Bar Harbor (Maine USA), a popular seasonal cruise ship destination became the latest port to raise the idea of limiting future cruise calls.
As part of an ongoing debate, on November 17 (2020) Bar Harbor Town Council voted to take steps to potentially limit cruise ships in 2021. Key West Florida residents took a similar action approving referendums on the November ballot.
Growing from the ongoing concerns over the pandemic, the town council in an online meeting discussed the question of how to handle cruise ships next year and beyond. The discussion centered on the concerns regarding COVID-19 but also encompassed the financial impact to the community from the cruise industry.
In 2020, Bar Harbor ME expected nearly 200 cruise ship calls ranging from some of the biggest cruise liners to smaller coastal ships. The port had the potential to receive 300,000+ passengers throughout the season, which traditionally commences in the spring and intensifies during the fall. Cruise passengers are estimated to contribute over US$20 million per year to the economy of Maine.
With 150+ cruise ships having already requested calls for 2021, the council agreed it would be important to make decisions to provide the lines time to respond. However, some members argued that business was down as much as 80% due to the lack of cruise ships this year. Others disagreed pointing out land-based travelers have a greater economic contribution than cruisers.
While the council voted to defer any actions until into 2021, they also approved a motion for Bar Harbor’s cruise ship committee to explore a cap on the annual number of cruise vessels.
It is not the first time that Bar Harbor Town Council moved to bar cruise ships. In April 2020, early in the Coronavirus pandemic, they voted to close the port for cruise ships through July 1, 2020. Then in July, with ACL-American Cruise Lines proposing to restart coastal voyages with its vessels, the town council voted to extend the cruise ban through December 31, 2020.