BAR HARBOR — Just when the typical summer tourist crowd is headed back to school after Labor Day, in comes cruise ship season.
Tourists flock to the sidewalks along Main and Cottage streets in Bar Harbor, and for motorists, it seems like tour buses are everywhere.
For some Mount Desert Island residents, the extended cruise ship season can feel never-ending.
But despite its minor inconveniences, Bar Harbor’s cruise industry helps to employ dozens of local workers and put money into their pockets.
Not only does the cruise industry generate nearly $50 million in direct spending to Maine’s economy, it also extends the season for area workers who might normally be out of jobs by Labor Day.
The bus tour business in town is thriving.
Several local companies cater to the cruise ship set: National Park Tours, New England Shore Excursions, Intercruises, Destinations North America and Oli’s Trolley all provide more jobs to residents as drivers and tour guides through the heavy cruise months of September and October.
Local taxi companies such as At Your Service Taxi and Tours provide private excursions for cruise passengers.
Glenn Tucker, owner of New England Shore Excursions, said his company “virtually deals with all ships coming in.”
Tucker, whose business encompasses Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayak, said his company has 30 people who work directly with cruise ship passengers.
New England Shore Excursions offers active tours, such as kayaking, biking and hiking, which cater mostly to a younger audience.
Walking tours and 15-passenger executive coach tours are in high demand by cruise ship passengers.
“We only started doing coach tours three seasons ago, and there has been a fairly dramatic increase [in demand],” he said. “It’s a product that the cruise ships like.”
On average, about seven seasonal or year-round residents act as bus drivers and tour guides for New England Shore Excursions.
Seasonal workers generally take the active tour positions and 10 or so support staff members help the tours get where they need to be.
The excursions allow many locals to have seasonal jobs.
David Opdyke, a tour guide who rotates among the different companies, has been a guide for 16 years.
“I try to get on as many excursions as I can,” he said.
Fifty to 60 retirees, school teachers, summer and year-round residents act as tour guides on buses shuttling passengers through Acadia National Park through cruise season.
“I love to show off the island,” said Opdyke. “It’s also an ego thing. Where else are you going to have 50 people listening and believing everything you say?”
Denise Morgan, co-owner of Oli’s Trolley, said the cruise industry benefits many local workers whom she employs.
The more cruise ship passengers there are, the more employees are needed to meet demand.
“Our staff increases every year as the number of cruise ships increases,” she said.
Oli’s Trolley had 27 employees this year, and more are expected next season.
Morgan said the company’s busiest month is September, but that cruise season allows for more business in October.
“It enriches the whole month of October,” she said. “It we didn’t have cruise ships, we wouldn’t be able to offer the whole variety of tours or need as many bus drivers.”
The growing fleet also creates more job opportunities.
Trolleys undergo maintenance and repairs, which gives business to local auto mechanics, hardware stores and auto part sellers, and they fuel up at local gas stations.
“The cruise ships are very good for us,” said Morgan. “They help build our fleet and help offer a fuller of menu of tours in spring and early summers before the fall cruise season.”