It’s official: Maine’s largest cruise destination will limit the number of cruisers that can arrive in any given month.
The City Council of Bar Harbor, Maine, officially signed an agreement with the cruise industry on Tuesday that imposes caps during the tourist season on cruiser arrivals, capping them between 30,000 and 65,000 per month, depending on the month. , from 2023.
The agreement, which takes effect immediately, also prohibits cruise ship arrivals during the months of April and November.
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“We’ve gotten a clear message from the public that they want cruise ships to go down,” Bar Harbor City Councilman Erin Cough said on Tuesday ahead of a five-to-two vote to approve the deal. “At this point, our community has asked us to do something, and it’s our best effort to do something reasonable, and we should go for it.”
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The vote took place in a televised city council meeting after a rigorous debate over whether the city council should first hold a public hearing on the details of the deal. The board decided not to hold a public hearing before approving the deal, but voted to hold a question-and-answer session with the public in October to explain the deal.
The deal would limit cruiser arrivals to 30,000 per month in May and June; 40,000 per month in July and August; and 65,000 per month in September and October. These are the six months when cruise ships have traditionally visited Bar Harbor.
During the discussion, Bar Harbor City Manager Kevin Sutherland noted that the capacity of cruise ships currently booked to visit Bar Harbor in September and October 2023 already exceeds the new limits.
Sutherland said arrivals of surplus ships would be allowed in 2023 because they were booked before the deal was approved. He said the city has already started telling cruise lines that in the future, however, there will be no need for new mooring reservations for ship arrivals during these months of 2023.
Currently, there are cruise ships with a combined capacity of about 70,000 and 80,000 passengers scheduled to visit Bar Harbor in September and October 2023, respectively, Sutherland said.
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“Other boats that have requested [dockings in September and October] are not honored, and there are several,” Sutherland said. “I’ve already had a few conversations with some of the lines [to tell them that additional calls they are requesting] will not be accepted for 2023.”
In addition to monthly caps on cruise ship arrivals, Bar Harbor also has daily passenger caps in place ranging from 3,500 to 3,800 people per day, depending on the month.
US-flagged cruise ships that carry fewer than 200 passengers, such as coastal cruise ships operated by American Cruise Lines, are exempt from the daily limits.
Bar Harbor City Council has reached an agreement with cruise lines to limit cruiser arrivals due to growing unease in the city over rising cruise passenger numbers. Some residents called for a complete ban on cruise ships, while others wanted to see deep reductions in ship arrivals, citing growing congestion in the city.
Cruise ship arrivals to Bar Harbor have grown rapidly in recent years, with the exception of 2020 and 2021, when the cruise industry shutdown related to COVID-19 caused ship arrivals to decline.
In 2019, Bar Harbor welcomed 157 cruise ships which carried 250,164 passengers. This year, projections foresee the arrival of 174 cruise ships carrying 292,212 passengers.
In a 2021 survey of Bar Harbor residents and business owners, 55% of respondents said they viewed cruise ships as having a negative effect on the city.
Bar Harbor is just one of a growing number of destinations, including Key West, Florida, and Venice, Italy, where residents have called for new limits on cruise ship arrivals, citing congestion and d other adverse effects.
Bar Harbor residents will have the opportunity to vote on an even more restrictive cruise ship policy in November. A citizens’ initiative that would limit cruiser arrivals to 1,000 passengers a day should be on the ballot.
Cruise lines that operate voyages with stops in Bar Harbor include Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Oceania Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Windstar Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
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