ROCKLAND – Though the matter of cruise ships had not been listed on the May 14 council agenda, a line of impassioned speakers still made their way to the podium to address Rockland City Council. This time, the majority of opinions came from those in favor of cruise ship tourism.
During the Monday, May 7 agenda-setting meeting, a different group led by members of the Harbor Management Commission presented City Council with a petition requesting a moratorium on cruise ships in order to regulate the entry of mega-cruise ships into the city by limiting the size and number of ships and the number of passengers who are permitted to use the public landing.
The petition prompted others who opposed limitations to speak their minds on May 14.
“I don’t think 80 Rocklanders should ever be dismissed,” Harbor Management Commission Chairwoman Louise MacLellan-Ruf said, regarding those who signed the petition.
Yet, according to the May 14 speakers, benefit is measured in progress, growth, morale, and income, rather than the petition’s call for more balance and limited passenger capacity.
Eating at the Pearl Restaurant, viewing the local art the Farnsworth Museum, sampling the Bixby Bars, and planning return trips through the Chamber of Commerce. The population swells on the days when ships are moored. So too, does the economy, according to at least 11 of the 15 people at that podium. They make store purchases, and they ship those items home.
Larry Reed, owner of the Pearl, told council that he sees an increase of 500 to 800 percent on the days when large vessels are tendered.
“When the first one came in, it was like our first Blues Festival,” Reed said. “We were overwhelmed. I had about 50 lobsters on hand. I had regular staff, and we got run over. But like our second Blues Festival, and our third and our fourth, we got better and it, and better at it, and better at it.”
Reed now purchases 200 - 250 lobsters from local fishermen. He also sees a prolonged morale lift in his staff. Not only are they earning more on those days, but the normally short tourist season is being extended. The vessels, he said, aren’t all coming at the peak summer rush.
“I assure you, the rent is based upon the course of a year, not on the season that we open it [the Pearl],” he said.
Adam Philbrook, of Owls Head, is a harbor pilot who guides boats through Bar Harbor, Rockland, Searsport and Bucksport harbors.
“Rockland is trying to start a precedence,” he said. “It’s like a cancer that’s going to spread. What town is going to do this next? Is Searsport going to do this to the ships that come to Searsport? Let’s drive all of the oil up by oil truck because they don’t want oil tankers in Searsport.
“You keep saying no to everything. You mention these pictures on the wall, if the City Council, or the select board said no to everything 150 years ago, we wouldn’t have pictures on these walls right now. We wouldn’t be here right now.”
Philbrook said that if tourism goes away, there wouldn’t be much left.
“If we keep saying no to a little bit of progress – managed progress – we’re going to probably wish that we had National Sea Products back, because they would have jobs for us,” he said.
To him, as well as the owner of a jewelry store, passengers, at least, aren’t taking up parking spots or littering. They are courteous. The cruise ship crews and passengers Philbrook interacts with want lobster. Many ask for directions to the museums, and even the local Catholic Church. Some ask for directions to the Breakwater.
Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce lists the following cruise ship arrivals into Rockland Harbor in 2018.
- April 18, 2018 - MS Fram of Hurtigruten Cruises, 373' length, accommodating up to 450 passengers.
- May 26, 2018 - Hebridean Sky of Noble Caledonian Cruises, 296' length, accommodating up to 140 passengers.
- September 4, 2018 - Crystal Symphony of Crystal Cruises, 781' length, accommodating up to 545 passengers.
- September 25, 2018 - Queen Mary 2 of Cunard Line, 993' length, accommodating up to 2,450 passengers.
- October 1, 2018 - Star Pride of Windstar Cruises, 443' length, accommodating up to 212 passengers.
- October 11, 2018 -MS Fram of Hurtigruten Cruises, 373' length, accommodating up to 450 passengers.
- October 17, 2018 - Pearl Mist of Pearl Seas Cruises, 290' length, accommodating up to 210 passengers.
- October 19, 2018 - Serenade of the Seas of Royal Caribbean International, 962' length, accommodating up to 2,490 passengers.
- October 24, 2018 -Pearl Mist of Pearl Seas Cruises, 290' length, accommodating up to 210 passengers.
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