First Cruise Ship Arrives in Bar Harbor This Season

Captain and APPLL speak at press event


MAY 4, 2023

BAR HARBOR—The cruise ship season begins today with the arrival of the Norwegian Pearl, which docked despite the gloomy weather. It is the first of fourteen boats that are scheduled to visit in May.

Image courtesy of NCL

Captain Johan Stöfling of the Norwegian Pearl said, “Bar Harbor is a favorite for our guests.” This is his first time he’s visited he told the crowd of reporters, photographers, and representatives from the tourism industry, local workers and representatives from the Association to Preserve + Protect Local Livelihoods (APPLL) that gathered at Stewman’s Lobster Pound on Thursday. “We are committed to not only delivering exceptional experiences,” but also promoting sustained tourism, he said.

The captain is on the right. Image: Carrie Jones
Image: Carrie Jones

According to Kristi Bond, president of APPLL and a restaurant owner, welcoming cruise ship visitors is not just a neighborly gesture, but also a critical element of the vibrant hospitality economy that supports thousands of households in Maine. “Whether a bartender or harbor pilot, a small business owner, or a lobster harvester, hospitality revenue benefits the community in a big way. It supports new schools, takes care of our roads and infrastructure, and helps preserve and strengthen our working waterfront,” Bond said in a press release.

Image: Carrie Jones

At the event, Bond explained that APPLL is a group of local businesses that had “banded together to help protect our livelihoods.” She said that the group couldn’t let the “efforts by a well-financed group of newcomers” stand. She was referencing a citizens’ petition this past November that led to a vote to cap daily cruise ship disembarkations.

According to the press release, “The 2023 cruise ship season in Bar Harbor is expected to welcome 129 ships carrying 239,000 passengers. According to a 2016 study conducted by the town of Bar Harbor, cruise ship passengers had an estimated annual economic impact—including multiplier effects—of $20.2 million in local spending, 379 jobs (full- and part-time, and seasonal) and $5.4 million in labor income.”

One of the new banners in town. The statement is also on hats and stickers. Image: Carrie Jones

Those cruise ships will also bring about $1,250,000 to Bar Harbor’s government. This comes from passenger service fees  ($2.68 per person) and port development fees ($2.53 per person). Those numbers are not necessarily per each disembarkation or person who comes to Bar Harbor, but according to the lower berth capacity numbers.

Many Bar Harbor Welcomes Everyone hats were at the event. Image: Carrie Jones
The tourists pictured here said they didn’t mind the chilly temperatures and hoped to come back in the summer sometime. Image: Carrie Jones

Mackenzie Patterson, who works at Side Street Café, spoke at the event and echoed the importance of cruise ship passengers to her and her family’s ability to be in Bar Harbor with their daughter, Eden, who goes to Conners-Emerson. Paterson and her husband have spent eight years serving and bartending in town.

“We’re lucky enough to live intown year round because of the income we make in the summer,” she said. And that income, she said, was from the cruise ships coming into port especially in September and October. “We rely on this income along with all of our peers.”

Image: Carrie Jones

Gary “Bo” Jennings, of Side Street Café and also the Chamber of Commerce and who is a candidate for Bar Harbor Town Council, said, “The economic benefits that result from the spending by these visitors directly enhances the quality of life for our residents in Bar Harbor. Our town has worked hard for the past 20 years to grow cruise ship landings, which has resulted in extending our tourism season. This is a tremendous benefit for all of our residents. Without these visitors disembarking, seasonal businesses would stay shuttered longer and our residents would not be able to enjoy the businesses they patronize.”

About 24% of the cruise ship visitors to Maine are international. Half of those are from Canada and the average age is between 60-64.

“The dollars spent by cruise ship passengers and crew members in Bar Harbor will help repair (or hopefully build) our school, help grow our library, and positively impact the many nonprofits that call this island ‘home,’” Jennings said. “There are numerous people working today that were not working yesterday because of the cruise ships.”

Throughout the day, cruise ship visitors took photos, checked out restaurants, walked the newly reconstructed sidewalks and went into shops. They came ashore to banners declaring, “all are welcome,” a slogan put out by APPLL.

Image: Carrie Jones

This week, the Town Council went into executive session to discuss the lawsuit by the Association to Preserve and Protect Local Livelihoods (APPLL) against the town’s cruise ship limitations voted in last November after Charles Sidman and others led a citizens’ petition to limit daily visits based on disembarkations. Sidman is also an intervenor in that suit, which is expected to be resolved this summer after preliminary injunctions were withdrawn. The changes are not in effect and will not be until there is a ruling. He is also running for Town Council.

Reporters abounded. Images: Carrie Jones

This means that the town is using its memorandums of understanding created by a task force last year. That decreased the total number of expected lower berth capacity from 290,000 to 250,000. That number reflects the standard double occupancy of beds on a cruise ship.

The memorandums cap the daily lower berth capacity to 3,800 in May, June, September and October. Those numbers are 300 lower in July and August. They also put in monthly caps, which are shown in the image below, which comes from a presentation by former Town Manager Kevin Sutherland last fall.

Sidman sent an email to the Town Council prior to their meeting on Monday. This is screenshot below. The three most recent filings for the lawsuit are also below.

Screen cap of Sidman’s letter that was sent to councilors and the media

APPLL vs Bar Harbor File #1

APPLL vs Bar Harbor File #2

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