The Booming Cruise Industry in Maine Shows Growth but Takes a Toll

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This next story comes from Maine, and is pretty interesting. In 1998, Valerie Peacock was assistant harbor master in Bar Harbor, Maine, and the arrival of a cruise ship was a innovative event. When a cruise ship tendered, the whole town would stop in awe.

Peacock states, “It was kind of exciting, and people would come in to town just to see them. People were coming to town in a different way, and the ships were exciting, and we as harbor masters had to work out how to get the tenders into the town pier and how to get the people on and off them. The town never stopped to think if they wanted the cruise ship or not. It just happened.”

Now in 2018, the awe is gone. 230,000 cruise ship passengers are expected to visit the port this year alone. This is a 257% increase from 2003. 257%. What residents are now worried about with the influx of passengers and new mega ships is preserving the natural beauty of Maine. The traffic of the tour busses and the plumes of exhaust from the ships filling Acadia's National Parks have people in a tizzy.

“We’ve never been and don’t want to be a town like Bar Harbor that very much caters to the day-tripper crowd. We’re a town that has people who want to come and spend several days in a real Maine town,” says Lydia Goetze, who chaired the Southwest Harbor select-board in 2016, when it passed the state’s second such moratorium. “It was really not clear to us that there was an economic benefit to this town, and people were concerned about the quality of life.”

The future of cruise ship visitors on Mount Desert Island will be determined by a ballot question on Tuesday, when Bar Harbor residents will decide to buy an abandoned, state-owned ferry terminal just north of town to use as a public marina, park, and destination for cruise ship tenders. If the $3.5 million purchase is rejected, the department of transportation will place the terminal on the market. Many Bar Harbor residents fear that this will prompt the construction of a quarter-mile-long pier where ships could dock rather than tender.

Maine's government and coastal communities have been working tirelessly to bring cruise ships to the state in hopes to grow and diversify tourism. Until recently, the government has put off these vital questions: Are cruise ship crowds trampling the fabric of towns? What are the real costs and benefits? Is it all worth it?

Cabot Lyman, owner of Thomaston’s Lyman-Morse Boatbuidling and 250 Main, a boutique hotel in downtown Rockland had something to say, “I’ve been sailing all over the world, and everywhere I go where cruise ships are landing it’s been just a disaster. It takes a little while, but all of a sudden people wake up and realize they spent a lot and got nothing in return. I don’t see why here would be any different.”

Maine is now trying to figure out how to handle and take advantage of the expanding call of cruise ships (which has helped keep seasonal business open longer, exposing millions of first-timers to the the beauty of Maine's coast). However, this has been found to be hard without overflowing their communities to the point where there is no beauty left. The results vary. Portland welcomes cruise ships with open arms and sees ample room for growth, where in Southwest Harbor, they have forbidden all cruise lines from bringing any passengers to town.

A four-month examination by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram has shown a wide range of challenges facing Maine’s cruise ship ports as they tackle the fast-growing $38 billion industry. The industry is under intense pressure to take advantage of as much passenger spending revenue as possible in order to maintain profitability, even with its downsides.

Let me know what you think Maine should do below:

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