PORTLAND, Maine — Maine is welcoming 379 cruise ships this year, with more than 454,000 tourists visiting our state across our eight ports, arriving between April 23 and November 10, according to CruiseMaine.
Portland and Bar Harbor are the two biggest and busiest ports in Maine, and tourism leaders are expecting a strong year.
Cruise ships make up a significant part of the tourism industry in Vacationland. Last year, tourists brought $8.6 billion and supported more than 150,000 jobs.
Tony Cameron, CEO of the Maine Tourism Association, said only 30 percent of the association's partners report having enough staff for this tourism season.
This year, Bar Harbor is expected to welcome 129 ships carrying 239,000 passengers.
CruiseMaine reported Bar Harbor could see a roughly 18 percent decrease in total passenger days this season over last because of reduced passenger caps, while Portland, Rockland, and Eastport are likely to see an increase this year. Smaller Maine ports that welcome only domestic ships from American Cruise Lines will remain roughly equivalent to 2022 numbers.
"There are certainly some economic factors that I think that travelers are mindful of that may limit some of that spending when it comes to, 'Are they going to take an additional trip?' 'Are they going to go for a couple more days?'" Cameron said. "I think there is a little bit of mindfulness of watching [whether] there's going to be a recession, kind of a similar factor to what happened last year. However, the enthusiasm and demand for travel is really at an all-time high, and we want to make sure that Maine is at the forefront of those decisions when people are looking for places to go."
"Cruise visitation adds over $30 million in economic impact to Maine, supporting the equivalent of over 400 full-time jobs, according to a 2018 study by the Maine Office of Tourism," Sarah Flink from CruiseMaine said. "With over 80 percent of visitors likely to recommend Maine to family and friends, these visitors also return home sharing stories of Maine’s pristine natural beauty and renowned warm welcome."
Cameron said people should focus now on booking their vacation and planning it in advance, because many attractions, businesses, restaurants, national parks, and other destinations have different schedules this year. One of the big reasons why is that many of those places are still trying to fill job positions to be fully operational.
"We certainly want to be very mindful of it and try to address the challenges better than other states and do everything that we can to make sure that when people come to the state of Maine, weather they are visitors of Mainers [or not], that they are going to have a great experience and that the employees are going to step up and make sure that we can deliver the customer service and hospitable experience that people deserve and want," Cameron said. "At the end of the day, it's these types of memories that keep people coming back."