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Bar Harbor Survey Could Mean More Port-Specific Cruise Ship Restrictions

28 Apr 2021

Another town is re-evaluating the role of cruise ships that visit its shores.

The town of Bar Harbor, Maine, is asking residents for their feedback on whether cruise restrictions need to be tighter, making it the latest port municipality to publicly evaluate the effect cruise tourism has on the local population.

According to News Center Maine, the port currently limits cruise travelers to 3,500 passengers per day in July and August and 5,500 per day during the rest of the year. But a recent survey is allowing local residents and business owners to weigh in directly with regard to whether those numbers need to be cut.

"I'm very interested to hear what a majority of our residents think and also to hear what the businesses think," said Town Councilor Gary Friedman, as reported by News Center Maine.

"Some believe that all businesses love cruise ships but that's just not true. Many of them don’t benefit and even feel that their businesses or hurt by the impacts of cruise visitation."

"... it's gotten overwhelming where it's impacting our quality of life here, as well as the businesses that cater to overnight guests," Friedman said.

It was not immediately clear when the survey would end or when the results would be shared.

Congestion is not a new issue for Bar Harbor, which sees about $1 million annually in revenue generated by the cruise industry. The town's official government website shows that a "Cruise Tourism & Traffic Congestion" study was conducted there in 2019 to analyze issues like parking shortages and the types of infrastructure needed to continue to welcome cruise passengers.

In 2020, Bar Harbor's town council voted to ban cruise ships for the entire year -- a move which was later found to have been unnecessary, thanks to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's no sail order and subsequent conditional sailing framework.

The port isn't expected to see any ships for the remainder of 2021, either.

As Bar Harbor reevaluates its cruise-related regulations, it becomes the latest port of call to question the effects of cruise ships and the large numbers of travelers they bring.

In recent years, Dubrovnik and Venice have placed limits on the size of cruise ships allowed to call and, as a result, they have also limited the number of cruise passengers permitted to visit at one time.

In November 2020, more than half of Key West voters leaned in favor of referendums allowing the local government to restrict cruise ship size and number of daily passengers.

That prompted two Florida state officials to introduce a bill that would undermine those policies. After passing in the Senate in April 2021, the bill died due to the state's likely inability to enforce it at a local level.

Juneau residents are also slated to vote on a referendum in October 2021 that could cut down on large cruise ships or limit the number of ships and passengers calling on any given day.

Enchantment of the Seas one of four cruise ships to visit Portland, Maine this week

13 Jul 2011

Four cruise ships are visiting Portland, Maine this week and Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas will be the largest ship of the group to visit the New England city.

Enchantment of the Seas arrives in Portland on Saturday, July 16 with its 2,250 passengers.  It will stop for the day before leaving later in the evening for Bar Habor, Maine.

Enchantment of the Seas makes first visit to Maine of the year

18 Jun 2011

Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas is making her visit visit to Maine of the year on Saturday and she's also the first large cruise ship of the season to visit Portland.

Carrying about 2,250 passengers, Enchantment will leave on Sunday afternoon and head to Bar Harbor, Maine next.  The cruise is part of a New England and Canada itinerary.

Officials in Portland, Maine are expecting about 86,000 cruise passengers this year spread across 59 ships.

Maine city to vote on cruise ship restrictions

14 Oct 2010

Rockland, Maine is set to vote on a proposal to limit the number of cruise ships that can visit the city each year after the debate was sparked last year when Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas made it's inaugural visit to the city.

On October 18, Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas is set to return but city commissioners are considering a proposal to limit only allowing three of the biggest ships per year -- one in May and two in October.

Rocklan's mayor is in favor of the proposal because of the strain on the area where passengers unload from cruise ship.  The mayor cites the harbor infrastructure is getting old and any repairs that would be needed would be footed by the taxpayers.  Local businesses are against the proposal, claiming the restrictions would ruin the city's chances of becoming a regular cruise ship destination.

Mayor McNeil says she expects at least one councilor will try to eliminate the restrictions on the large ships. The Chamber of Commerce says it has no problems with the rest of the plan, just the portion that would limit the number of ship visits.

Rockland Maine reverses cruise tax increase

20 Jul 2010

Last month, the town of Rockland, Maine announced it was going to increase its fee for passengers that arrive on cruise ships from $1 to $6 and that didn't leave Royal Caribbean happy, as they complained the new measures did not give the cruise line enough time in advance to react to the changes and felt the fee hike was unfair. 

On Monday night, the Rockland city council voted 3-2 to reverse its decision, however, the decision only applies to Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas.  Jewel of the Seas will arrive in Rockland in October. This is a short-term victory for Royal Caribbean, who will not have to foot the bill for the difference in the rate increase, but the future of Royal Caribbean's presence in the town or even the area may still be in doubt.

Royal Caribbean ships help drive demand in new ports

25 Jun 2010

Royal Caribbean has recently moved some of its ships around to new ports, serving Baltimore, Maryland and Maine and the result has been those ports have seen a surge in demand from customers ("If you build it, they will come" anyone?).  Enchantment of the Seas moved from Norfolk, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland and officials say there were 81 cruises with 329,000 passengers in 2009. Ten more cruises are scheduled this year and the total number is expected to grow to 113 next year. This leads to a potential problem because the 113 cruises in 2011 will max out the capacity of Baltimore's cruise terminal.

To counter the problem, the Baltimore Board of Public Works approved a $2.9 million gangway for passenger ships to make embarking and debarking more pleasant for passengers in all types of weather.  Even so, others are calling on Baltimore to do more and expand the potential amount of cruises the city can handle.

Meanwhile, Maine is also reporting a surge in demand and local businesses are feeling it.

The Holiday Inn by the Bay says it's booked 200 additional rooms because of the new ships. Enterprise Rent-a-Car says their bookings are up too. A recent University of Maine study found cruise ship passengers spend between $80 and $110 when they're in port, pumping as much as $8 million into the local economy.

Could this news help sway the trend of Royal Caribbean ships going to Europe to seek more money and keep them serving ports in the United States?

Maine town to cruises: slow down

21 Jun 2010

Most ports of call welcome cruise ships and their many cruisers, who bring with them an influx of money to the local economy.  However the town of Rockland, Maine has presented some new guidelines to limit the amount of cruise ships that may come to town in a given year.  This move has infuriated local business owners who want more potential customers to come spend their money there.

The Harbor Management Commission, which presented preliminary guidelines to the council, recommended limiting the number of cruise ships to three megaships, 15 medium ships and 35 small ships annually. The commission also recommended that the city tack on a $600 fee for any cruise ship that needs to restrict public traffic by the parks or public landing.

This move impacts Royal Caribbean directly as the fee per passenger would go from $1 to $6 and Royal Caribbean has already requested that the decision be reconsidered or lowered because Royal Caribbean would have to take the loss as it's too late to pass the fee onto the passengers.  About 33 cruise ships visit Rockland each year.

Interesting story that will evoke different reactions, I'm sure.  To me, it seems like a case of the town wanting to have it's cake and eat it too; it wants the tourists to come and spend their money but they want their town to be pristine and devoid of tourists.   

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