ROCKLAND, Maine — The 2,500-passenger cruise ship Jewel of the Seas is making a big splash around the midcoast even before it drops anchor Sunday morning in Rockland Harbor.
“The whole community is talking about it,” said Loraine Francis, executive director of Rockland Main Street Inc. “It’s the first time a cruise ship this big has come to Rockland. This is very exciting, and we’ve been planning for this for months.”
The visit is a collaborative effort between Rockland and Camden, she said.
“Rockland has a nice, deep port, and there will be shore excursions to the Camden area,” she said. “As a region, we’re fabulous.”
When the city was better known for its fish processing plants than its tourist lures, the phrase “Camden by the sea, Rockland by the smell” was used a lot more often than “fabulous” when describing Maine’s lobster capital. But a renaissance here has seen a blossoming of museums, fine-dining establishments and art galleries, and even a recent anointing by Budget Travel magazine as one of America’s “Coolest Small Towns.”
Passengers disembarking from Jewel of the Seas will be greeted by an official welcoming ceremony at the Fisherman’s Memorial in Harbor Park, the band Bay Winds North and 60 volunteers clad in lobster-red vests, who will answer visitors’ questions in both Rockland and Camden.
Francis said she learned just last week that volunteers do not clamor to help greet cruise ship passengers in some of Maine’s other, better-known ports of call, including Bar Harbor.
“There was never a question here,” she said. “We knew the cruise ship was coming, and we want passengers to feel welcome.”
Chris Fogg of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce said that Chamber staff members pass out information to cruise ship passengers when ships dock in his community.
“It’s maybe a different experience for Rockland — it’s their first big ship,” he said Monday. “We’ve been doing this for a while. And here, there’s not a huge need for volunteers. We’re able to service them through private industry.”
In Rockland, many area businesses are planning to expand their Sunday hours, including Huston-Tuttle Art Supplies & More on Main Street in Rockland.
“I would normally be closed,” said owner Cheryl Michels. “Everybody hopes it’ll be a good day, with many extra people wandering through town. We’re all excited about it. We’d like them to come back.”
Sierra Dietz, co-owner of the Rockland Grasshopper Shoppe, said her store has scheduled more staff to work that day.
“I think it’s a great thing for Rockland, to have a cruise ship of this size coming. I think we could be another cruise ship destination, like Portland, or Bar Harbor.”
The preparations have been no less exacting in the harbor, according to Rockland harbor master Ed Glaser. He said the vessel would anchor inside the breakwater and use its own tenders to ferry passengers and crew between the ship and shore. They’ll disembark at the public landing off Harbor Park, which will be closed to ve-hicular traffic. The vessel will be charged $1 per person to use the public landing, which is the fee the city has used for years.
But the ship’s visit is different in some regards, he said. His office will have more staff working that day, for one thing.
“We’re also going to have some police coverage, and the Coast Guard will be notified, and the Marine Patrol,” he said. “It’s a big deal. This is an experiment. We’ve never had a vessel this big here before.”