BAR HARBOR, Maine — The 2009 cruise ship season came to a close on Sunday as Cunard’s flagship vessel, the Queen Mary 2, weighed anchor and glided out of Frenchman Bay under starry skies.
Charlie Phippen, Bar Harbor’s harbor master, said the QM2’s visit was the 92nd and final cruise ship visit for 2009. There had been more visits scheduled for this year’s season, which runs from mid-May to early November, but rough weather resulted in five of the visits being canceled, he said. The five cancellations all were for smaller ships that tie up to the end of the municipal pier.
The 92 visits is not a record, Phippen said Tuesday. Last year, cruise ships stopped in Bar Harbor 97 times, he said. There had been 108 visits scheduled for 2008, but 11 of them ended up being canceled, mostly due to weather.
“Last year, cancellations were both big ships and small ships,” he said.
The weather Sunday for the QM2’s visit was pleasant, Phippen said. But the weather this fall, when most cruise ships stop in Bar Harbor, was not particularly better than it was in 2008, he said.
“It was a relatively uneventful last day,” Phippen said.
It will be another six months before cruise ships reappear in Frenchman Bay. According to the town’s preliminary 2010 cruise ship schedule, the Costa Atlantica is due to drop anchor off Bar Harbor on May 1.
If the weather is generally good next year and other possible complications are kept to a minimum, 2010 could be a record year for the local cruise ship season. According to Phippen, he has 115 cruise ship visits penciled in for 2010. Some ships have booked anchorage areas in the bay for the next two years, he said.
“I’ve got ships for 2011 already scheduled in,” he said.
Bar Harbor has been estimated to get approximately 130,000 cruise ship passengers each year. Economic studies have indicated that, with that many visitors, the Mount Desert Island area benefits from $10 million and $15 million in direct cruise ship passenger spending each cruise ship season.