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First cruise ship arrives in Thunder Bay

In 2023, cruise ship activity generated $4.3 million for the local tourism industry

THUNDER BAY — The first ship of the cruise season arrived in Thunder Bay this week. 

Viking Octantis is a two-and-a-half-year-old ship that has travelled all of the Great Lakes over the last two weeks. 

The 665-foot ship arrived in Thunder Bay on the morning of June 6 and was headed for Duluth later in the day.

“The journey was very good,” said Jörgen Cardestig, the ship’s captain, adding that they’ve mostly had sunny days with generally calm waters. 

Duluth is the end of the trip for the ship’s more than 300 guests, most of whom are from the United States. Octantis will pickup more passengers in Duluth and then do the trip in reverse. 

The ship has a lot of toys, Cardestig said, including two yellow submarines named John and Paul, sojourners, kayaks, tender boats, and more. There is a spa, a gym, multiple pools, and an entertainment hall. 

Cardestig said the ship may not have as much on-board entertainment as other cruise ships, but there is a band and the entertainment manager is a singer so that definitely helps keep people entertained.

While in Thunder Bay on Wednesday, some passengers planned to visit Kakabeka Falls, he said. They may also stop at restaurants in town, go hiking, or visit other attractions. 

Paul Pepe, manager of Tourism Thunder Bay with the Community Economic Development Commission, said 14 cruise ships visited the city in 2023 including three turnarounds.  

This had a $4.3-million economic impact for Thunder Bay and the region. 

“It does make a pretty sizable impact in the community that extends beyond our municipal borders.

“Cruising is an important part of our tourism industry. It's not just the economic impact of the vessel itself, but it's the media attention that cruise ships bring.” 

Pepe said cruise ships coming to the city help elevate Thunder Bay’s reputation to a global audience. 

“We will have 17 vessels visiting the community this year including five turnarounds. A lot of the vessel visits are for day stops, but the turnarounds is an area of growth. 

“Because the ships stay in port longer, they take on food here, they take waste off the ship.

“There's a much broader economic impact with a turnaround. Guests are flying in and out of the city, so the airlines get business from it.”

Pepe said several guests will arrive a day or two early or stay in the area for a day or two after the cruise — so it benefits hotels, restaurants, and more. 

The sister ship, Viking Polaris, is scheduled to arrive in the city on the evening of June 7.

— TBnewswatch