Wednesday, March 21, 2007
2007 Bar Harbor Cruise Ship Schedule
Bar Harbor to host ship bigger than QM2
By Bill Trotter
Monday, March 12, 2007 - Bangor Daily News
BAR HARBOR - Three years ago, the enormous cruise ship Queen Mary 2 got a big reception when local officials set up a pedestrian-only zone on a downtown street, hundreds of sightseers flocked to the Shore Path to see the vessel ease into Frenchman Bay, and the governor showed up to help cut a cake celebrating the ship’s inaugural visit to this scenic coastal town.
This year, it might be the first-ever local appearance of the Explorer of the Seas that everyone remembers.
Though maybe not as well known, the Royal Caribbean ship arguably is bigger than the QM2. With a length of 1,020 feet, it is 112 feet shorter than the Cunard vessel, but it is about 10 feet wider. And it can hold more people.
Explorer of the Seas has a capacity for 3,114 passengers — nearly 500 more than the QM2. Its first visit to Bar Harbor is scheduled for Sept. 5.
That day and Sept. 19 likely will be busy for downtown merchants and tour bus operators who line up near the town pier waiting to take cruise ship passengers on rides through Acadia National Park.
Both Explorer and the Norwegian Spirit, which can hold 1,966 passengers, are scheduled to be in town on both those days, which means there could be as many as 5,080 cruise ship passengers tromping around Bar Harbor’s seaside village at the same time.
That’s about 260 more people than the U.S. Census Bureau counted when it added up the number of year-round residents Bar Harbor had in 2000, when the most recent official census took place.
Based on the number of vessels that have booked dates to be in Bar Harbor, this year well might be the town’s busiest ever for cruise ship visits, according to town harbor master Charlie Phippen. He said there are 91 ships scheduled to stop in Bar Harbor between mid-May and the end of October.
"That’s the most ever on the schedule before the season started," Phippen said last week. "Preseason, we’re at an all-time high."
Phippen said that if there are enough cancellations, 2007 could end up not being a record year. There were 83 scheduled visits in 2006, he said, but because of weather and other issues it turned out that only 73 ships stopped in port.
"You never know until after the season," Phippen said.
Chris Fogg, executive director of the local Chamber of Commerce, said last week that his group may be interested in giving the Explorer of the Seas a welcome similar to the red-carpet treatment the QM2 received in 2004, but that he has yet to talk to town officials about it.
He said the final draft of a cruise ship management plan commissioned by the state might formally establish certain procedures, such as blocking off downtown streets to vehicles, that could be followed for special cruise ship visits.
"There’s a lot of moving parts to it," Fogg said about the plan, which has only been presented to the town in a preliminary draft.
State and town officials and the Florida consultant who drafted the document are expected to attend a public workshop on the plan at 7 p.m. March 22 at the local municipal building.
Phippen said each ship gets a plaque from the town when it makes its first-ever visit to Bar Harbor, but that he didn’t expect there would be any extra pomp and circumstance for the Explorer.
Whether it might be the town or the state that takes the lead in implementing some of the management plan’s recommendations has yet to be worked out, according to Fogg.
Planners have considered rerouting tour bus traffic downtown, blocking off some parking spaces near the pier to help with pedestrian traffic flow, and even increasing the number of anchorages in Frenchman Bay from two to three.
Mark Ittel, the consultant who drafted the plan, has said he does not recommend expanding the number of anchorages at this time.
The cruise ship business in Bar Harbor has changed considerably since at least 1990, when only 27,000 cruise ship passengers came through town.
This year it could bring roughly 130,000, a small percentage compared to the 2 million to 3 million tourists that visit Bar Harbor and Acadia every summer, but still a sizable number when considering cruise ship passengers spent $11 million in Bar Harbor in 2005.
The ships have grown bigger, and they come more frequently. An item from the Sept. 25, 1990, edition of the Bangor Daily News indicated that after that date, five more cruise ships were expected to stop in Bar Harbor that fall.
The item also pointed out that typically "the cruise ships disembark more than 600 passengers to spend several hours visiting local shops and touring the national park."
This year, 33 cruise ship appearances are expected in Bar Harbor after Sept. 25.
Queen Mary 2 will make its one stop in Bar Harbor on Oct. 1 and its sister ship, Queen Elizabeth 2, will make its lone appearance for 2007 the next day.
Crown Princess, which like Explorer can hold more than 3,000 passengers, is scheduled to make five visits, two of them on the same day Norwegian Spirit will be in port. On those days, Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, there could be as many as 5,046 cruise ship passengers walking around Bar Harbor.
The Maasdam will be the first to arrive on May 12 and on Oct. 31 Norwegian Spirit is expected to be the last cruise ship to sail out of Frenchman Bay for 2007.
Many of those visits will be repeat appearances by the same ship, with Maasdam leading the way with 17 stops. American Star, a ship with a 100-passenger capacity that ties up directly to the Bar Harbor Town Pier, is scheduled to make 15 visits.
More information on Bar Harbor’s cruise ship schedule is available on the Internet at www.barharbormaine.gov/tourism.