BAR HARBOR, Maine — For the first time in at least 20 years of regular cruise ship traffic in Frenchman Bay, Mount Desert Island had more than 100 cruise ship visits this year, according to a local official.
The last such visit of the 2010 season was Friday, Oct. 29, when the 960-foot Costa Atlantica weighed anchor off Bar Harbor and brought some of its 2,114 passengers ashore.
Charlie Phippen, the local harbormaster, said Tuesday the Costa Atlantica’s visit was the 107th cruise ship appearance in local waters since early May. The previous record for Bar Harbor, Maine’s busiest cruise ship port, was 97 visits in 2008.
“It’s the most ever,” Phippen said Tuesday.
During its busy summer tourist season, Bar Harbor gets visits from ships ranging from the 1,020-foot-long Explorer of the Seas, which can carry more than 3,000 passengers and 1,100 crew members, to the 165-foot-long American Glory, which can carry 49 passengers.
This year 120 cruise ship visits, carrying an estimated total of more than 150,000 passengers, were expected for Bar Harbor. Of those visits, 29 were for smaller ships that tie up to the town pier.
Phippen said there were 13 cancellations, mostly because of weather conditions.
“It doesn’t matter the time of year,” Phippen said about when relatively rough surf can occur in the bay. “It was mostly smaller [ships].”
One cancellation, the Spirit of Oceanus’ scheduled stop for Sept. 24, was the result of the ship being sold to new owners, Phippen said.
The harbormaster said that so far he has 85 cruise ship visits scheduled for 2011, mostly for larger ships that anchor in Frenchman Bay. He said the smaller ships tend to schedule a total of between 20 and 25 stops for the year after the fall season ends.
“I expect to get them by the end of this year,” he said.
According to cruise industry officials, studies indicate that cruise ship passengers each spend roughly $100 a day in each port they visit. Using rough passenger estimates, that would translate to cruise ship passengers spending roughly $20 million in Maine ports in 2010. The vast majority of cruise ship passenger spending is on Mount Desert Island and in the Portland area, which was expected to have approximately 70 cruise ship visits this year.
According to Cruise Lines International Association, in 2009 the cruise ship industry contributed $35 million in direct spending to Maine’s economy and supported more than 600 jobs in the state.