AUGUSTA — A Portland company that operates the cruise ship terminal there was awarded a $115,000 state contract earlier this month to coordinate cruise industry marketing and outreach for the Maine Office of Tourism.
Soli DG, which has nine employees in Portland, submitted one of two bids for the CruiseMaine contract. Founder Patrick Arnold formerly worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines as a navigation officer.
Until this summer, CruiseMaine was run by Amy Powers, a cruise industry veteran who sits on the Bar Harbor Cruise Ship Committee. CruiseMaine was a contractor with the Maine Port Authority (MPA), part of the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT). Now, the CruiseMaine contract is jointly held under the DOT and the Department of Economic and Community Development.
Bar Harbor Town Council chair and Cruise Ship Committee representative Paul Paradis said he is disappointed with the change.
“Amy is the one who got the MPA and Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce together to fund the original economic impact study and got everybody together to fund the cruise ship management study a decade ago,” he said. “That formed what became the task force and later the Cruise Ship Committee.”
CruiseMaine with Powers at the helm also helped the town develop its fee structure for cruise ships based on the ship’s “lower berth capacity” to carry passengers.
“It’s very simple,” Paradis said. “The ship pulls in here, that’s the bill. Portland has a person working for the city that does nothing but bill cruise lines.”
Powers has left to launch her own consulting firm but will keep her seat on the town committee.
According to a letter from the DOT and DECD commissioners, Soli DG is set to draft a strategic plan for cruise marketing for the state. According to their submission in response to a request for proposals, building bridges between stakeholders is central to their work.
“It became apparent that there was a lack of knowledge in Maine regarding the cruise industry and maritime development in general,” they wrote. “It was likewise apparent that public and private interests in Maine did not communicate or collaborate well enough to advance Maine’s port interests. This was the impetus for founding Soli DG: to be a catalyst for communication and holistic development.”
The company proposed expanding shore excursions for cruise passengers in Bar Harbor, such as creating a lobster bake similar to luau events offered for cruise passengers in Hawaii.
“Bundling Acadia on a bus, and a lobster bake as your meal, doesn’t invest as much into the experience … as the Hawaiians have in their Luau,” they wrote. “More needs to be done to increase the price point and invest into the experience of the lobster bake alone.”
Passengers to Bar Harbor already have a lobster bake option. And Powers was involved in efforts to get lobsters caught by area fishermen onto the menus of visiting cruise ships.
Soli DG suggested involving more Maine companies in such an event, such as Atlantic Brewing Company, Wyman’s blueberries, L.L. Bean and lobster industry players.