BAR HARBOR — The 2022 cruise ship season in Bar Harbor begins this week with the arrival of the first ship, the 2,376-passenger Norwegian Pearl, which is set to pull into port at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Cruise ships have largely been absent from Bar Harbor over the last two years due to the pandemic, but this year 163 ships with a total passenger capacity of 290,000 are scheduled to cruise into Frenchman Bay from now until Nov. 10.
The season starts off slowly with six ships in April and 12 ships in May. Fifteen ships are scheduled to visit in June, 14 in July, 17 in August, 46 in September, 46 in October and seven in November. Friday, May 13, will be the first day when there are two ships scheduled to be in port. Saturday, May 28, will bring the first ship that has a capacity for over 3,000 guests, the Adventure of the Seas, which can accommodate 3,114 passengers.
“While the number of ship visits scheduled for Maine this year is similar to pre-pandemic levels,” said Sarah Fink, executive director of Cruise Maine, “the ships’ occupancy levels aren’t expected to be as high as they were pre-COVID, at least for the early part of the season.”
Bar Harbor’s love/hate relationships with cruise ships has been on full display during the last year and a half as many people in the community have asked for a reduction of cruise ship visits in the future. The requests prompted the Town Council to commission a survey last year to supply hard data to look at the future of management.
The survey found that 53 percent of the respondents rated the impact of cruise ship tourism as an overall negative on the quality of life for Bar Harbor residents. Sixty-three percent felt that the 2019 cruise ship season, the last season that had a full schedule, included too many days with cruise ships, and 66 percent felt that the average number of cruise ship passengers was “too many” in 2019.
Pan Atlantic Research, which conducted the survey, said there was broad agreement across year-round residents, seasonal residents and business owners on the top suggestions for improving the management of cruise ship tourism, the most popular of which was reducing the number of overall ships.
Despite having that data, the Town Council was unable to take immediate action to reduce cruise ship visits, prompting Bar Harbor residents to move the issue forward. Charles Sidman, Amy Sidman, Barbara Fenderson, Art Greif, Donna Karlson, Pat Murphy and Jim O’Connell have launched a citizen petition to amend the town’s land use ordinance to limit the number of passengers from cruise ships to no more than 1,000 per day regardless of the number of ships that come into town.
According to the language of the amendment, property owners who receive passengers would be required to obtain a permit from the town. Rules and regulations to oversee the daily limits would be developed by the harbormaster, and the code enforcement officer would enforce those regulations. A minimum penalty for each disembarking passenger over the limit would be subject to a fine, paid for by the permit holder.
Petition signatures are currently being collected.
To track real-time scheduled cruise ship visits for Bar Harbor, visit http://maine.portcall.com. The site includes the size of the ship and estimated passengers on board for the upcoming 18 months.