Bar Harbor (Maine) investigating "unauthorized" visit by ACL's cruise ship American Constitution

   June 23, 2023 ,   Accidents

The town of Bar Harbor (Maine USA) is conducting an investigation into an alleged "unauthorized" visit by a cruise ship last week.

According to town officials, the ACL-American Cruise Lines' 170-passenger boat American Constitution anchored in Bar Harbor's waters on Thursday, June 15th, without a confirmed reservation.

The town stated that ACL knowingly acted against their objections and violated the Memorandum of Agreement, which requires ships to have an authorized reservation from the town to bring passengers to Bar Harbor. The incident occurred amid a contentious political debate in Bar Harbor regarding cruise ship visitation. Some residents argue that such visits negatively impact the local quality of life, while business interests emphasize the importance of cruise ships to the town's tourism industry and oppose significant reductions.

Last fall, local voters approved a citizen's initiative to limit daily passenger visits to 1,000, well below the town's existing agreement with cruise lines allowing up to 3500-3800 passengers per day. In response, a group of tourism businesses sued the town, claiming that federal law supersedes the imposed passenger limit.

Regardless of the passenger limit, reservations are required, as stated by Sarah Gilbert (interim town manager). The Town Council has decided to issue a statement about the incident and has instructed the Harbormaster and the town's attorney to investigate and take appropriate enforcement action against ACL.

According to Gilbert, passengers from the ship were ferried ashore by a tender vessel brought on the trip by the cruise ship. The exact number of passengers who disembarked is unknown. The ship arrived in Frenchman Bay in the early morning and departed later that evening, which is a typical duration for a cruise ship visit to Bar Harbor.

ACL's spokesperson Alex Paolella mentioned that the company has been scheduling stops in Bar Harbor for over 20 years, including during the pandemic year of 2021 when no other cruise ships visited due to travel restrictions. However, she did not respond to the town's allegation of lacking a reservation for the June 15 visit.