PORTLAND — CruiseMaine, a section of the Maine Office of Tourism, has launched a new website designed to inform visitors, the travel industry and the Maine public about the state’s offerings as a cruise ship destination.
“Maine has a lot to offer as a cruise destination, and we are working to make sure the travel industry knows how special our coast is,” Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine, said in a statement announcing the launch of the new website.
“Since most visitors arriving by ship are visiting Maine for the first time, the cruise tourism season is a great opportunity to show off our beautiful state to thousands of people and entice them to plan another vacation in Maine.”
Cruise tourism to Maine is on the rise. More than 430 port calls are expected statewide this year, compared to 400 last year, according to Flink. This equals approximately 450,000 passenger days in 2019 compared to 400,000 in 2018.
Bar Harbor and Portland see the heaviest cruise ship traffic by far.
According to the city website, Portland expects 100 cruise ships to berth alongside the Ocean Terminal or Ocean Gateway Pier this year.
Beginning with the first arrival, the 197-passenger Pearl Mist on May 11, and ending with the last on the schedule, the 58-passenger Victory 1 on Nov. 1, scheduled cruise ships will bring some 153,000 passengers to Portland’s waterfront. In addition, at least some of the more than 62,000 crew members are likely to come ashore.
While Maine’s largest city is more or less equipped for the onslaught, it pales compared with what Mount Desert Island, and Bar Harbor in particular, is facing.
This year, between April 28 and Nov. 7, Bar Harbor is expecting 177 port visits from 34 different cruise ships of all sizes. From the smallest, the 184-foot, 96-passenger Grande Mariner, to the largest, the 1,141-foot, 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas, the armada has the capacity to bring some 275,000 passengers to Bar Harbor. Of course, not all of them will come ashore, at least not all at one time.
Last year, Bar Harbor had 180 ship visits overall, bring a total of 242,108 passengers, according to the town’s cruise ship committee. Roughly 25 additional visits were canceled because of bad weather in the fall.
In addition to Bar Harbor, Downeast ports that can expect at least a few cruise ship visits include Rockland, Camden, Castine and Eastport. Even Bucksport saw some ship traffic last week.
“The American Cruise Line Constitution has come in to port” for an overnight visit, the town’s community and economic development director, Rich Rotella, said last Tuesday, May 21.
The “unexpected stop” was caused by high winds that prevented the ship from anchoring in Rockland on Tuesday and off Camden on Wednesday.
“As of right now, we don’t have any other ships scheduled for the season, but that could change,” Rotella said.
CruiseMaine works with each port city and town individually on promotion based on its unique goals related to cruise ship traffic.
“We recognize that each has different needs and capacities, so we work one-on-one with communities large and small to find an appropriate balance,” Flink said.
CruiseMaine is supported by the Maine Port Authority, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development and the Maine Department of Transportation. Members include official ports, coastal communities and businesses.