Just thought I could add to this discussion. Having lived half my life in Nanaimo/Vancouver and half in the UK, I can see this as both a tourist and (not so recent) local. I've been on plenty of cruises as well and I think Nanaimo has a lot to offer. There really is enough for a cruise passenger to do in the hours that they are in port and Nanaimo actually has a good reputation on cruise forums:
"Yes the town pulls out all the stops - a great welcoming committee with a band and possibly with a red coated RCMP officer more than willing to pose for a picture."
"The old centre of the city, where the cruise ship tenders land, is the more interesting part. The waterfront is very nice to walk around & if you do not mind a steep walk up the hill, you can climb up, over a bridge above the main highway, to the area of the old town centre which has been restored. It has various stores & businesses, situated in the old restored buildings, which have quite a bit of character."
Just a couple of quotes from people who have visited Nanaimo on a cruise ship. Most suggest going to Newcastle or Protection Islands, looking around town or hiring a car and going for a drive. Believe me, this is enough to amuse passengers. Other things to do would be sport fishing, harbour/coastal tours or the like (cruise passengers actually like to be on boats!)
With local effort, even just a welcoming committee with tourist info and maybe some stalls selling souvenirs (and Nanaimo bars - another big topic of dicussion on the forums) goes a long way. I've been to quite a few ports which were pretty down at heel but the locals made such an effort and were so lovely that these ports stick out in my memory. Most seasoned cruise passengers are happy to make their own arrangements and welcome locally operated excursions, which are often at a fraction of the cost of a ship's excursion. Some savvy locals might want to set up a car/minibus tour service to show small groups or couples around the area - something that local taxi companies could also do, for a flat fee. Or walking tours of the old city. There's really a load of things that an enterprising group or individual can do.
just my two cents worth!