The cruise ships are coming!

As our City in the Bay has been redefining itself, in part thanks to its lively arts scene and surrounding natural wonder, tourism has been ticking up, even in the face of Covid-19.

Part of Eastport’s appeal is the deepest natural harbor in the continental U.S., a port that at one time, back when there was a lot of smuggling, was the second-busiest in the nation – something a shift in federal tax laws and heightened enforcement soon curbed.

Still, we have a long history of steamship travel, right up to the auto age.

And now, this year, hooray, we’re even anticipating the return of passenger vessels, albeit of the increasingly popular “small” ship variety rather than the floating cities that can overrun a seaport.

First, the 210-passenger, 325-foot Pearl Mist is scheduled for five visits, most of them 3½ hours ashore, as part of a seven-night round-trip out of Portland. Other stops on its Fundy Bay circuit include Rockland and Bar Harbor in Maine, and St. Andrews, St. John, and Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick. Fares run from about $4,000 and up.

Second, in September we host the innovative 530-passenger, 459-foot Roald Amundsen expedition ship on a 10-hour stopover. Originally, this was to be part of an adventurous 44-day navigation across the Arctic Ocean in a Northwest Passage venture from Vancouver, British Columbia, an ultimate bucket-list voyage. But the fares, starting around $57,000, may have been too pricy for the Covid-antsy market, causing it to be broken up into segments – the first ending at Nome, Alaska, and the second continuing from there on to Greenland and ending at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Eastport is now tucked in as the cherry in a shorter, more affordable, New England dessert.

More exciting is the news that the Amundsen is now scheduled to return next year as part of an even more audacious 94-day cruise – a Pole-to-Pole adventure that will originate in Vancouver, British Columbia, and traverse the Northwest passage before coming to Eastport and then continue on to equatorial warmth, the Panama Canal, the Pacific coast of South America, and finally shore visits on Antarctica. Think of going from icy summer to the edge of autumn in New England to the tropics and on to spring while exploring three continents. The lowest fares figure out around $600 a day.

And little Eastport will be part of that.

In Maine, the bulk of the cruise action hits Bar Harbor, at the edge of popular Acadia National Park, where frequently two ships a day debark during the summer season, and in Portland, which gets especially busy during the fall foliage season.

We’re really not set up for the mega-cruise vessels that have dominated the industry. Let’s see how our emerging niche shapes up.

 

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