Bar Harbor businesses “welcome all” this cruise season

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 8:38 PM EDT
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BAR HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - Bar Harbor welcomed a boatload of visitors Thursday to kick off its cruise ship season.

“We want everyone to know that Bar Harbor welcomes all,” APPLL President Kristi Bond said. “We don’t care how you get here - you can come in a car, come on a plane, come on a train, come on a cruise ship. We’re just excited you’re here.”

Norwegian Pearl is the first of an expected 129 cruise ships to arrive in Bar Harbor this year, which will bring an estimated 239,000 guests. The season runs through November, and gives local business a pre-Memorial Day weekend jumpstart.

“It looks beautiful,” Kathy Smith, visiting from Washington said. “It’s not as cold as I thought it would be!”

“It extends our season. Today is a great example: it’s really early May, there’s not really any other land-based tourists here, but the town is now bustling and full of people. We have employees at work that weren’t at work yesterday,” Bond said.

This comes on the heels of a study suggesting only 29 percent of Maine tourism businesses believe they’ll have enough staff for the summer season. A 2021 survey found that a majority of Bar Harbor residents viewed cruise ships as having a negative overall impact.

Local businesses have sued, challenging the town’s daily limit of cruise ship passengers.

Bo Jennings has a foot in both camps as the General Manager of Side Street Cafe and a candidate for town council. He says the cruise ships benefit the town in several ways.

“Whether people like to admit it or not, the positive impact on our community is there. Everyone’s talking about quality of life or affordability, and the cruise ship passengers actually allow us to lower our taxes and those things,” Jennings said.

“I actually think it would be really great for the town,” Sue Dimeo, visiting from Reading, Mass. said. “We love coming up here anyway, but it’s nice not to have to drive six hours.”

“It’s amazing how many people you will find that come here the first time on a cruise ship, and then they choose to come back and stay for a week,” Bond said.

The message Thursday was ‘Bar Harbor welcomes all.’

“Gratitude needs to be expressed to those passengers for spending their time and their hard-earned money in our beautiful city here in Bar Harbor,” Jennings said.