BAR HARBOR — Parents are stocking up on school supplies as summer vacation nears its end. But the Bar Harbor cruise ship season is just getting ready to slip into high gear.
Between now and Oct. 29, 86 cruise ship visits are scheduled, including the maiden voyage to Bar Harbor of the world’s fourth-largest passenger vessel. Royal Caribbean International’s flagship vessel Anthem of the Seas is scheduled to arrive in port on Monday, Aug. 29, at 7 a.m. and depart at 6 p.m.
The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders welcome ships during their first voyage to town with lobsters for the captain, a plaque and a key to the town. Six more ships also will make their maiden voyages to Bar Harbor over the next two months.
Bar Harbor Harbormaster Charlie Phippen said the number of ship arrivals is down slightly from last year.
“Last year, we had about 140, and this year we are down to around 120,” Phippen said. “But I’ve got a record number of boats reserved for 2017 and 2018, so it is spiking more than dipping like we did this year.”
The bulk of ship arrivals come in September and October. Anthem alone will bring around 4,200 passengers to town.
“It’s challenging when we are up around our passenger cap,” said Phippen. “In the summertime, it adds another element of another large group coming into the harbor.” The passenger cap is 5,500 in May, June, September and October and 3,500 in July and August.
Described as “the world’s most revolutionary ship” by Royal Caribbean, Anthem was first launched on April 22, 2015. The ship is 1,141-feet long with 18 decks and 2,090 staterooms.
The ship features a Broadway-style theater, upscale retail shops, 18 restaurants and cafes and several bars including the “Bionic Bar,” complete with a robotic bartender. Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas are the three “Oasis Class” ships in Royal Caribbean’s fleet larger than Anthem, with lengths of about 1,187 feet.
Anthem may be a familiar name, as it has been caught up in a stream of headlines following mishaps this year.
A February cruise from the ship’s New Jersey home port to the Caribbean was cut short after it was caught in a powerful storm near the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., according to The Associated Press. A handful of passengers were injured, and video of waves pummeling balconies and staterooms were broadcast on social media and national news sites.
One passenger filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, alleging the cruise line was “grossly negligent” to sail through the storm.
Later that month, another cruise was cut short after Anthem turned around to avoid a storm. The cruise line also reported that norovirus had infected 10 people on that cruise, but maintained the turnaround was due to weather and not illness.
In July, an 8-year-old boy died after drowning in one of the ship’s four pools. Most cruise ships do not employ lifeguards and warning signs are posted around pools.
Despite the ship’s hiccups, the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to Anthem’s visit.
“It’s exciting – it’s bringing new people into Bar Harbor,” said Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Martha Searchfield. “It’s always the hope with cruise ships that even though they only get one day, that they will fall in love with the town and come back.”