Silver Shadow’s Unique Call on Prince Rupert

Today, Silversea's Silver Shadow made her only call on Prince Rupert, British Columbia for the entire season. Here, a guest photographs an old-growth tree in the Butze Rainforest. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Today, Silversea’s Silver Shadow made her only call on Prince Rupert, British Columbia for the entire season. Here, a guest photographs an old-growth tree in the Butze Rainforest. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

After a full week in Alaska, Silversea’s Silver Shadow glided into our first Canadian port of call since departing Vancouver last week.

Home to roughly 12,500 year-long residents, Prince Rupert was founded in 1910 by Grand Trunk Pacific Railway manager Charles Hayes, who envisioned the town as a major tourist destination and a port of call for steamships bound for Alaska and the Orient. Ironically, Hayes would end up perishing less than two years later as a passenger aboard the RMS Titanic, but his dream of seeing Prince Rupert mature as a port city has been realized over a century later.

Silversea's Silver Shadow docked at the Northland Cruise Terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silversea’s Silver Shadow docked at the Northland Cruise Terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Passenger ships never came in the magnitude Hayes envisioned, but the maritime shipping industry did. The deepest natural ice-free harbour in North America, Prince Rupert’s shipping terminals were expanded over the intervening decades.

Today, the Port is the closest large North American port to Asia by up to three sailing days. In fact, the Port is the lifeline of modern Prince Rupert. Last year, 23 million tonnes of cargo passed through the Port’s four industrial terminals. The demand for oceangoing transport is so high that the Port recently acquired a fourth Super Post-Panamax cargo crane, and is on-track for another record year of growth.

Prince Rupert's main claim to fame is as a major shipping port.  A total of 23 million tonnes of cargo passed through the Port's four cargo terminals last year. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Prince Rupert’s main claim to fame is as a major shipping port. A total of 23 million tonnes of cargo passed through the Port’s four cargo terminals last year. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A train - stretching for kilometres into the distance - waits for its spot at the Fairview Container Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A train – stretching for kilometres into the distance – waits for its spot at the Fairview Container Terminal. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Cruise ships, though, have only been coming here for about a decade. In 2004, the Northland Cruise Terminal opened for business on the waterfront, complete with docking space for one large cruise ship of up to 300 metres in length, and Canada Customs & Border Protection officers to handle formalities for ships coming from Alaska.

There’s just one teensy, tiny problem: unlike the meteoric rise of cargo operations, cruise traffic here has largely dried up.

Silver Shadow docked in Prince Rupert today. Sadly, she is one of only a handful of ships that will visit this year. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Silver Shadow docked in Prince Rupert today. Sadly, she is one of only a handful of ships that will visit this year. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem, right, and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) greet guests from the Silver Shadow as they disembark. Nice touch! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Prince Rupert mayor Jack Mussallem, right, and a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) greet guests from the Silver Shadow as they disembark. Nice touch! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In the past decade, several mainstream cruise lines used to call regularly on Prince Rupert. At its height, the passenger terminal handled over 100,000 guests in a single season. But those days are gone – at least, for now. This year, just four ships will make a total of eight calls on Prince Rupert – meaning that Wrangell, Alaska – where we were yesterday – is actually a busier port in terms of cruise traffic. Today marks the only call of the season for Silver Shadow, which could explain why the Mayor of Prince Rupert and a very nicely dressed member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) personally greeted guests today as they came ashore.

Prince Rupert is a rather pretty little town, though its downtown core is populated by a surprising amount of abandoned buildings for such a wealthy port city. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Prince Rupert is a rather pretty little town, though its downtown core is populated by a surprising amount of abandoned buildings for such a wealthy port city. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Atlin Terminal now houses several shops and the Interpretive Center for the Port of Prince Rupert. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Atlin Terminal now houses several shops and the Interpretive Center for the Port of Prince Rupert. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The centerpiece of Pacific Mariner's Memorial Park is the Kazu Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel that was found wrecked off Haida Gwaii. It had drifted over from Japan after its owner disappeared. Prince Rupert traced the boat back to its owners, and the fisherman's widow and family were invited over from Owase, Japan to dedicate the park in 1990. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The centerpiece of Pacific Mariner’s Memorial Park is the Kazu Maru, a Japanese fishing vessel that was found wrecked off Haida Gwaii. It had drifted over from Japan after its owner disappeared. Prince Rupert traced the boat back to its owners, and the fisherman’s widow and family were invited over from Owase, Japan to dedicate the park in 1990. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Departing Prince Rupert, BC, aboard the Silver Shadow. Being from British Columbia, I am passionate about seeing more lines call here. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Departing Prince Rupert, BC, aboard the Silver Shadow. Being from British Columbia, I am passionate about seeing more lines call here. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In many ways, Prince Rupert is unsuited to mainstream ships. Sure, the dock can accommodate them physically, but a ship bringing 2,600 passengers ashore would flood Prince Rupert. And, if I may be brutally honest, there just isn’t the kind of shopping mecca here that those passengers would be expecting.

For a luxury line like Silversea, however, Prince Rupert feels like the absolute right choice for this itinerary. What Prince Rupert lacks in duty-free shopping, it makes up for in its friendly, authentic experience. This is a fast-growing, hard-working community, and I’d love to see the Prince Rupert Port Authority really reach out to the expedition and luxury lines to try to draw more guests here. These are the kinds of places that I personally seek out, and I get the impression that I am not alone here on the Silver Shadow in that respect.

Setting out on the Butze (but-see) Rapids Trail near Prince Rupert for our 2.5-hour hike. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Setting out on the Butze (but-see) Rapids Trail near Prince Rupert for our 2.5-hour hike. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

To make the most of my very first visit to this fascinating town, I set out on the 2.5-hour long Butze Rainforest Walk (YPR-G) that departed the ship at 9:30a.m. It’s one of seven shore excursions that Silversea offered in Prince Rupert, which is rather impressive considering that this is a one-off port for the 2014 Alaska season for Silver Shadow.

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Our Live Voyage Report onboard Silversea’s luxurious Silver Shadow continues tomorrow, as we spend a day at sea en-route to Victoria, British Columbia! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

One Response to Silver Shadow Live Voyage Report – Day 9

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