BAR HARBOR — Fresh from their successes operating the Sea Princess excursion and nature cruise out of Northeast Harbor and the popular Wild Acadia Fun Park in Trenton, brothers Andy and James Allen have expanded their business holdings.
This winter, they have purchased the excursion vessel Lulu that operates lobster fishing cruises to tourists in Bar Harbor. The vessel, which the pair purchased from Capt. John Nicolai, runs up to four two-hour tours daily in season from the Harborside Hotel dock.
“John and Coreen Nicolai have built a wonderful business, and we know they have mixed emotions about retiring,” said James Allen in a recent interview. “We are very excited to be able to continue the work they have started. We are also excited that Ocean Properties has invited us to continue running out of such a world-class facility like the Harborside Hotel.
“We are excited to be running a trip out of Bar Harbor.”
Nicolai worked for 20 years in France as a chef before moving to North Carolina, where he ran a yacht detailing business, and then to Gouldsboro. The current Lulu is the third vessel used in the tours. All three were named “Lulu” in honor of Nicolai’s mother, Lucie, whom his dad affectionately called “Lulu,” according to the company website.
According to the Allens, no major changes are planned in Lulu’s offerings and itinerary. It has operated locally for 19 years.
Trips can accommodate up to 40 people and run three or four times per day. In addition to pulling traps and showing passengers how lobster fishing works, the tours also visits ledges where seals haul out and swings by area lighthouses as well. The vessel and tours have been featured on numerous network television programs.
Although Nicolai operated the boat and narrated the tour at the same time, the Allens said they will probably split those duties between two people.
Tours like those on Lulu operate with a special class of state lobster fishing license. Called a “demonstration” license, it allows the holder to fish up to 20 traps. Unlike sole-operator tours that operate with a recreational, or part-time license, none of the lobsters can be kept. “Everything that’s brought up gets thrown back,” James Allen explained. Crew members can be part of the special license to allow them to handle the lobsters as well.
He added that there is a great demand on the part of visitors, especially from bus tours or from cruise ships, to learn more about Maine’s seafaring heritage.
“Lobstering is such an important part of this community, and we love the idea of being able to educate visitors about all that goes into this industry,” James Allen said. “Though we touch on lobstering with the Sea Princess, we aren’t set up to actually show what’s it’s like to haul/bait traps and how that all works.
“We hope in a small way that by helping visitors to understand the challenges of lobstering that they’ll better appreciate the lobsters that they buy here in Maine.”
The Allens have run Sea Princess since 2005. It runs from the town dock in Northeast Harbor, out to the Cranberry Islands and up Somes Sound. Wildlife trips with Acadia National Park naturalists, along with sunset excursions, are offered.
“With everything we do with the Sea Princess, buying the Lulu was right in our wheelhouse,” James said.
Insuring a quality visitor experience is the company’s top priority, Andy Allen said. “As with our other businesses, we are 100 percent committed to the visitor experience and are only interested in providing top-notch service to our guests.”
Along with the boat trips and fun park, the brothers also sell advertising onto a seasonal visitor’s map via the Discovery Map franchise.
In early 2016, the Lulu Lobster Boat Ride won an award for outstanding marketing and promotion at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism. In 2015, the lobster boat ride was named one of the top passenger excursion experiences in the world for Holland American Line passengers.