Maine’s ports are expected to welcome 258,661 cruise ship passengers in 2013, a 17 percent increase from the number of passengers visiting in 2012, according to new estimates from CruiseMaine.
It’s not that more ships are coming, but the ones that are will be, on average, larger, according to Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaine, a Windham-based organization that promotes Maine ports to the cruise ship industry.
The first ship of the season will arrive in Bar Harbor on May 5 and the last ship is scheduled to visit Portland on Nov. 1, according to Powers.
Powers said cruise ship schedules are notorious for changing, so all schedules and estimated passenger visits are subject to change.
Bar Harbor, Maine’s busiest cruise ship port, is expected to host a record 134 cruise ships, including one day in which four will call on the port, Powers said. Those ships — ranging in size from the 3,110-passenger Caribbean Princess to the 49-passenger American Glory — will unload 171,000 tourists into downtown Bar Harbor, a more than 23 percent increase from the nearly 140,000 passenger visits logged last year, Powers said.
Bar Harbor had 108 cruise ship visits in 2012, 106 in 2011 and 107 in 2010. In 1990, Bar Harbor had only 22 cruise ship visits.
Portland is expected to host 58 cruise ship visits and more than 74,000 passengers this year, which is the same number of ships but more than 13,000 additional passengers than last year, Powers said.
In 2012, Portland welcomed 61,100 cruise ship passengers, according to Bob Leeman, the city’s maritime manager.
Rockland is expected to greet nearly 4,800 cruise ship passengers on 32 ships this year, Powers said, a nearly 8 percent increase over the 4,500 passenger visits in 2012.
A few ports are expected to see drops in cruise ship passengers.
Eastport had seven cruise ships visit last year, including The World, the world’s largest privately owned yacht. In fact, The World will be honoring Eastport for its “hard work and exceptional service.”
The cruise ship industry was estimated in 2011 to have a $45 million economic effect on the state. Powers expects that economic impact increases when more passengers visit.
Another change coming this year that Powers expects to add to the cruise ship industry’s economic impact is a host of new excursion tours for the ship passengers, including a new foodie tour, a tour of Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, a day tour of the Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor and tours of Bath Iron Works and the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.
The new excursion tours will accomplish two goals, Powers said. They will expand the options for passengers who have visited Portland in the past and they will spread the economic impact to areas beyond the city.
“It will help the cruise industry and help us as a destination and help all our local stakeholders and all these venues,” she said. “So it’s a win-win for everybody.”
Brian Mailhot, director of Pineland Farms’ market and welcome center, said he was excited by the prospect of cruise ship passengers being able to visit the farm and its grounds.
“While it is still too early to have a real sense of the number of passengers we might see, it is a great opportunity to showcase our farm to travelers from around the world” he said. “Passengers will have the opportunity to milk a cow, see cheese being made, learn about the history of our facility and explore our gardens.”
Dave Garrison, director of marketing at Maine Maritime Museum, also said it’s too early to tell how many additional visits the museum will gain from the new excursion tours, but he’s confident it will have a positive effect.
“We certainly hope that it brings many new visitors to Bath to learn about the incredible legacy of shipbuilding in Maine,” he said, “and to witness how that legacy continues uninterrupted today with the incredible work that is being accomplished at Bath Iron Works.”