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April 30, 2019

More port calls lined up as 2019 Maine passenger cruise season begins

Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine. Photo / Renee Cordes Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine, in front of the Pearl Mist, which is currently docked in Portland until its first departure on May 11.

Maine’s 2019 cruise season looks to surpass last year in terms of scheduled port calls and passenger numbers, with at least 10 vessels making maiden voyages here.

Some 430 port calls are expected statewide this year, compared to 400 last year, according to the latest data from CruiseMaine.

That translates into 450,000 passenger days this year compared to 400,000 in 2018. Combined crew and passenger days are estimated at 635,000 visitor days in Maine on ship in 2019, up from 552,000 last year.

“The numbers are ticking up,” Sarah Flink, executive director of CruiseMaine, told Mainebiz in a Tuesday interview on Portland's East End.  She noted that an average of 80% to 90% of passengers disembark at port for dining, shopping and sightseeing, and between 40% and 50% of crew members.

The Pearl Mist is already docked at the Portland Ocean Gateway where Flink said it will stay put until its first departure on May 11. A familiar sight in Portland and Bar Harbor, the Pearl Mist is a small, 210-passenger vessel operated by Pearl Seas Cruises.

Flink, whose varied experience includes restaurant management in New York and client manager and strategic adviser for the Forager e-commerce platform, noted that the continued rise in cruises here reflects more visitors overall wanting to see Maine “by land and by sea.”

Cruise travel also remains strong globally with more than 100 new vessels on order for 2017 to 2026 according to a presentation Flink shared with Mainebiz.

In Maine, 10 vessels will make maiden calls in Maine this year, including the 4,500-passenger MSC Meraviglia in Portland and Bar Harbor which will bring Switzerland-registered MSC Cruises to Maine for the first time.

Maine has a total of 10 cruise ports, led by Bar Harbor, Portland and Rockland, No. 1, 2, and 3 respectively, with the rest defined as “niche ports.” 

Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, is equally bullish on the outlook for cruise tourism this year.

"My hope and expectations for the 2019 passenger cruise season is that all visitors disembarking at Maine ports continue to enjoy their time spent ashore here, experience a taste of what Maine has to offer and want to return for a longer stay," he said. "I also hope Maine businesses and attractions in port communities continue to benefit from the ships' arrivals."

Nor'easter cruises anyone?

In terms of future travel trends, Flink said there's an interest in Maine as a potential four-season destination, including winter, amid growing popularity of adventure and expedition cruises in the high-end luxury market segment.

That might even include travelers who want the experience of a Nor'easter while on the high seas, she noted.


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