This report covers 2020 and 2021, two unprecedented years in Maine’s cruise tourism history. Due to the onset of the global pandemic of COVID-19, 2020 saw no cruise ship visitation to the state at all, while 2021 marked the successful return of small, domestic ship cruising to Maine’s coast. Without the medium or large ships in 2021, however, total passenger numbers were only a small fraction of typical cruise visitation.
During these unprecedented times, CruiseMaine’s efforts centered on keeping stakeholders informed and government agencies working together, while also preparing for the eventual safe return of cruising to Maine’s waters. By the start of 2021, with the support of MaineCDC, CruiseMaine was spearheading a Restart Task Force for small, domestic ship cruising, focused on designing shoreside protocols to match the stringent onboard measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Under the leadership of the Mills Administration, Maine’s COVID-19 numbers remained some of the lowest in the country throughout summer and fall of 2021, making Maine one of the safest destinations for cruise and land-based visitors alike and putting Maine’s economic recovery well ahead of the rest of New England.
Although the economic impact of the large ships was acutely missed by many Maine businesses, when the American Independence began its first cruise out of Portland on May 23, 2021, passengers were thrilled to be back enjoying Maine’s natural beauty and warm welcome, and our coastal communities were ready to provide it.
SHIP VISITS 2009-2021
No Sail Order In Effect
The Year the Industry Shut Down
Governor Mills declares a state of emergency for the state of Maine, requesting all non-essential workers stay home to curb the spread of the newly named COVID-19.
With Maine’s cruise season set to begin just a few weeks after the pandemic was declared and the No Sail Order was issued, the questions on everyone’s mind were: will we even have a cruise season, and if so, what do we need to do to prepare?
"Will we even have a cruise season?"
"If so, what do we do to prepare?"
CruiseMaine’s focus during these early days centered on keeping stakeholders in Maine informed with daily news updates delivered to their email inboxes and on coordinating with regional partners in Cruise Canada New England.
Why is Canada So Important?
A well-rounded itinerary needs multiple ports. Most of the large ship lines create that winning combination by starting in New York or Boston, stopping in one of Maine’s deep-water ports, and continuing on to the ports of the Canadian Maritimes and the Saint Lawrence River.
Not only do cruise passengers love the natural beauty, gastronomy and culture of this Canada New England route, it’s also an excellent way to meet the requirements of the 1886 US Passenger Vessel Services Act.
Canada announces an extension of its No Sail Order through October 31, 2020, effectively canceling the 2020 Canadian cruise season and by extension, the vast majority of Maine’s season.
2020 BY THE NUMBERS
Did you know?
The 785-foot Oceania Cruises vessel, Riviera, was “laid up” in Eastport, Maine for six weeks in the summer of 2020 during the industry shut down, as a way to avoid hurricane season in the southeast U.S.
The vessel received approval from both the federal and Maine CDC, US Coast Guard and Governor Janet Mills before arriving in Eastport on June 14th.
It was staffed by approximately 130 crew who remained onboard at all times.
Soon community members began communicating with the crew through Facebook
Locals delivered gifts and tourists drove into town just to see the 16-story ship and wave at the crew up on deck.
Docking and service fees brought in approximately
According to Eastport Port Authority Director, Chris Gardner, this was
“a windfall” that helped pay for the city’s concrete pier facility built back in 2017.
When the ship announced it would depart for Europe in late July, the community organized a socially distanced, farewell concert on the pier.
"Eastport, we love you!"
"We love you too!”"
Several crew members yelled, “Eastport, we love you!” They turned on the flashlight functions on their phones, held up the THANK YOU banner, and waved their big hand cutouts. People on the pier shouted back, “We love you too!”
Eastport photos courtesy of Don Dunbar
A Path Forward
Launch of Maine’s Cruise Restart Task force
Recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel, were submitted to the White House and CDC on September 21, 2020
This was a product of public health experts convened by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line
In October, 74 recommendations for all global operations were adopted
Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase Covid-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew, which became known as the Conditional Sail Order for short, issued by CDC on October 30, 2020 as the agency’s No Sail Order was set to expire
CruiseMaine took the cue to begin planning for a possible 2021 season with a December 15th kickoff meeting of its newly formed Cruise Restart Task Force. The virtual meeting was attended by approximately 60 stakeholders from nearly all cruise ports across the state, as well as several state agencies and the Maine CDC, and it featured a presentation by Ioannis Bras from Five Senses Consulting, who helped design restart protocols in Greece and the European Union.
Ready for 2021?
2021 was also a historic year, when passenger cruise ships once again safely sailed from U.S. ports under the strict guidance laid out by the CDC. CruiseMaine’s partner ports also worked together to bring its own small piece of cruise business back to Maine’s shores.