The cruise industry in Canada is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the travel industry in Canada. They are a popular holiday choice for both Canadian and non-Canadian tourists, offering a unique way of exploring the longest coastline in the world which spans 243,042 kilometres, and visiting vibrant port cities.

In this article, we look at the statistics of the cruise industry in Canada, including its impact on the Canadian economy and cruise traffic at the busiest ports in Canada. We have also included key statistics on the global cruise industry for comparison.

Cruise Industry Statistics for Canadians

  • Canada has over 900 harbours and ports across the world’s longest coastline.
  • The cruise industry revenue is expected to reach $1.152 billion by the end of 2023.
  • The cruise industry employs over 30,000 people in Canada.
  • Almost 40% more Canadians took a cruise holiday in 2023 compared to June 2019.
  • Two-thirds of cruise passengers in Canada are over 65 years of age.
  • The Royal Caribbean cruise ships carried the most passengers in 2021.
  • By the end of 2023, 18 new cruise ships will be added to the global fleet.
  • The Icon of the Seas by Royal Caribbean will be the largest ship launched to date, carry 7,600 people, and cost $2,000 million to build.
  • Over 50% of new cruise ships use LNG to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Port Canaveral is the busiest port in the world with over 4.2 million passengers in 2022.

Cruise Industry in Canada

Because Canada has such a long coastline, it has over 900 harbours and ports where cruise liners can stop. The marine industries, including the cruise industry, are vital for Canada’s economic growth, innovation, and job creation.

In addition to direct jobs within the cruise and other marine industries, the ocean-based sectors affect other major industries in Canada through income-related effects and supply chains, thus benefiting all provinces and regions.

Cruise Industry Revenue

The revenue from the cruise industry in Canada is projected to reach $1.152 billion by the end of 2023. This will be the first time since the pandemic that the revenue is getting closer to the pre-pandemic figure of $1.383 billion in 2019. The impact of the pandemic is seen in the revenues from 2020 and 2021, which were $0.23 billion and 0.69 billion, respectively.

The expected annual growth rate for the industry’s revenue is 8.32%. If this growth rate is realised, the revenue will reach $1.586 by 2027. The number of cruise users is expected to reach 990,000 by 2027, which would equate to $1,532 average revenue by user.

Cruise Industry’s Economic Contribution in Canada

The cruise industry employs just over 30,000 people and contributes to the creation of thousands of more jobs. The industry represents an annual input of over $4.28 billion into the economy of Canada.

In 2019, 3,062,000 passengers arrived on cruise ships. Direct spending by cruise lines totalled $1.99 billion, including staffing, goods, and services, while passenger spending on food, retail, tours, transportation, and lodging was nearly $780 million.

The Cruise Industry is Growing Fast in Canada

Cruise ship holidays are one of the fastest-growing types of holidays in Canada. Their popularity among Canadians grew by 39.7% in June 2023 compared to 2019 before the pandemic interrupted travel plans. Canadians took over 21,000 cruise trips in June 2023.

In addition to Canadians, non-residents took cruise holidays in Canada, too. In June US residents took 271,900 cruise trips in Canada and overseas residents took 32,300 cruise trips. While the number of US residents taking cruise holidays in Canada was up by 30.1%, the number of overseas passengers was lagging at 81.7% of the number of trips taken in June 2019.

Majority of Cruise Passengers Are Over 65

Despite the efforts of the cruise industry to make cruises more popular among younger holidaymakers, the majority of cruise passengers in Canada are still over 65 years of age. 65.9% of cruise passengers are over 65-years-old.

The next biggest group is 45-64 year olds who make up 27.1% of the passengers. Only 4.3% of all passengers are 25-44 years old and 1.2% are 15-24 years old. The remaining 1.5% of the passengers are under 15 years of age.

2.6% of Canadians Went on a Cruise in 2018

Canadians are among the most active cruise ship passengers in the world. In 2018, 971,000 Canadians out of a population of 37,700,000 went on a cruise. This was 2.6% of the population, which places Canada seventh on the list.
Singaporeans have the highest percentage of cruise ship passengers with 6.4% of the population going on a cruise in 2018. Australia and the United States came next with 5.4% and 4%, respectively.

Major Ports in Canada

While there are over 900 harbours and ports in the country, the major ports see significantly more cruise traffic than smaller ports. Here is a closer look at three of the major Canadian ports for cruise liners.

Vancouver

Vancouver has the largest port in Canada and is the busiest port in all of North America. In 2022, 307 cruise ships docked in Vancouver. This was the highest number on record and 7% more than in 2019, the last full cruise season before the COVID-19 pandemic. 2023 is set to be another record-breaking year with 331 scheduled stops for cruise liners.

In addition to passenger ships, the port in Vancouver handles a lot of cargo. In 2022, it handled 141.2 million tonnes, and in 2021 146.5 million tonnes of cargo. The port covers over 1,500 hectares of land area and 16,000 hectares of water. The port generates 115,300 jobs and contributes $11.8 million in GDP across the country.

Halifax

In 2022, the port in Halifax received 148 cruise ships. This was an extremely welcome change after the COVID years when no cruise ships docked in Halifax in 2020 or 2021. The number of cruise ships that visited Halifax in 2022 was below pre-pandemic figures with 179 cruise ships in 2019 and 198 in 2018. However, figures are back up in 2023, almost equalling the 2018 record year, with 191 scheduled stops for cruise ships.

Halifax also handles cargo in addition to cruise ships, approximately 19 tonnes per year. Annually, the port welcomes over 1,500 ships and it is linked to 150 countries. The port creates 13,000 jobs in the area.

Montreal

In the 2023 cruise season, which in Montreal began on the 29th of April and will end on October 30th, 51 cruise ships will call in the port of Montreal. This is five more cruise ships than in 2022. 39 of the ships will board and disembark in Montreal and 12 will stop over.

The largest port in Eastern Canada, Montreal handled 36 million tonnes of cargo in 2022. This was a 5.8% increase compared to 2021. The routes from Montreal connect to over 140 countries and the port handles around 2,000 ships every year.

Global Cruise Industry Statistics

Before the pandemic, in 2019, the global cruise industry created 1.8 million direct jobs and welcomed 29.7 million passengers. All cruise operations were suspended in March 2020 and while some cruises were resumed in July 2020, it took until 2021 for the global industry to begin its recovery.

In 2021, the global passenger numbers were almost 13.9 million, which was 46% of the passengers in 2019. While there are no confirmed passenger numbers yet for 2022, it is expected that it will comfortably exceed 13.9 million.
Royal Caribbean Had the Most Passengers in 2021

Out of all the cruise lines operating in 2021, the cruise ships operating as part of the Royal Caribbean carried the most passengers. The company had 20 out of its 24 ships back in operation by the end of the year. In total, the Royal Caribbean cruise ships carried 2,657,900 passengers in 2021.

The next was Carnival with 17 of its 23 ships back in service. 2,528,100 people took a Carnival cruise in 2021. Other cruise companies in the top five based on passenger numbers were MSC Cruises with 1,414,700 passengers, Norwegian with 1,200,300 passengers, and Costa Cruises with 862,400 passengers.

18 New Cruise Ships Launched in 2023

Provided that everything stays on track, there will be 18 new cruise ships added to the global feet this year. This will be one more than was added in 2022, but six less than in 2021. The largest ship to launch in 2023 was the Icon of the Seas for the Royal Caribbean which has a capacity of 7,600 people and cost US$2,000 to build.

Other large cruise ships that launched in 2023 included the Carnival companies Carnival Jubilee and MSC Euribia for MSC Cruise. The Carnival Jubilee cost US$950 million and has a capacity of 6,500, while the MSC Euribia cost $850 million and can carry 4,800 people.

However, the launch of new passenger ships does not mean the fleet is continuously growing. For example, in 2022, 17 ships were launched while 18 were scrapped. There are currently 323 cruise ships in the world.

The Icon of the Seas is the Largest Cruise Ship to Date

The Icon of the Seas will be considerably bigger than previously launched ships. It is in a class of its own, called Icon Class. Its capacity exceeds that of the previously largest ship Wonder of the Seas at 7,600 compared to 6,988. While the Wonder of the Seas had an internal volume of 236,857 gross tons, the internal volume of the Icon of the Seas is 250,800 gross tons.

Over Half of New Cruise Ships use LNG

To make the industry more environmentally friendly, over 50% of the ships launching in 2022 and 2023 use Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) rather than diesel. LNG is the cleanest of all fossil fuels and will help cruise operators reduce their greenhouse gas emissions because it has virtually no sulphur emissions.

Out of old ships that are powered by diesel, 69% of them have an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) fitted. These can remove 98% of the sulphur from exhaust emissions. 96% of new ships that use diesel have EGCS already installed.

The Average Cruise Lasts Seven Days

The average duration of a cruise is seven days and they account for 40% of all cruises. The next most common duration is 4-6 days with 27%. 15% of cruises last 8-13 days, 11% for 3 days, and 4% are 14-day cruises.

Port Canaveral is the Busiest Cruise Port

There are over 2,000 cruise ports around the world, with 1,632 ocean ports and 587 river ports. The busiest port for cruises is the Port Canaveral in Florida. In 2022, the port welcomed 4.2 million passengers. Traditionally, Miami has had a busier port, but welcomed slightly fewer passengers, at 4.02 million, in 2022.

Conclusion

The cruise industry is growing fast in Canada and is recovering well from the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the passenger numbers for overseas cruise visitors were still down compared to 2019 in June 2023, the numbers of Canadian and American cruise passengers were up. The cruise industry will likely show full recovery both in Canada and globally this year.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Wonder of the Seas with 6,998 capacity is the biggest ship until the launch of Icon of the Seas in late 2023 with a capacity of 7,600.

In 2018, 2.6% of Canadians went on a cruise holiday.

While younger Canadians take cruise holidays, too, the majority of passengers are over 65 years old. People under 65 represent only a third of cruise passengers in Canada.

Sources