The cruise ship Zaandam sits anchored in Frenchman Bay off the shore path in downtown Bar Harbor on Friday, May 10, 2019. The Zaandam is scheduled to make 24 visits this year to Bar Harbor, which is expected to host  a total of 177 cruise ship visits by early November. Credit: Bill Trotter

Maine’s 2019 cruise ship season has begun with Bar Harbor getting its third ship visit Friday and Portland scheduled to get its first visit of the year Saturday.

Bar Harbor, the busiest cruise ship port in Maine, had its first visit April 28 when the Zaandam dropped anchor in Frenchman Bay for the day. The Zaandam, which carries 1,400 passengers and 600 crew members, was back in port Friday as it made the return leg from visiting ports in Canada. Amadea visited on May 5.

Bar Harbor is scheduled to get 177 visits this year, and Portland, Maine’s second-busiest cruise ship port, is scheduled to get 100. Pearl Mist is expected to be the first ship to visit Portland when it pulls into the Ocean Gateway terminal Saturday morning, according to a schedule posted on the city’s website.

Information about cruise ship visits scheduled this year for other Maine ports, which typically get far fewer visits than Bar Harbor or Portland, was unavailable Friday.

There are fewer bookings for Bar Harbor this year than there were in 2018, when 181 visits were scheduled for the Mount Desert Island town, but at least 20 cancellations by big and small ships limited the number of actual visits to around 160.

Bad weather most often is the reason for canceled cruise ship visits in Bar Harbor, where ships drop anchor in Frenchman Bay and then ferry passengers ashore in tenders. If the waves are deemed too rough for passengers to disembark onto the smaller vessels, the ships continue on to a more sheltered port on their itinerary.

Most cruise ship visits in Maine occur during the fall months. More than 100 of Bar Harbor’s visits are scheduled from September through early November. Of Portland’s 100 scheduled visits, 58 are expected during that same timeframe.

If none of Bar Harbor’s scheduled visits cancel, the seaside town would host 275,000 cruise ship passengers this year, assuming all the ships are fully booked and all passengers come ashore, according to information posted on the town’s website. Portland would host more than 150,000 passengers this year if none of its scheduled visits is canceled.

According to economic impact studies on the cruise industry, cruise ship firms and passengers together directly spend tens of millions of dollars in Maine each year. Cruise ship passengers are estimated to spend more than $100 apiece in each port they visit, industry analysts have said.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....