Top New England port to cruise lines: Don’t even think about coming here this year

Jul 10, 2020

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At least a few cruise lines are hoping to restart operations in North America in the coming months. But there’s one place they won’t be going: Bar Harbor, Maine.

The town council of the popular New England port town on Tuesday voted to ban cruise ships for the rest of the year.

“I don’t think the risk is worth the reward”, Bar Harbor councillor Matt Hochman said in advance of the vote, according to the Bangor Daily News. “I don’t think 2020 is the year for it”.

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The nearly unanimous vote came after a presentation by small-ship specialist American Cruise Lines, which hoped to resume cruises to Bar Harbor in the coming weeks.

Based in Connecticut, American Cruise Lines has a fleet of small cruise ships that offer trips in U.S. coastal waters and on U.S. rivers. It’s a major cruise operator in New England as well as on the Mississippi River complex and the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia and Snake rivers.

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American Cruise Lines operates the 175-passenger American Constitution in New England and on the Hudson River in New York. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)
Small-ship specialist American Cruise Lines operates the 175-passenger American Constitution in New England. (Photo courtesy of American Cruise Lines)

Known as the gateway to Arcadia National Park, Bar Harbor draws more than 100 cruise ship visits in a typical year. Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America and Royal Caribbean are among the lines that send ships to the port regularly.

Also, the town sees at least one or two visits every year from ships operated by luxury lines Silversea, Crystal Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Seabourn. A few European vessels operated by the likes of Germany‘s Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, Aida Cruises and TUI Cruises also will call at Bar Harbor every year.

Several cruise lines including Princess Cruises already have cancelled all their New England sailings for 2020. But other lines still have some New England sailings on their schedules for later this year.

American Cruise Lines is talking to several New England ports about restarting voyages in the region as soon as later this month. The line’s small ships are exempt from a “no-sail order” for cruise ships in U.S. waters issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to their small size.

The CDC’s no-sail order, which is scheduled to expire on 24 July but could be extended, only applies to vessels that carry more than 250 passengers and crew.

American Cruise Lines vessels that sail in New England typically carry around 175 passengers, but a representative for the line told the Bar Harbor town council that the company only planned to operate its ships with about 60 passengers and 40 crew members on board.

American Cruise Lines had come up with a detailed plan to keep its ships virus free that included medical screenings for passengers and crew and social distancing during port stops.

But in advance of the cruise ban vote, Bar Harbor councillor Jill Goldthwait said that residents were on edge about the coronavirus as tourists started to return to Maine, and even the arrival of a small ship with few passengers and a solid illness-reduction plan could cause anxiety.

“For a lot of people, cruise ships are cruise ships, be they big or small”, Goldthwait said, according to Maine Public Radio. “Even these very small, well-managed ships, with a highly responsible response plan, are a major threat, psychologically, to many of our residents”.

Feature image courtesy of American Cruise Lines.

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