ELLSWORTH, Maine — As summer draws near but coronavirus concerns continue to keep most of society shut down, more cruise ships have canceled visits scheduled for Maine next month.
Four visits scheduled for early May in Bar Harbor are canceled, according to information posted on the town’s website. Last month, the Bar Harbor Town Council canceled two visits scheduled in late April — one on April 25 by Victory II and another the following day by The Zaandam. Two visits that had been scheduled for Portland later this month also have been canceled.
The question of whether cruise ships will maintain their expected schedules in Maine this summer is one of many that have arisen from the global coronavirus crisis. Many large ships were forced to change their itineraries, or cancel trips, as the illness spread among those on board and, in some cases, resulted in passenger deaths.
The Zaandam, a large ship that still is scheduled to make several stops this summer in Bar Harbor and Portland, was stranded Thursday off the coast of Florida, waiting for permission to dock and let some passengers off. The ship cut short a cruise off South America after the coronavirus spread on board and four passengers died.
Cruise ship visits are considered a major contributor to Maine’s coastal tourist economy each summer. According to cruise ship industry studies, passengers and cruise companies spend tens of millions of dollars in Maine each year.
Most large ships that visit Maine each summer — those that can carry thousands of people — are registered in foreign countries and, in keeping with federal maritime laws, make stops in Canada as part of each trip along the Maine coast. But coronavirus concerns have led Canada to ban all cruise ship operations in its waters until July 1, which likely means that all large ship visits scheduled in Maine for May and June will be canceled.
In Bar Harbor, visits scheduled for May 1 by Mein Schiff, which can carry 3,700 passengers and crew members, and by Pearl Mist, a smaller ship that can carry 275 passengers and crew, now officially have been canceled, according to the town’s online ship schedule. A May 3 visit from Victory I, which can carry 300 people, and another May 14 visit from Pearl Mist also no longer are expected.
Pearl Mist also had been scheduled to make two stops next month In Rockland. Matt Ripley, that city’s harbormaster, said Thursday that the ship’s May 9 visit has been canceled, but that the May 16 stop is still on the schedule “as far as we know.”
Ripley said several ship visits scheduled for Rockland in September and October are still expected. He said those visits and others could be affected if public health officials are still urging people in the coming months to avoid close contact with one another in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.
“That will be when we have to make decisions,” Ripley said.
American Cruise Lines, which operates smaller ships that routinely make stops at several Maine ports throughout the summer, has been scheduled to start offering tours along the coast in May. Officials with the Connecticut-based company did not respond Thursday to a request for comment about whether their operations in Maine may be affected this summer.
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