Letter to the editor: Creeping (cruising) incrementalism in Rockland

Posted:  Monday, February 12, 2018 - 10:30am

Does the presence of one mega ship endanger Rockland? Of course not. Two? Ten? Fifty? The danger does not appear at a single point, but is rather an incremental creep fostered by the cruise lines themselves. Bar Harbor started with a single ship, as did Venice, Key West, Ketchikan, Fort Lauderdale, Charleston and countless others. Unless we call our own shots now, we are opening Pandora's Box and slowly becoming pawns of big business interests.

Do we make money from cruise line passengers? There are some people who have succumbed to the cruise industry propaganda that touts mega-bucks coming from each mega-ship that comes into port. Even our Chamber of Commerce has not been immune! But if we deduct the price of excursions, the cost of goods sold in shops and restaurants, sales taxes, and the transient labor that increasingly takes over jobs in ports around the globe, very little actually accrues to the coffers of host economies, and of that, very little stays there.

While small cruise ships make their money from ticket sales and stay in a port for several days, the mega-ships sell tickets as a loss-leader. They proceed to do everything possible to capture on-board sales while capturing a high percentage of each dollar a passenger may spend in favored shops and on land excursions. They even leave port in the late afternoon so that passengers are not tempted to eat at local restaurants.

Spending by passengers from any size cruise ship, however, pales to that by land-based tourists who spend an average of three nights in towns (Maine Office of Tourism) and eat at restaurants. 46% visit art museums and artisan markets. According to various surveys, spending by land based tourists exceeds that of mega-ship passengers by a factor of at least five. One survey puts that factor at twenty! So we lose each time a land-based tourist is chased away while the port is overwhelmed with hordes of people from the mega-cruise ships shouting, seemingly in synchrony, "where's the made-in-Maine shop?"

Do we value our enduring strengths: our independence, our arts community, our maritime industry, our restaurants and our stature as a tourist destination for land based-tourists, recreational cruisers, and small boutique cruise ships and schooners? How many of these visitors are chased away from Rockland when the mega-ships are in? Are we just going to sit and watch as our shops are transformed to cater to the cheap thrills and trinkets that the mega-ship cruisers favor? Are we going to ignore the loss of hotel and inn rooms like what has happened in Bermuda where the number of hotel rooms halved since 1980 as the cruise ship tourists overwhelm the island. Will we passively accept the pollution and environmental damage these ships deliver?

We should focus our attention and resources to encouraging land-based tourism and becoming a more attractive destination for those who would stay, shop, and perhaps move here. Please contact the city council and our Mayor, Valli Geiger, to encourage them to limit the size and number of mega-cruise ships in Rockland (vgeiger@rocklandmaine.gov or info@ rocklandmaine.gov). Now is the time to stand up and act. Be Rockland Proud.

David Wylie lives in Rockland.