More Cruise Ship Operators Interested in Thunder Bay

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THUNDER BAY —Signs point to further growth in the Great Lakes cruise ship industry and economic spinoffs for ports like Thunder Bay.

“We’re really excited about the growing interest in Thunder Bay,” said Paul Pepe, the city’s director of tourism.

Representatives from five cruise ship operators visited the city last week as part of a familiarization tour.

Pepe says they spent three days here gathering information on the port’s suitability for inclusion in their ships’ itineraries.

“They also plan to bring their ships to Lake Superior in the coming years,” Pepe said in an interview Tuesday.

He made the comment reflecting on the first half of the current cruise ship season, which saw Thunder Bay visited three times by Viking Expeditions. octanti viking and twice by American Queen Voyages’ ocean navigator.

No cruise ship had docked in Thunder Bay since 2013.

The Community Economic Development Commission estimated last year that the industry could generate more than $20 million in local economic impact between 2022 and 2024 and support dozens of jobs.

Viking Octantis will make four more voyages this year, bringing up to 378 passengers each time and boarding a new set for its return trip.

Pepe says the complicated logistics that come with hosting cruise ships were worked out during the first half of the season.

The City of Thunder Bay has already spent a significant amount of money improving the mooring facility at the Pool 6 site, including dock upgrades, a new fender system, bollard replacements, electrical work , rubble removal, road realignment and landscaping.

Almost half of the $2.5 million cost is covered by a grant from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation.

“These investments allow us to be a bit more competitive in terms of future business opportunities,” Pepe said.

“Having these upgrades done this year, and having the first rotation ship we’ve ever had here with the VIking Octantis, has given everyone a good idea of ​​what works logistically and what doesn’t, and that will help influence, I think, future investments there.”

He added that everyone from ship operators to pilots said the wharf is functional, secure and safe, and its proximity to the city center is convenient.

The city’s goal, Pepe said, is to see Thunder Bay continue to be a hub port as inbound and outbound passengers spend money at hotels, restaurants and other local businesses. .

He said it would be important for the city to continue working with other Great Lakes ports to market the region to cruise ship passengers.

The next Viking Octantis tour will be Friday, August 5 at 6 p.m.

Earlier today, the ship will call at Silver Islet.

It will depart Sunday, August 7 at 5 a.m. and take a new group of passengers to Silver Islet before heading to Duluth and the south shore of Lake Superior en route to Milwaukee.

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