It was smooth sailing for the Viking Octantis as it arrived to the Thunder Bay port on Tuesday evening with 340 international passengers.
The ship’s arrival starts the 2024 cruise ship season, which is expected to be the biggest and busiest the city has seen.
Mayor Ken Boshcoff presented Ioan Frunza, the ship’s general manager; Daniel Hansson, staff captain, and ship Capt. Jorgen Cardestig with a commemorative gift for being the first cruise liner to arrive this season.
Cardestig said during the two-week journey from Toronto, they have covered all five of the Great Lakes and will end this passage in Duluth, Minn., before turning around and sailing the entire two-week trek back to Toronto.
“Our journey here was very good with 10 days of the two weeks being sunny and the wind conditions have been very good,” he said.
Cardestig said the evolving Thunder Bay port is comparable to Duluth’s, but Detroit and Cleveland are bigger cities so it’s difficult to compare.
“I think every place has its own charm,” he said.
Cardestig pointed out that, unlike Thunder Bay, Duluth does not have a berthing site for the two-and-a-half-year-old cruise ship and is currently in the process of dredging to create a space.
The cruise ship must maintain “dynamic positioning,” which means they keep the ship in the same position without anchoring. He called Thunder Bay’s berth a “big improvement” with its new dock fenders, even though there is a mere 1.9 metres of water between the bottom of the ship and the floor of the lake at the Pool Six site.
“We can see that they took away that pile of gravel of whatever it was, and I think they’re using it as a path or walkway for the guests, which is very good, “Cardestig said, referring to the former Pool Six debris.
“We see they’re starting to build the art museum and it’s a big improvement.”
The ship’s passenger capacity is 370 passengers, which is typically made up of 96 per cent Americans, some Canadians, Australians and British. In addition, there are 265 crew onboard as well.
Paul Pepe, manager of Thunder Bay Tourism, said the 14 vessel visits in 2023 resulted in $4.3 million of economic impact on the city and region, and the 17 visits this year are expected to boost that impact to $5 million.
“Cruising helps amplify and elevate the community’s reputation to a whole new global audience,” Pepe said. “There were millions of dollars in global media coverage on the Great Lakes and on Thunder Bay as well, so there’s a lot of economic impacts on the community. But there’s also a lot of impacts in terms of the reputation of the community as well.”
He said there’s a growing interest in expedition and discovery cruising with smaller ships, and the Great Lakes are regarded as one of the last undiscovered areas on the planet for cruising.
“Thunder Bay is that gateway city to the archipelago, the North Shore of Lake Superior,” he said. “We have the airport infrastructure to fly guests in and out, we have all of the supply chain here in the community, a beautiful facility, great attractions that the guests want to see, many port partners like Embark Port Services and the city does an amazing job managing, managing this dock.”
Pepe added that everybody working together is critical to the success of this industry.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 06, 2024 at 10:20

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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