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Three different cruise ships will visit Thunder Bay next year

The total economic impact of cruise ship activity in Thunder Bay this season is estimated at roughly $4 million.
Thunder Bay cruise ship
(TBnewswatch photo)

THUNDER BAY — The 2022 cruise ship season is over, but planning for next year is well underway.

The 378-passenger Viking Octantis made its last "turnaround" stopover in Thunder Bay on the weekend.

Although it will return next year only three times, Tourism Thunder Bay manager Paul Pepe says it sister ship, Viking Polaris, will make half a dozen day-stops in the city.

Just as it did this  year, the Octantis will drop its passengers off in Thunder Bay and replace them with a new set of passengers who've travelled to the city by air. The visits by the Polaris will be four-hour stays.

As well, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' 230-passenger Hanseatic Inspiration is scheduled to stop in Thunder Bay on two occasions.

"So we have 11 ship visits in 2023. We've gained so much knowledge this year on meeting the logistical needs of these new, modern ships that we're feeling really comfortable and confident for next year," Pepe said in an interview. He said he's enjoyed meeting passengers at the Pool 6 dock, finding out where they're from and what they'd like to explore.

"A lot of folks are going downtown, looking for local beer, looking for local food, and looking for local gifts. It's fun to engage visitors, and that feedback helps us build a better experience for next year."

The total number of cruise ship visits to the city last year was nine, including seven by the Octantis and two by American Queen Voyage's Ocean Navigator.

Pepe said signs point toward the continuing expansion of cruising on the Great Lakes, including Lake Superior.

"There's growing global interest, and that bodes well for Thunder Bay," he said. In a sign of that increasing attention, the New York Times published a lengthy article last week about the return of cruise ships to Lake Superior.

Pepe said he and his staff are in the process of calculating the overall economic benefits from cruise ship visits this season.

"There's a lot of other services a ship takes on here. There's liquid and solid waste removal, and taking on food supplies. A vessel also orders supplies for its operation...There's shuttle operators, motor coach operators, tour guides, cab companies. The list is quite extensive."

Pepe estimated the total economic impact this year will be somewhere between $4 million and $4.2 million, including accommodations rented by passengers, many of whom spent two or more days in Thunder Bay while waiting to board the Octantis.

This year saw the first cruise ships to stop in Thunder Bay since 2013.

— TBNewsWatch