BAR HARBOR, Maine — Local officials are hoping to throw a party when Queen Victoria comes to town this fall.
Queen Victoria is a new Cunard cruise ship that was launched in 2007 and is expected to make its first visit to Maine’s busiest cruise ship destination on Sept. 30.
The last time Bar Harbor officials threw a welcome party for a visiting cruise ship was on Sept. 27, 2004, when the Queen Mary 2, a much larger Cunard cruise ship, made its maiden visit to town.
For that visit, portions of some downtown streets were closed to vehicular traffic and a reception with dignitaries such as Gov. John Baldacci was held at Agamont Park, which overlooks the harbor. Thousands of people were estimated to have turned out in downtown Bar Harbor and at the summit of Cadillac Mountain to get a look at the QM2.
The Queen Victoria is smaller than the QM2, which at 1,132 feet long and with a maximum passenger capacity of more than 3,000 is one of the largest cruise vessels in the world. The Queen Victoria, which is 964 feet long and can carry 2,000 passengers, more closely resembles the Queen Elizabeth 2, the famous, 42-year-old former Cunard ship that was retired from service last fall so it could become a floating luxury hotel in Dubai. The QE2 made its final visit to Bar Harbor on Sept. 19.
On Tuesday, the Bar Harbor Town Council voted 7-0 in favor of allowing the Chamber of Commerce to pursue plans for a similar event for the Queen Victoria’s first visit. Chris Fogg, the Chamber’s executive director, told the council he would like to work with the police department to close parts of Cottage and Main streets to automotive traffic when the ship is in port.
“We thought we might do something like that again,” Fogg told the council, referring to the 2004 event.
Fogg said Wednesday that the event is not necessarily a done deal. Approaching the council was simply the first step, he said.
“We still have a lot of planning [to do],” he said.
So far, Bar Harbor expects 96 cruise ship visits this coming tourist season. That number includes multiple visits by individual ships from mid-May through October, and visits by smaller ships based out of Bangor that tie up to the end of the municipal pier.
The QM2 is scheduled to visit on Oct. 5 and Nov. 1, while Explorer of the Seas, another larger vessel, is expected to make four stops, the first scheduled for Sept. 6.
Portland, Maine’s second-busiest cruise ship port, is expected to have 38 cruise ship visits this year, which could bring more than 70,000 passengers to Maine’s largest city. Rockland is expecting its first-ever visits by large cruise ships this year. Grandeur of the Seas is expected to make a daylong stop on June 21 and Jewel of the Seas is scheduled to do the same on Oct. 4.
Last year, Bar Harbor expected to have 108 cruise ship visits but due to weather-related cancellations ended up with 97 total visits, which is a local single-season record. Bar Harbor had 91 cruise ship visits in 2007 and 73 visits in 2006.
The 97 cruise ship visits last year brought an estimated 135,000 cruise ship passengers to Bar Harbor last year. Based on economic calculations from a 2005 University of Maine study on Maine’s cruise ship industry, those passengers are estimated to have spent approximately $13.5 million in Bar Harbor and surrounding towns.
Dana Reed, Bar Harbor’s town manager, told the Town Council on Tuesday that revenue from visiting cruise ship fees is expected to increase by several hundred thousand dollars this year, from more than $100,000 to more than $500,000. State law restricts the use of such revenue to cruise ship passenger services and port development, however, so the increased cruise ship fee revenue may not have much effect on the rest of the town budget, he said.