100 meters longer, and twice the width. It's also capable of carrying over 6,000 passengers and crew, nearly double that of the Titanic.
|Crown Princess photo by Junie Quiroga|
For better or worse the Oasis of the Seas has yet to make it to Vancouver but, at a fuel consumption rate of 7,000 gallons per hour at 22 knots, (which works out to 20 gallons per foot) it's probably better off puttering around the Caribbean. At any rate it wouldn't make it through the Panama canal, where the maximum cruise ship size the locks can accommodate is 290 metres in length and 32 metres in width, so it would be a very long and expensive trip to get here no matter what route it took. The Island Princess, on the other hand, is part of a class of ships referred to as Panamax, which is the maximum size ships can be to squeeze through the Panama canal. As a result, they can spend the winter season in the Caribbean and then come up to the Pacific Northwest in summer to cruise the waters of the Inside Passage.
|Oasis of the Seas|
The seemingly inexhaustable market for folks wanting to check out the beautiful B.C. coastline and the glaciers of Alaska has kept our waterfront humming with the comings and goings of all these massive ships, even with the competition from Seattle. The 2010 stats aren't out yet but in 2009 there were 35 different vessels here, carrying 900,000 passengers on 256 sailings. The logistics of feeding and watering all these people, never mind the thousands of crew members themselves, is too staggering to contemplate, and let's not forget about the fuel. And this is only for the Alaska cruise season. No wonder Micky Arison, the owner of Carnival, is listed by Forbes as the 94th wealthiest person in the world.
|4 Cruise ships at the Canada Place terminal|
While the Island Princess has been busy all summer taking guests back and forth to Alaska, her last cruise of the season is a 17 day re-positioning one to Fort Lauderdale via the Panama Canal. There she will set up camp for the winter Caribbean season, along with all the other cruise ships in the region who use Fort Lauderdale as their home base. It's an annual migration that follows the same route as the whales (at least as far as Mexico) and, for those in the know, these re-positioning cruises offer a great bargain. Next spring, just like the whales, these leviathans of the boating world will return but for now it's goodbye Vancouver.
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