BAR HARBOR — Fewer cruise ships are scheduled to visit here next year, but they will carry more passengers, Harbormaster Charlie Phippen told the town Cruise Ship Committee last week.
This year, 180 ship visits to Bar Harbor will bring an estimated 245,000 passengers. In 2019, 168 ship visits are scheduled to bring 256,730 passengers.
There are 91 ship visits scheduled for 2020, with 142,500 passengers, Phippen said. Passenger fees are charged on the basis of passenger capacity, not on how many passengers actually set foot in town. An initiative last year to conduct better data on the latter did not produce consistent, reliable data, committee members have said.
In April, the Town Council asked the Cruise Ship Committee to conduct an analysis of rates at port towns comparable to Bar Harbor.
“Part of the Cruise Ship Committee’s enabling ordinance is to review these fees,” Councilor Paul Paradis said at the time. “The last time the committee did look at it, [our fees] were in line” with comparable port towns.”
Committee Chair Eben Salvatore said the analysis will include the fees charged at the port, the population of the port town, the number of ships visiting, how the port charges (by passenger, length of ship, or flat fee), a list of services offered at the port and the duration of the season. It also will track any change in the number of visits before and after any infrastructure development or changes in the port town.
Committee member Amy Powers agreed to compile the information by the end of July. Carol Chappell conducted a similar analysis in 2017 as part of the ferry terminal property advisory committee’s work. Her study compared 15 ports to Bar Harbor.
The committee also has been asked to review a proposal for a 50 percent increase to the cruise ship port development fee, from $2 to $3 per passenger. They agreed to table that discussion until the rate analysis is complete.
Town Manager Cornell Knight and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Martha Searchfield attended the Cruise Canada New England Symposium in Boston from May 30 to June 1.
There’s a trend of cruise lines offering more excursions at their destinations rather than adding more amenities to the ships themselves, Knight said. That puts Bar Harbor at an advantage with the wide array of tours and activities available.
“Everyone wants to come to Bar Harbor,” Searchfield said. “They say that Bar Harbor was their favorite port.”
Knight said Ritz-Carlton Yachts, which will offer trips starting in 2020 on three 298-passenger vessels, expressed interest in coming to Bar Harbor in 2020 or 2021.