The world’s first hybrid cruise ship will be making its maiden trip to Maine later this month and is scheduled to dock in three local ports.
The MS Roald Amundsen, a battery-supported cruise ship from Norway, is expected to arrive in Eastport on Sept. 20, its first Maine stop on a 9-day cruise from Halifax to Boston.
Also on its iterary are some of the Pine Tree State’s regular cruise ships haunts, including Bar Harbor and Rockland. But the 528-passenger Norwegian liner is also making an unusual trip to Castine, a small Hancock County town that is believed to have never before received a foreign-flagged cruise ship.
“This is a super cool ship,” said Sarah Flink, the executive director of CruiseMaine, an arm of the Maine Office of Tourism. “It’s the first hybrid ship and it’s an expedition ship.”
Expedition cruise liners normally stray away from the usual cruise ship stops at major tourist destinations and emphasize off-the-beaten path activities and fewer port calls. The vessel runs on a hybrid technology that, according to the company, reduces the ship’s fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20 percent.
The Roald Amundsen, named after the first man to cross Antarctica and reach the South Pole, was built in 2019 and normally explores the Arctic and Antarctic. Flink said Hurtigruten, the cruise line that owns the ship, is planning to offer this voyage in New England annually as the cruise ship passes through the area on its way to the Antarctic.
The ship plans to anchor in Castine Harbor the night of Sept. 22 so its passengers can hopefully see bioluminescent phytoplankton, potentially by kayak.
But because of federal maritime regulations, passengers won’t actually be able to come ashore. Foreign-flagged vessels can only disembark passengers if the ports have Coast Guard approved security plans in place, which Castine does not.
The town is no stranger to large vessels however. Castine is the homeport for Maine Maritime Academy and it can accommodate domestic cruise ships. In the past, it played host to a 100-passenger American Cruise Lines ship before that ship changed course this year. It now docks in Bangor.
The hybrid ship’s arrival in Castine isn’t expected to be a harbinger of more cruise traffic in the future. Though Roald Amundsen is scheduled to come back in September 2023, there are no other cruise ships scheduled to stop in Castine for the next 18 months. The Norwegian ship will also only pass through once a year, limiting the chances for more ventures.