They came, they saw, and by most accounts the 1,300 passengers from the cruise ship Statendam enjoyed their furlough in Port Alberni.
The 720-foot, 55,000-tonne ship returned to the Valley for the first time in two years on Thursday.
The ship arrived from Victoria and anchored in the harbour, where passengers were taxied ashore by the boat’s own water craft.
Up to two-thirds of the passengers came ashore, Port Alberni Port Authority manager Brad Madelung said.
After checking through a customs station throngs of passengers were greeted by chamber of commerce volunteers, including executive director Mike Carter.
“The fact the cruise line chose to come here makes us proud,” Carter said.
There wasn’t anything uniform about the passengers, who came from the Lower Mainland, Pacific Northwest and even from Port Alberni.
“There are more younger people than I thought,” Carter said.
Several passengers had travelled to Port Alberni on their way to Tofino.
“But this is their first time stopping and spending time here.”
More than 20 volunteer ambassadors wearing their signature yellow jackets were stationed about Harbour Quay handing out tourist guides and answering passenger’s questions.
There was little presence beyond the ambassadors at the Quay, however.
“Holland America wanted a low key approach,” Carter said.
Some passengers moseyed about town, but most, however, participated in one of five excursion packages.
The outings included a Pacific Rim bus tour, trip to Cathedral Grove, and waterfall tour.
Visitors moved the needle up a notch on the city’s economic barometer but it has to be taken in context, Carter said.
“It’s not a huge generator but it is good for the economy,” he said.
“Vancouver can get 20,000 (visitors) in a day and that’s a significant generator.”
There were two separate trips to the mill with both attracting 80 passengers each.
There, passengers were given a tour of the facility, a demonstration of the mill, as well as a home made light lunch.
There was no problem accommodating that many people at the facility.
“We have the equipment, staff and volunteers to handle large numbers of people,” Malbon said.
“And we already handle bus excursions that come here from Nanaimo anyway.”
Whether or not the train and mill tours were the most popular isn’t known yet.
“I haven’t seen the hard numbers yet so I can’t say if we were the most popular tour or not,” mill manager Neil Malbon said.
“But people sure enjoyed themselves while they were here.”
By most accounts passengers enjoyed their stay, Madelung said at the end of the day.
“All indications are that things went smoothly – people enjoyed their stay,” Madelung said.
Some passengers had mobility issues, but the port authority was prepared.
“We had a golf cart on the dock to take people up the ramp,” port official Dave McCormick said.
The boat disembarked at 5 p.m. and was bound for Astoria, Ore.
A debriefing of the visit to see what worked and what can be improved is expected to take place on Friday, Madelung said.
The next cruise ship visit will be in September when the ship Amsterdam will drop anchor here.