The Working Waterfront

Cruise business continues upward trend in Maine

Some 28,000 passengers expected to visit this year

Laurie Schreiber
Posted 2016-06-17
Last Modified 2016-06-17

Maine is a happening place when it comes to attracting cruise ships. The numbers just keep going up.

Statewide, the season is bringing 378 cruise visits to Maine ports, said CruiseMaineUSA Director Amy Powers. The passenger yield is estimated to be over 283,000, an increase of over 6 percent above the 2015 season.

The most recent economic impact study said the cruise industry generated $45 million in direct spending to the Maine economy in 2013.

“The current trend is that ships are getting larger in size and therefore bring more passengers per visit,” said Powers. “We currently have equally strong reservations for next season in all of our ports.”

The state will see 30 different cruise ships from 20 different cruise brands. The busiest month is September with 97 ship visits, followed by August with 73, and October’s 62 visits, Powers said. The first ship arrived April 29 in Bar Harbor. Oct. 29 marks the last visits, at both Portland and Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor will host 121 visits with 159,515 passengers. The port has many multiple ship days. The largest to visit Bar Harbor is Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s Anthem of the Seas, making its maiden voyage with 4,180 passengers. The smallest is American Cruise Lines’ Glory, with 49 passengers.

Holland America is transitioning a regular Bar Harbor visitor, the Maasdam, out of the market, but bringing back the Veendam for 20 calls with 25,320 passengers. A number of ships will be on their maiden voyage, including Holland America’s Zuiderdam, Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2, regional newcomer Azamara Club Cruises’ Quest, and Oceania’s Sirena.

Bar Harbor’s 121 is above 2015’s actual of 117, but below 2015’s scheduled 140.  (Some scheduled ships didn’t make it due to poor weather.) The decline from 140 is due to the absence of Maasdam, which normally makes about 20 visits per year, said Harbormaster Charlie Phippen.

Those metrics will quickly change. For 2017, Bar Harbor already has 139 ships scheduled.

Bar Harbor remains in the midst of negotiations with Canada to buy the old Cat ferry terminal, to bring dockage and relief from congestion at the downtown wharf when cruise passengers tender ashore.

“Nothing has been finalized yet,” said Phippen. Town officials recently approved a request by University of Maine economists Todd Gabe and James McConnon Jr. to conduct a study of the economic impact of cruise ships on the community, with expected completion by February 2017.

Portland will host 77 cruise ship visits and over 106,000 passengers, Powers said. That’s down from 84 ships in 2015, but up from 2015’s 97,000 passengers.

The first ship arrived May 9; the last visit will be Oct. 29. The port will have 13 two-ship days. As in Bar Harbor, Anthem of the Seas is the largest and Glory the smallest. American Cruise Lines dominates on ship numbers at 33 percent. But Royal Caribbean wins on passenger numbers, bringing 51,484 people on 17 visits from four ships.

The overall ship number is down because Royal Caribbean has reduced its share. But passenger numbers are up with the arrival of larger ships, said Cruise Portland Executive Director Bob Leeman.

The community is excited about exceeding the 100,000 mark, he said. It means infrastructure and marketing investments are paying off. These include construction of the Pier II berth at Ocean Gateway, docking bigger ships; channel dredging; construction of Ocean Gateway itself; and seawall repair.

One goal is to attract more ships, but not so many that it would detract from enjoyment of Portland, said Leeman.

“Our goal is to make sure people have an outstanding experience,” said Leeman. “We’re looking for a balance.”

Rockland will host 33 visits from six ships and five brands, including Blount Small Ship Adventure Line, the city’s first cruise line to homeport there. Rockland continues its long relationship with American Cruise Line, which will visit 30 times.

The largest ship will be Oceania’s 650-passenger Regatta; the smallest is Glory. The first ship of the season, American Cruise Line’s Independence, arrived June 1; the last ship, Pearl Mist, arrives Oct. 15. Rockland will have one 3-ship day.

Eastport will host four visits and 400 passengers from two ships—Pearl Seas and Blount. Easport’s season runs July 13 to Oct. 11. Other ports—Bath, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, Belfast, Bucksport, and Castine—are core destinations for American Cruise Lines’ small ships Independence and Glory