Bar Harbor cruise passenger limit partially waived for 2024 season

Some cruise lines have been given a temporary reprieve for the upcoming 2024 season’s port calls at Bar Harbor, Maine. A court recently upheld the result of a Bar Harbor referendum limiting cruise ship passengers to 1,000 a day. That vote took place in late 2022.

Ship Calls Booked Prior to Vote Allowed to Go Ahead

Bar Harbor Maine cruise ship
Bar Harbor, Maine

The Bar Harbor Town Council confirmed the cruise passenger limit will be enforced straight away. However, ship call reservations made prior to the 2022 vote will be allowed.

“The Council will honor reservations made before the town voted. Passengers from these 2024 ships will not be subject to the disembarkation limits of the ordinance,” it said.

Due to cruise lines’ ship schedules booked well in advance, the impact may be limited for the upcoming 2024 summer and fall seasons. There will be a bigger impact on Bar Harbor cruise calls scheduled in 2025 and beyond.

50% Reduction Compared to Peak Cruise Ship Traffic

A large cruise ship in the water near a forest at Bar Harbor.
Bar Harbor, Maine

The passenger cap is expected to see a 50% reduction from Bar Harbor’s peak year visitation. This is also partly due to reductions already agreed in writing with some cruise operators.

“This will be a good opportunity for us all to experience the impact of such a reduction on our quality of life and town operations,” the council said.

The impact on cruise ship itineraries could be significant from next year onwards. During the recent court ruling, Judge Lance Walker noted that only about 20% of the 134 ships scheduled to call at Bar Harbor last year had a passenger capacity below 1,000.  

Initially, the town council was against a strict passenger cap like this. However, it is “prepared to go to court to obtain fines and injunctive relief against any landowner that exceeds the disembarkation limits,” it said. For the upcoming season, the port schedule has ship visits planned, which have a combined capacity of 182,000 passengers.

Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line together have more than 60 Bar Harbor port calls scheduled in 2024.

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