American Cruise Lines operates the Independence (shown above at the town dock in Bar Harbor in 2015), which has been approved to resume trips to Bar Harbor starting May 24. ISLANDER PHOTO BY EARL BRECHLIN

Domestic cruise line to return to Bar Harbor

BAR HARBORA small cruise line will be sailing back into town later this month after getting approvals at the state and local level.  

CruiseMaine, an arm of the state tourism office, announced last week that American Cruise Lines had been fully vetted by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and that the company would start trips through New England this month.  

The Independence, a 96-passenger ship, will start an all-Maine itinerary in Portland and is currently scheduled for more than a dozen visits to Bar Harbor. 

“The plan submitted by American Cruise Lines not only meets our public health requirements here in the state; in many cases it exceeds them,” said Sarah Flink, the executive director of CruiseMaine. “We know the pandemic is still with us, but with careful planning, alongside increasing rates of vaccination across the country and here in Maine, we are pleased to add these small domestic ships back into the mix for our summer season.” 

Planning for a potential cruise season started in December and CruiseMaine worked with the Maine CDC and representatives from towns involved in cruise operations.  

American Cruise Lines had already started sailing in other parts of the country and passengers must be fully vaccinated.  

“Through our Health and Safety plan as well as the support from Maine CDC and CruiseMaine, we are able to cruise the majestic coast of Maine, with our guests providing a meaningful boost to the local economy,” said ACL Executive Vice President Paul Taiclet. “We are committed to keeping our guests, crew and the communities we visit safe and are delighted to visit Maine in 2021.” 

Larger cruise ships with more than 250 passengers are still prohibited in the U.S. and it is unlikely they will be back up and running in Maine waters before the end of the 2021 cruise season. 

Canada is also still barring cruise ships, making Bar Harbor an unlikely destination on many international cruise ship itineraries. 

On Tuesday night, the Town Council approved American Cruise Lines to come back to town, though it still had concerns about larger passenger ships. 

“We’ve trusted the CDC to give us good guidance. I don’t see a need to not trust them now,” said council member Matthew Hochman. “If they give the OK– if they believe that everything is stringent  they’re the ones who have the data.” 

The town has been considering how it wants to manage or possibly limit the industry in the future and recently issued a survey to the public for feedback. Cruise ships did not sail at all last season because of the pandemic, giving Bar Harbor officials a glimpse of what life could be like without them. 

For now, American Cruise Lines is the only company approved to sail in Maine, though the cruise topic will likely come before the council again soon, as the results of the survey are compiled.  

American Cruise Lines’ first trip to Bar Harbor will be May 24.   

Ethan Genter

Ethan Genter

Former reporter for the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, Ethan covered maritime news and the town of Bar Harbor.

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