(12:14 p.m. EDT) -- Crystal Symphony is kicking off the Pacific Northwest cruise season this week with the first calls of the year in Seattle and Victoria. But instead of being met with fanfare in Victoria, the ship was welcomed with a taxi boycott by most major Victoria cab companies. But it's not Crystal's fault. The taxi companies, according to the Vancouver Sun, boycotted the port to protest the $200-per-car fee levied on transportation services (cabs, shuttle buses, limos, etc.) to access the Ogden Point cruise port. The Greater Victoria Taxi Association members say "the boycott will continue until they get a meeting with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority on the issue" to negotiate a lower rate. The problem is that cruise ship visits, passenger spending and therefore revenues are down, so the taxi companies would like a lower fee to help their bottom line. This year, Victoria will see 210 ship visits, down from 228 last year. And, according to another story in the Vancouver Sun, "spending by cruise ship passengers has been flat or on the decline for the last three years" and "more than 80 per cent of the cruise ship stops in Victoria will be homeward bound to Seattle on the last leg of their Alaskan cruise when spending budgets may be exhausted." What does this mean for cruise travelers on today's Crystal Symphony call or this weekend's visit by Holland America's Zaandam? If you need a cab, you can try your luck on waiting for an independent taxi to arrive, use other forms of transportation (including free downtown buses) or book a ship's tour.
--by Erica Silverstein, Features Editor