About a month after pitching the idea of visiting Bucksport three times this fall, American Cruise Lines has reversed its decision, with the company saying that it has canceled all Maine stops this year.
Company Vice President Paul E. Taiclet wrote a letter to Bucksport Town Manager Susan Lessard informing her of the company’s decision “after thoughtful consideration with the utmost concern for the health and safety of your residents and our guests.”
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 was due to further consider the proposal at its meeting on Thursday.
No cruise ships have carried passengers in Maine this year, and the industry has effectively come 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.
American did promise to “look forward to working with Bucksport to prepare for the 2021 season so that American Cruise Lines’ ships may visit on a regular schedule,” Taiclet wrote.
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.
The cruise company has made many stops in Bucksport over the years, but that the town is not usually among its ships’ scheduled stops, Rich Rotella, Bucksport’s economic development director, said Wednesday. 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 had sent emails to Bucksport officials expressing opposition to allow the firm to dock its ships in town, though some have said they could support it.