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2023: An Inflection Point

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Canada New England Cruise Tourism


To Pre-Pandemic Levels

This Important Tourism Sector Exceeded

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But with Bar Harbor deliberately decreasing its cruise visitation, 2023 saw more cruisers visiting Portland, Eastport and Rockland. 

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Although Bar Harbor was once again Maine’s busiest cruise port in 2023, it may be the last time the small, coastal town earns that distinction. 

Two separate, but related, efforts to reduce cruise visitation to Bar Harbor began in 2023, resulting in an 18% reduction in passengers over the prior season. 













Maine’s other Class A ports of entry saw a sizable increase in passengers as a result: both Portland and Eastport registered their highest cruise numbers ever. 

Looking ahead to 2024, Portland will officially surpass Bar Harbor’s cruise visitation numbers for the first time in state history.


Marking a different kind of inflection point...

...this time in Maine’s changing climate – the 2023 season ended with an unusual, last-minute call to Portland on December 20th by 2,900 passengers onboard the MSC Meraviglia.

This off-season call was due to a significant but atypical storm in the southeastern U.S. and Bahamas, where the vessel had originally been scheduled to go.


Meraviglia passengers enjoyed a crisp, sunny winter day in the greater Portland area, but just two days before, on December 18th, that same storm hit Maine, causing devastating flooding across much of inland Maine and leading to more than half of the state’s electric customers losing power.

True to form, City staff and local tourism businesses pulled together a welcoming day for the cruise visitors on a chilly December day, even posting a sign welcoming them to the “northern Bahamas.” 

As Maine faces increasing costs to harden and expand our waterfront infrastructure in the face of climate change, cruise visitation represents an important source of revenue that can alleviate the tax burden on residents for some of these upgrades. 


As we look ahead to a busy 2024 cruise season, CruiseMaine seeks to support the shifting landscape caused by both these inflection points, with a focus on destination management and infrastructure improvements.


Did You Know?

For many years, the Portland Observatory would raise a ship’s flag to let the longshoremen know a ship was coming into port so they would know it was time to come down to the waterfront.


PortShare Promise

A Destination Management Pilot Program

As Portland faced its busiest season ever in 2023 – and looks ahead to becoming Maine’s busiest cruise port in 2024 – local stakeholders realized the importance of implementing some best practices in destination management. The PortShare Promise program was launched as a pilot by CruiseMaine and the Cruise Portland consortium, which is made up of the City of Portland, Visit Portland, Visit Freeport, and the Kennebunk-Kennebunkport-Arundel Chamber of Commerce.


Decarbonization Through Shoreside Power

If a cruise ship can successfully plug into "shoreside power" once tied up at a pier, they are able to power down their onboard engines. At that point, the ship's local and greenhouse gas emissions are eliminated, and instead replaced by those created in the production of that landside electricity. In Maine's case, 30% of that power is generated from natural gas and the other 70% comes from renewables, nuclear, or hydro.


In 2023, CruiseMaine partnered with the City of Portland to initiate phase I of studying shoreside power for cruise ships by commissioning Central Maine Power to conduct a transmission and distribution feasibility study. 

SHIP VISITS 2013-2023

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A Record-Breaking Season in Eastport

Eastport experienced a record-breaking cruise season in 2023, welcoming a total of 17 cruise ships carrying 9,525 guests. 

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This marked the busiest season to date!

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“Our guests and crew thoroughly enjoyed our visits to Eastport, starting with the wonderful views and scenery on our approach into the port. The feedback from our guests was very positive as they found Eastport to be charming and a wonderful place to spend the day with lovely galleries, restaurants, and guided tours. We look forward to visiting again.”


—Chris Martin, Senior Director, Marine and Port Operations, Holland America Line


May 22 when they welcomed the Holland America Zaandam – the largest ship ever to call in Eastport – carrying 1,345 passengers and 550 crew members.

Destinations North America became the first-ever tour operator to run operations in Eastport. These achievements underscore Eastport’s dedication to enhancing positive tourism experiences for both the local community and cruise visitors

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Rockland Explores Incremental Increases to Cruise Visitations

Rockland welcomed 36 cruise ships in 2023, hosting a total of 7,564 cruise guests. The City’s schedule included the maximum number of six large ships allowed each season per city ordinance, where large is defined as having a capacity between 501 and 3,000 passengers.

In September, the City Council voted to increase this limit slightly beginning in the 2024 season to accommodate four large ships in both September and October for a total of eight. These developments underscore the town's commitment to managing sustainable tourism growth and adapting to the evolving needs of the community and visitors.

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Four ports in Maine had yet another successful year hosting small domestic ships from American Cruise Lines. They introduced the first of its new fleet of vessels, American Glory in July. The 109-passenger ships have a new hull design and see Maine as a perfect fit for their small ship experience.

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Boothbay Harbor



Maine Maritime Museum

American Cruise Lines aso finalized a long-term lease agreement with Maine Maritime Museum, following a similar agreement executed with the City of Bangor in 2022.

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Initiatives of the Cruise Canada New England Alliance

Enhancing Itinerary Planning

25 years after the ports of New England and the eastern Canadian provinces joined together to create the CCNE alliance, the region supports over 60 cruise ports and sees well over one million passenger days each season. At the 22nd annual CCNE Symposium, hosted in Portland in 2022, the alliance kicked off an initiative to improve the experience of itinerary planning in the region, with CruiseMaine and Cruise the Saint Lawrence taking the lead. Throughout 2022, CruiseMaine participated in extensive interviews with all major ports in the Canada New England region and worked with our partners and a consultant to organize that information into a solution architecture. That work was presented to all CCNE partners at the annual Debrief held in Charlottetown, PEI in November. In 2024, the work will culminate with sending out a Request for Proposals and the extensive review process of those received.

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Sustainability Task Force Updates

Cruise Canada New England also initiated a Sustainability Task Force in 2023 and dedicated the year to crafting a comprehensive regional sustainability commitment, with a focus on compelling storytelling. The drafted Commitment was reviewed by CCNE partners at the Debrief in Charlottetown and will be announced by the CCNE executive committee at the Symposium in NYC in June 2024, marking a significant step towards fostering sustainability within the CCNE community and its partnerships.

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