By Heather Ramsay-BC Ferries has finally announced its summer schedule for the northern routes, one month after the loss of the Queen of the North.
The Queen of Prince Rupert will service both the islands and the Inside Passage route for the tourist season, but on a very different schedule than islanders have seen before.
The islands will be serviced with three round-trips a week based on a 14-day cycle, which in effect is two trips one week and four trips the next.
The days of the week the ferry runs changes each week. One week the ferry will run between Skidegate and Prince Rupert on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday and the next week the ferry will run on Thursday and Friday.
The times have also changed. The ferry will leave Prince Rupert at 6 am and arrive in Skidegate at noon. The return will leave Skidegate at 3:30 pm and arrive in Rupert at 10 pm.
Mark Stefanson, vice-president of communications with BC Ferries, said the schedule was developed in consultation with customers, community leaders, business owners and tourism partners to satisfy everyone’s needs.
The 14-day cycle will also provide two trips a week to Port Hardy. This rotating schedule helps to maintain some of the same days of departure as the Queen of the North was scheduled for the Inside Passageroute, so bus tours can stay on schedule for their set packages.
BC Ferries may offer an eco-experience package on the central coast along with air flights from Port Hardy to Prince Rupert for tour groups who had already reserved on other days of departure on the Inside Passage route.
On the Rupert-Skidegate route, BC Ferries will also be adding two barge sailings a week for commercial vehicles, which should free up space on the QPR for tourists and local traffic. Mr. Stefanson said special needs and people with medical issues might be transported to Prince Rupert by air, with a referral from a doctor.
The summer service runs from May 18 to September 30. Passengers won’t be able to make reservations for the summer schedule until May 1.
BC Ferries has also now decided to keep a manifest of passenger names, so passengers will have to be at the terminal two hours before sailing, meaning those reserved on a 6 am departure from Prince Rupert, for example, will have to be at the terminal at 4 am.
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