Having been turned away from making stops in Bar Harbor this year, American Cruise Lines has approached the town of Bucksport to seek the town’s blessing in making three stops in the riverside town this fall.
An executive with the Connecticut-based cruise company pitched the idea to town officials at a special council meeting last month, according to meeting minutes posted on Bucksport’s municipal website. The council decided to further consider the proposal at its upcoming Aug. 13 meeting.
No cruise ships have carried passengers in Maine this year, and the industry has effectively ground to a halt worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic because of concerns over how the disease can spread among the tight quarters of passenger ships.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a no-sail order prohibiting all cruise ships that carry 250 or more passengers from operating in U.S. waters through the end of September, and a trade group representing cruise lines has decided that its members with larger, ocean-going ships won’t resume cruises until at least after Oct. 31. American Cruise Lines vessels carry fewer than 250 passengers, and so are not subject to the no-sail order or the industry’s voluntary extension.
Officials with the company told Bar Harbor officials last month that their plan is to operate this year at below capacity so they can maintain proper social distancing on board the ships. American Cruise Lines would conduct routine medical screening of passengers and crew, including when they leave or board the ship, and passengers and crew would have to comply with state and local requirements to wear masks and keep their distance from others while on shore.
American Cruise Lines would have to have its COVID-19 operations plan approved by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention before it could carry passengers to any Maine port, officials have said.
Rich Rotella, Bucksport’s economic development director, said Wednesday that the cruise company has made many stops in Bucksport over the years, but that the town is not usually among its ships’ scheduled stops. Passengers typically are bused to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, across the river in Prospect, or sometimes are taken on bus tours to Acadia National Park, he said.
A few local residents have sent emails to Bucksport officials expressing opposition to allowing the firm to dock its ships in town, though some have said they could support it. Rotella said the council, at the moment, remains open to both perspectives.
“The council is listening” to citizen comments, Rotella said.
According to the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper, an American Cruise Line official told Bucksport council members that the company also is seeking support to bring passengers to Portland, Rockland, Bath and Boothbay, among other ports.