EASTPORT, Maine — Why should Bar Harbor have all the fun?
Eastport was the port o’ call Friday for a small cruise ship, The Grande Caribe, which tied up at 10:30 a.m. with its 50 passengers and 25 crew members at the fishing pier adjacent to the Washington County community’s scenic downtown.
While Bar Harbor plays host to more than 100 cruise ships each year — including some of the largest in the world — Eastport is expecting five smaller ships this summer, including two more visits by The Grande Caribe. The 184-foot, 96-passenger ship was built in 1997 and refurbished in 2009. Blount Small Ship Adventures, which operates out of Boston, bills its cruises as “going where the big ships cannot.” Friday’s visit was the first time the ship had visited Eastport and was the first cruise ship to tie up since 2007.
The Grande Caribe left Boston on Wednesday for a 10-day Bay of Fundy cruise that is taking passengers as far north as St. John, New Brunswick. En route to Eastport, the ship docked in Rockland and will dock in Bar Harbor and Portland before returning to Boston on Aug. 10. Identical cruises depart Boston on Aug. 12 and Aug. 23, with passengers staying in one of 48 cabins paying between $2,999 and $3,759, depending on accommodations.
Eastport made plans to welcome visitors ashore Friday with receptions and an art walk 8-10 p.m. Some passengers purchased a historic and scenic land tour of the region while others were content to explore the shops, galleries and restaurants that comprise the waterfront downtown commercial area, which includes 29 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Eastport Port Authority also erected a dockside tent to help answer questions about places to go and things to do. The ship departs early Saturday morning.
Natalie Brown, a staffer with the port authority, said the agency has been wooing small cruise ship operators at trade shows and through other efforts in hope of boosting local economic activity.
“We have a cruise ship committee that has been working for some years to make this happen,” Brown said Friday. “For this first visit we are only charging the boat owners a minimal docking fee, as this is more about promoting the community. We expect that those who come ashore will be spending money in downtown’s shops and restaurants.”
Brown said two more visits by Grande Caribe will be followed by a visit in September by the London-based Caledonia Sky, which can accommodate as many as 114 passengers. In October, Eastport will host a visit from the ship World, which Brown describes as a “floating condo.”
The Florida-based, 644-foot ship is a virtual floating city and is home to 130 families from 19 countries, some of whom live aboard year-round as the ship circumnavigates the globe every three to five years.