Portland’s cruise ship season arrives early

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PORTLAND — The city is looking forward to a record-breaking year of visits by cruise ships, while Nova Scotia ferry service has been reduced.

The first of 118 cruise ship visits occurred April 25 with the arrival of the Artania, which carries as many as 1,200 passengers and 520 crew members.

The arrival of the Artania marked the earliest opening of cruise ship season in four years in Portland, and city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the season will extend into November, as it did last year.

Cruise ships will also be arriving more frequently this early in the season, with 26 this month and in June, up from 16 each month in 2017. Visits increase markedly in September, to 35. In October, 37 visits are scheduled.

Anthem of the Seas will be the largest ship to arrive, with a capacity of 4,974. The ship is scheduled to make five visits between Aug. 21 and Oct. 21.

In all, the city is expecting as many as 170,000 passengers and 66,000 crew members to visit this year.

Grondin said street vendors and artists will also be allowed to set up for the third year between the Ocean Gateway and Portland Ocean terminals on days when more than 1,000 visitors will be arriving.

The Cat comes back

A lease renewal with Bay Ferries Ltd. of Nova Scotia approved April 9 by city councilors returns The Cat passenger and vehicle ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, for a third season, but with a June 8 start date that is later than in the past. Service will continue through Oct. 8.

In June, service will not be available on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

While the existing rent and fee structure will not change, parking fees were eliminated, according to a memo from city Economic Development Director Greg Mitchell, because Bay Ferries is assuming the cost of federally required security improvements at the Ocean Gateway Terminal.

City Manager Jon Jennings had said the city would not pay for those improvements.

The lease renewal also carries an option to renew service “based upon mutually agreeable terms” for 2019. The city expects to get $190,000 in fee and rental revenue this year, a decline of $10,000 from 2017, but still above the $142,500 earned in 2016.

Ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth returned in 2015 with the Nova Star, which was seized in Portland harbor after the season because of unpaid debts. The Cat, which is the second high-speed ferry to serve the cities, was introduced in 2016.

About 50,000 passengers have used the ferry each year.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

People disembark after the Marina, with nearly 2,000 passengers and crew, docked Sunday morning, April 29, at the Portland Ocean Terminal. (Dudley Warner / For The Forecaster)

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.