Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

November 9, 2022

Split decision: Portlanders welcome all cruise ship passengers, Bar Harbor votes to restrict

Alexis Wells At the height of the cruise ship season in mid-October, Portland was seeing as many as 20,000 passengers a week.

Voters decided the fate of Maine's cruise ship industry at the polls Tuesday in a mixed decision, with Bar Harbor residents backing tougher restrictions on visitors and Portlanders definitively deciding not to restrict the number of passengers who can disembark. 

Bar Harbor and Portland have debated over the last few years whether the number of cruise ships that visit Maine strains resources or is a welcome source of tourism-related revenue. Critics say the ships bring excessive congestion, traffic and pollution, while supporters tout the benefit of shoulder-season revenue.

In Bar Harbor, the vote was 1,780 to 1,273 in favor of limiting the number of people allowed to disembark daily to 1,000 people.

By contrast, Portland residents clearly declined to cap the number of disembarking passengers at 1,000 per day by a vote of 23,547 to 8,875.

Bar Harbor Chamber Director Alf Anderson had strong words when lamenting the Bar Harbor vote and warned about a domino effect on local businesses. 

"This ordinance amendment, when implemented, will cause significant damage to Bar Harbor's tourism-based economy," Anderson said. "The progress we have made over the past 10 to 15 years to extend our season into the shoulder months is all but certain to be stymied."

"The fallout will go well beyond the shops and restaurants that greet cruise passengers," Anderson continued. "The struggles that locally owned small businesses will face could impact banks that hold mortgage loans and the trade professionals who rely on the expansion and remodeling projects from these businesses."

According to the ballot question, "each disembarking person exceeding the daily limit will constitute a specific violation which would result in a minimum civil penalty of $100 per person."


Alexis Wells
Portland voted against restrictions on the number of cruise ship visitors.

The difference in population between the town and city may reflect the vote and the ability of each to absorb large numbers of visitors.

Portland has just over 68,000 residents, where Bar Harbor has only 5,535.

During peak weeks in October this year, Portland hosted at least six cruise ships with a capacity of 3,000 or more, bringing in some 20,000 passengers. 

Cruise ships drop anchor in Bar Harbor from spring through the fall and bring record numbers of visitors to Acadia National Park. Anderson said the park's numbers show a jump in commercial tour bus passengers from 10,000 in September 2021 to nearly 30,000 in September — and he cited the impact of the return of cruise ships to Bar Harbor.

Kathy Quintana, a local Portland street vendor, told Mainebiz previously that Maine businesses had suffered enough due to the lockdown, and it was time to help them rebuild.

"Meeting people and people coming off the ships from all over the place, it's a wonderful way to get out there, meet people and do things," said Quintana. "A little extra money helps, but that isn't the main reason why I am here; it's because I enjoy being out. I think it is good for us because if we lose the cruise ships, we will lose a lot in our area."


Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF