Cruise ships returning to Thunder Bay port

After a several-year absence, Thunder Bay, Ont.'s Pool 6 dock will once again host a cruise ship next summer.

Victory II will call at Pool 6 dock in late July, 2018

Paul Pepe is the manager of the City of Thunder Bay's tourism division. (Paul Pepe)

After a several-year absence, Thunder Bay, Ont.'s Pool 6 dock will once again host a cruise ship next summer.

The newly-commissioned Victory II, which is owned by Victory Cruise Lines, will visit Thunder Bay in late July, 2018, said Paul Pepe, the city's tourism manager.

The last cruise ship to visit Thunder Bay came in 2012, he said.

Not many seaway-compliant vessels

"There's not a lot of cruise ships that are [St. Lawrence Seaway] compliant, in the sense that they they can fit through the locks, they don't have any protrusions," he said. "A lot of the big cruise ships that people are familiar with, they have life boats that protrude, they have bridge wings that protrude, and those things can not go through the seaway safely."

There are also challenges with crossing the Canada-U.S. border, which runs through the middle Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

However, Pepe said, there are "record numbers" of vessels in the lower Great Lakes, and more seaway-compliant ships are being built.

First turnaround vessel

The Victory II, Pepe said, will also be the first turnaround cruise ship the city has hosted.

A turnaround is when a ship terminates a voyage, and then starts a new one from the same port.

In Victory II's case, Pepe said, the route runs from Chicago to Thunder Bay. So it will conclude one of those voyages in the city, and then start a new run from Thunder Bay back to Chicago.

That offers some economic bonuses, Pepe said, as passengers tend to stay an extra night in the city — either after their voyage concludes, or prior to their voyage starting — and also fly through Thunder Bay's airport.

In addition, the ship will need to be restocked with food and other supplies while docked in Thunder Bay.

"We have the capabilities here in the community, with air infrastructure, hotels, and the supply side of things," Pepe said.

Pepe said the Victory II carries about 220 passenger and 70 crew, and is the sister ship of Victory I, which has been in service since 2001.

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