BAR HARBOR — The first of 171 cruise ship visits this season is set for this Sunday, April 23.
Amadea Shipping Limited’s Amadea will drop anchor between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. It is a small ship at 632 feet long with the capacity for 624 passengers and 292 crew members.
On Wednesday, April 26, Veendam, of Holland America Line’s fleet, will visit from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The 719-foot ship is homeported in Boston, Mass., and carries 1,350 passengers and 568 crew members.
The number of scheduled cruise ship visits is up 66 from last season’s 105, although 120 visits initially were scheduled for last year.
If it seems a little early for cruise ships to begin arriving, that’s because the first ship arrival is nearly a week earlier than usual. Last year, the first ship arrived on April 29. The final arrival this season is scheduled for Nov. 1, a day later than the final visit in 2016.
While the number of cruise ship visits is up this summer, no visits will exceed the daily 3,500 passenger cap for July and August.
A controversial plan approved earlier this year by the Bar Harbor Town Council to allow a one-time exceedance in the passenger cap for Freedom of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, which carry up to 4,328 and 4,180 passengers, respectively, will not occur until 2018.
The purpose of the trial day is to determine whether or not extending the cap in July and August makes much of a difference. Next summer, Freedom will visit Bar Harbor on July 2, July 30 and Aug. 28, and Anthem will visit on Aug. 27.
Town officials will carefully monitor conditions in town to determine the impact of the extra several hundred passengers. It’s a step towards possibly raising the summer cap, since the cruise industry is trending towards bigger ships.
This year, the Bar Harbor Harbormaster’s office will collect data on how many passengers come ashore from each ship using a new port-of-call summary form to be approved by the Town Council, which will trace the economic and crowding impact of cruise visits.
In the spring and fall months, the daily passenger cap is 5,500 passengers.
Following the two cruise ship visits this month, the next cruise ship won’t arrive for more than two more weeks, when Veendam’s sister ship, Veendam F, arrives on Friday, May 12, at 8 a.m., with a 5 p.m. departure.
As usual, the season kicks into high gear by the end of August, when two, three and sometimes four ship visits per day are common.
In 2016, passengers visiting Bar Harbor by cruise ship spent about $15 million for an estimated economic impact of $20.2 million, according to a recent University of Maine study.
That figure is the amount passengers spent on meals, drinks, shore excursions and souvenirs while on land. That figure does not include the nearly $690,000 in fees passengers paid to the town or spending by crew members or the cruise lines themselves.