Federal Judge Rejects Attempt to Stop Bar Harbor Cruise Limits

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An attempt to stop Bar Harbor, Maine’s partial passenger limits has been denied by Maine’s federal court.

The ban ordinance, initially approved by the Town Council on November 8, 2022, placed a 1,000 daily cap on cruise passenger arrivals for the 2024 cruise season. The ordinance was immediately challenged by the Association to Protect and Preserve Local Livelihoods (APPLL) in December 2022.

After a lengthy court battle, which has cost the Town Council more than $300,000 in legal fees, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine, led by Judge Lance Walker, upheld the Town’s legislative measures on February 29, 2024. However, the APPLL is appealing the decision and had asked the federal court for a temporary halt on cruise limits until the appeal is heard.

However, the injunction request was denied by the First Circuit Court of Appeals on May 27, 20 days since the start of Bar Harbor’s summer cruise season. 

Cruise Ship Visitors in Bar Harbor
Cruise Ship Visitors in Bar Harbor (Photo Credit: New England Photo)

The decision by the court’s three judges read, “Appellants’ joint motion for injunction pending appeal is denied without prejudice for noncompliance with Fed. R. App. P. 8(a), especially considering the 60-plus days that passed between entry of the challenged order and the filing of the instant motion.”

This means if the APPLL and other opponents of the passenger ban want to file an injunction, they must do so at the district court level.

Read Also: Cruise Port in Maine Votes To Restrict Cruise Ship Visitors

Although the district court ruled in favor of the daily cap ahead of the season’s start, Bar Harbor’s Town Council has been delaying implementation of the ordinance due to the litigation and has not imposed restrictions. This allowed Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem to kick off the season on May 2 carrying up to 2,394 passengers without any changes.

“While the appeal by APPLL, though disappointing, was not unexpected, [the] unwarranted and spurious action only serves to demonstrate that neither side in this issue has the best interests of the people of the Town of Bar Harbor at heart,” said Val Peacock, council chair.

Peacock continued, “We will defend against both litigious parties vigorously as we work to implement the ordinance and continue to engage in dialogue with the community on ways to chart the proper course on this issue.”

The Town of Bar Harbor is holding a public hearing on the ordinance on June 18 alone.

Implications for the 2024 Cruise Season

Although Bar Harbor has not yet instituted the ordinance, several cruise lines altered itineraries to avoid the picturesque coastal town that serves as a gateway to Arcadia National Park.

Royal Caribbean’s 2,514-passenger Vision of the Seas and 4,960-passenger Liberty of the Seas, and Celebrity Cruises’ 2,850-passenger Celebrity Eclipse, for example, are each calling on Portland, Maine, this summer, avoiding Bar Harbor due to the ordinance.

Said Royal Caribbean in a statement, “We remained hopeful that the situation would be clarified in enough time for us to add Bar Harbor back into our itineraries. Unfortunately, these changes came many months too late, and we will be continuing with our published itineraries that do not include the destination.”

Bar Harbor Cruise
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

Royal Caribbean ships will be calling on Portland 25 times between August 25 and October 27, costing Bar Harbor more than 83,000 passengers, not including crew, which are in the thousands per ship.

The APPLL says the ordinance is “an unconstitutional and unwarranted law that will effectively destroy an important source of municipal and business revenue by creating a bar to passengers and crew being able to disembark at Bar Harbor.”

If the Town Council begins to impose the partial ban, currently scheduled large cruise ships will have to limit the number of passengers allowed to disembark, including Holland America’s 1,432-passenger, 647-crew member ms Voldendam, arriving five times in June.

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