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Midsize cruise ships boosting Eastport’s economy

A cruise ship traveling through the open water.

Last week’s arrival of a cruise ship with the largest number of passengers to visit Eastport is a prelude to a number of mid-sized vessels coming to the island city this fall.

The ZaandamThe 778-foot Holland America Line cruise ship, with 1,345 passengers and over 550 crew on board, arrived in Eastport for the day on May 22.

“It was perhaps the most successful cruise ship visit at the port,” said Chris Gardner, executive director of the Eastport Port Authority. “All the travelers gave rave reviews about Eastport, saying, ‘It’s a gem’ and ‘What a beautiful town you have.'”

He noted that companies in the area reported a “huge day” in sales, with Raye’s Mustard posting its best single day ever in economic activity. Other travelers have inquired about buying real estate in Eastport.

“It was a big audition for us and we nailed it,” Gardner said of the visit.

Destinations North America (DNA), which is now the coordinator of land-based passenger activities, chartered buses and organized excursions to Roosevelt Campobello International Park and Calais, along with whale watching and walking tours. About 165 passengers went on excursions, while the rest went out to walk around the city.

Gardner says DNA brought a “level of professionalism” to the tours, which “went off without a hitch.”

“All the people who got us here deserve credit,” he said of the day’s success, specifically mentioning Tessa Ftorek, Chris Brown and Jett Peterson.

Visits scheduled for fall

During a port authority board meeting on May 15, Gardner noted that while the port authority wants all cruise ship visits to go well, this visit was particularly important because it “could lead to a stronger relationship with Holland America in the coming years.”

The Zaandam is the largest cruise ship Eastport will see this year, and Gardner points out that cruise lines like Holland America are looking at changing the ports they visit in Maine, prompted by restrictions Bar Harbor wants to impose on cruise ship passengers.

Last fall, the residents of the Port of Bar adopted a regulation limiting the number of passengers who can disembark to 1,000 per day. Since a number of local businesses filed a lawsuit challenging the ordinance, it has not yet entered into force.

“This is a huge opportunity, if we get this right,” Gardner said. “The changes in Bar Harbor make Eastport much more attractive to industry.”

He noted that the island city will continue to “remain Maine’s friendliest cruise port.”

Only three ports in the state — Bar Harbor, Portland and Eastport — can accept ships coming in from other countries, because they offer customs clearance and have security plans approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, so many lines that were bound for Bar Harbor are considering Portland and Eastport.

“We can’t take the mega-ships – they go to Portland – but we’re hoping to extend the season and fill the middle during the summer, when Eastport is at its best.”

Mid-sized cruisers ranging from 400 to 700 feet have scheduled 13 visits to the city this fall. Among the lines that will arrive in September, October and early November are Hurtigruten, whose vessel Roald Amundsen called at Eastport last year, Viking Ocean Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Ponant, American Queen Voyages, Windstar Cruises and Oceania Cruises.

Destinations North America has taken over travel arrangements for passengers in Eastport, as local port authority coordinators Chris Brown and Tessa Ftorek have decided to step down.

“We got out of the touring business,” Gardner said. “Other ports where cruise lines are located work with the company to organize tour packages.”

While Eastport has historically not had the volume of cruise ships and passengers to justify the use of Destinations North America, that is now changing.

Cruise lines contract directly with DNA, “which absolves us of any liability” during the voyage, Gardner says. While Destinations North America will set up its own tours, the Port Authority can hire them “to run anything on our behalf, like setting up vendors in the welcome center.”

On May 9, the Port Authority held an informative meeting with interested business partners about the ongoing activities of the cruise ship and the changes caused by the semi-retirement of Chris Brown and Tessa Ftorek. Destinations North America is now the channel for companies in the area to contact the cruise line.

During the meeting there was discussion about how activities that DNA may not be doing, such as alerting local businesses of incoming cruise ships or group marketing, should now be the responsibility of the Eastport Area Chamber of Commerce.

“DNA will provide insurance and ensure a level of professionalism” during the land tours, Gardner noted.

Other jobs

In other business, during the port authority board meeting on May 15, the tugboat policy was revised. At its April meeting, the board of the port authority voted to suspend its policy that all ships coming and going to the port terminal must be accompanied by a tug, whether they need one or not.

After the board met with McAllister Towing president Brian Fournier, they decided not to suspend the policy at the May meeting. The escort requirement is a safety measure in case the ship loses power.

For the next woodchip import, scheduled for June, the Port Authority is working to switch the bulk conveyor belt system from using direct electricity supplied by Versant Power to using its own portable generators, which will save the Port Authority money over the long term. appointment due to the increase in electricity prices.

The work is being done both by Riverside Electric and in-house, and the cost to replace and move the generator is expected to be around $10,000 to $15,000.

The Port Authority is working with the new terminal operator, Logistec Terminals, to arrange a long-term berth at Estes Head Pier for both the Cooke Aquaculture vessel and the tug owned by the new towing company operated by Ellic Motram.

The floats on the north side of the breakwater are expected to be returned to the water during the week, and a replacement crane on the south side is expected to be installed in the coming weeks.

Apply for the Downeast Monitor, a free newsletter produced by The Maine Monitor, to keep you informed of what’s happening in Washington County.This story was originally published by Quoddy Tidesand is republished here with permission.

Edward French is the editor and publisher of The Quoddy Tides, a bimonthly newspaper founded by his mother Winifred French in 1968. The Quoddy Tides, based in Eastport, is the easternmost newspaper published in the United States and covers eastern Washington County, Maine and western Charlotte County, New Brunswick, including the Fundy Isles.

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