BAR HARBOR — Town officials took a step Monday some residents have been pleading for for weeks: They moved to suspend cruise ship visits here at least through April 30. There are only two ship visits scheduled in April potentially affected by the action; in light of rapidly changing plans by governments and businesses, it wasn’t completely clear Monday whether either or both still planned to come.
When Town Manager Cornell Knight called a special meeting of the Town Council Monday afternoon to propose an emergency ordinance in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, councilors added language to the ordinance suspending cruise ships through the end of April.
The council had expected to hear recommendations from the Cruise Ship Committee at its Tuesday meeting, but that meeting has now been cancelled, along with all other non-emergency municipal meetings for the next two weeks.
Since the committee met last Thursday, the government of Canada prohibited ships of more than 500 passengers from any of that nation’s ports through July 1. On Friday, Cruise Lines International Association announced that its member lines would not sail from U.S. ports of call for the next month. On Saturday, the CDC issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships (defined as able to carry 250 or more passengers and crew), also for 30 days.
Councilor Joe Minutolo said many residents had contacted him since the committee meeting to say they felt their concerns had been discounted at that meeting and they were upset the town hadn’t taken action on the issue.
Councilor Jill Goldthwait said she had contacted several state agencies to try to clarify the situation without success. “It would be awful nice to know around here if a ship was going to come or not,” she said. “Because if it’s not for two months, we’ve got time to work stuff out. But if we don’t know, or they might, it’s very difficult to sit back with the whole town saying, ‘What the heck is going on?’ and not to do something about it.
“I think there is so much concern about it, I feel like it would be dereliction of duty not to address this now rather than wait several more weeks.”