Viewpoint: Recovering from cruise ship addiction 

By Beth Warner 

In April 2000, the German cruise ship World Discoverer hit an uncharted reef in the Solomon Islands. All passengers survived, but efforts to retrieve the ship failed, and anything of value was lost to looters. For 22 years, World Discoverer has discovered nothing. It remains tipped on its side in Roderick Bay, slowly rusting away into the sea, symbolizing the end of an era. These enormous cruise ships will all die off like dinosaurs. It’s time for Bar Harbor to move up and away from their doom, gloom and depressing debauchery. 

The citizens’ initiative to limit the number of passengers disembarking downtown is fantastic! It means voters can sign petitions to put this on a ballot soon. 

The circus created by cruise ships descending on Bar Harbor grew out of seriously flawed logic and this excuse: “Ships are needed during shoulder seasons of spring and fall.” This false notion created an addiction of catering to cruise ships and like all addictions, it had to be fed. To do so, excuses increased along with denial of reality. Denial sees to it facts are neatly ignored, ridiculed, dismissed or obscured. Addiction works to make what is harmful appear less harmful and normalize harm. It’s insidious and sad. 

Bar Harbor can sober up and recover from cruise ship addiction. The citizens’ initiative is the first step, like an intervention. It’s how we will begin to end the insanity of increased cruise ship visitations and Bar Harbor being made into a circus. We can end excuses, stop denial and normalizing harm with sane, solid reasons rooted in the reality of this citizens’ initiative. There are ways to do better, healthier, sustainable business. We can and will find them. Facts, surveys and statistics prove an enormous increase with Bar Harbor’s land-based tourism and visitors to Acadia National Park. Let’s not divert attention and energy away from reality. 

Downtown no longer needs to be mistakenly reduced to a destination where, for a few hours, passengers disembark by the boatload to spend chump change on keychains, coffee, postcards, cones and cheap crap. Passengers don’t need lodging; they are served 12 meals a day. Cruise ships are petri dishes for diseases, defy U.S. labor laws by enslaving workers below decks, routinely violate U.S. environmental laws, spew bilge and fly flags of convenience registering in Panama to avoid paying all U.S. income taxes. Constantly catering to them was a mistake. Mistakes in some cultures are seen as opportunities for healthy change. 

Our increase in land-based tourism is genuine and means we can stop setting watches to ships. Let’s follow the lead happening now with the expansion and development of the welcome center in Trenton, deploy strong sustainable solutions like a downtown pedestrian mall. Our land-based tourism is historic, permanent and the increase is not “a COVID anomaly” nor temporary. Bar Harbor has deep roots in land-based visitors and these roots never extended onto the decks of the dying dinosaur ships. 

Beth Warner lives in Salsbury Cove.


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