After two years without cruise ships visiting the popular town, cruising has returned to Bar Harbor in Maine this week. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl became the first cruise ship to visit since the global pause in operations started in March 2020.
The return marks a significant milestone for the cruise industry and Maine. Without Canada’s new health protocols and the country opening to cruise ships, destinations like Bar Harbor were likely to see far fewer to no cruise ships visit in the coming months. This would have posed a considerable strain on the local economy, with the cruise industry responsible for more than 1000 jobs in Maine.
Cruising Returns to Bar Harbor
Although not precisely planned, the first visit by a cruise ship in more than two years marks a huge turning point for Bar Harbor. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl visited the popular seaside town, famous for its lobster industry, on April 14.
Norwegian Cruise Line canceled the scheduled third day in Bermuda on Norwegian Pearl’s second cruise in two years and opted to visit Maine before returning to Boston, Massachusetts. Nonetheless, the visit has been celebrated by local retailers, said a release by the cruise industry representing organization, CLIA:
“As business owners, the return of cruisers means better and more opportunities to not only to see people but to expand our business as well,” said Roxanne and Jay Udasi, owners of Acadia Jewels. “We are excited to see cruisers return, it’s a sign that things are going back to some sense of normalcy.”
There has been some concern about the number of cruise ships scheduled to visit Bar Harbor this year, with the town trying to find a balance between the economy and overcrowding. During a survey last year, of the nearly 1,400 responses, 55 percent said they view cruise ships as having an overall negative impact on the town.
In 2019, 157 cruise ships visited Bar Harbor, bringing 250,164 passengers. This year, this number is set to grow to 174 cruise ships and 292,212 passengers.
To that, CLIA said the following: “We are committed to working closely with our port partners and other stakeholders in the communities that we visit so that the relationship is a mutually beneficial one from an environmental sustainability, destination stewardship, and public health perspective.”
Cruise Industry Has Huge Economic Benefit
Despite the concerns regarding the number of ships that visit the area, there is no denying the economic impact that cruising has on Maine.
Kelly Craighead, President and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association: “Prior to the pandemic, the cruise industry contributed $68 million in direct economic spend and created over 1,000 jobs in Maine amounting to $36 million in wages. The industry looks forward to once again contributing to Maine’s vibrant economy and to share with guests, from the around the world, this treasured destination.”
With that comes that Maine and New England are hugely important cruise destinations for the cruise industry. Millions of people have visited the area in the past, and millions more have booked cruises, especially during the fall when New England shows off its beautiful autumn colors:
“Maine is a marquee New England destination offering spectacular scenery, recreational opportunities, and terrific cuisine, and also serves as the gateway to the United States and a port of call along the way to and from destinations in Canada, the Caribbean, and beyond for ocean-going cruise ships,” said Kelly Craighead
The cruise ship schedule will be relatively quiet between now and the end of August, with less than 20 ships visiting each month. The busy New England cruise season will start in September, with 41 ships scheduled to visit Bar Harbor that month.
Norwegian Pearl will be making regular calls to Bar Harbor this year. Between now and November 10, the ship is scheduled for 30 calls to the port. Besides being the first cruise ship to call in the harbor, on November 10, she will also be closing the New England cruise season as the last cruise ship to visit the port.