Cruise Ships Are Returning to Maine, But Not Everyone Is Happy About It

There are efforts to limit or bar cruise ship passengers from visiting Maine towns

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In Maine, cascading cruise ship battles in two of the state’s top destinations are building ahead of fall elections.

People in Portland and Bar Harbor want residents of both communities to decide whether or not to limit cruise ship passengers and how to do that if city and town leaders do not take the action that petitioners and cruise ship critics seek.

Charles Sidman is one of the leaders of the Bar Harbor effort, which is petitioning for a ballot question that would limit all people including crew coming ashore in Bar Harbor to 1,000 per “calendar day.”

During a Wednesday interview with NECN and NBC10 Boston, he said the cruise ships’ presence in the highly-visited towns brings crowds that deter people, including him from visiting.

"It degrades the experience for everybody," he said of the ships, adding that "when they come here and disgorge thousands and thousands of people, we turn into Times Square."

Meanwhile, in Portland, an effort to create a 1,000-passenger limit for cruise ships docking in Maine’s largest city is a priority of a group called the Maine Democratic Socialists of America.

It cites concerns about "congestion, traffic and pollution," as reasons for urging the change, which it hopes will be enforced in 2025.

However, others in Maine see more benefits to having the ships and their foot traffic.

"I don’t mind them, they bring in money," said Paulette Gillespie of Calais, Maine, who was visiting Portland on Wednesday.

"Some have even come into Eastport even closer to where I live and people appreciate the business," she explained.

Eben Salvatore, a member of Bar Harbor’s town cruise ship committee, has a similar view.

Speaking by phone to NECN and NBC10 Boston, he explained that Bar Harbor officials have already been involved in a multi-year effort to monitor pollution, find solutions to congestion, have altered where ships anchor and have tried to find a balance between busy streets and more than $1 million in tax revenue the ships provide.

Salvatore said he expected other proposals on cruise ship management from town leaders at some point in the summer.

Back in Portland, city councilors are expected to take up the issue during an August 8 meeting where they will be faced with multiple options on how to proceed.

At the meeting, councilors could vote to make the proposal a city ordinance on their own, send it to voters in November or suggest a competing ballot question.

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