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Updated: Cruise line scraps visits to Maine for 2020

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Aug 13, 2020
Courtesy of: American Cruise Lines American Cruise Lines' American Consitution is among the ships that visit Maine.

American Cruise Lines, based in Guilford, Connecticut, has scuttled its entire season in Maine. An advisory announcing the cancellation was forwarded to The Republican Journal by Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Ryan, who is American's local contact.

The advisory, issued Tuesday by Bret Bullock, American's director, guest experience, states, "due to the continuing health crisis, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our remaining Maine Coast season."

Ryan said he thought a combination of protracted negotiations with the state and unwillingness of ports of call to receive ships led to the cancellation. He said the company, which runs primarily river cruises throughout the United States, had wanted to offer trips docking at several Maine ports this summer, as it has for a number of years. But negotiations with the state over conditions to be met to avoid the spread of COVID-19 got drawn out, and then the ports American wanted to visit refused to allow the ships to dock, he said. Planned ports of call included Rockland, Belfast, Bar Harbor and Bucksport.

American has brought ships to Belfast in the summer for several years, Ryan said, arriving on Monday afternoons and sending 100 or so passengers ashore to enjoy the city. "It was a small part of the economy."

Still, he said it was understandable that municipalities would be cautious about allowing cruise ships to dock, given the previous instances of outbreaks aboard the vessels. "(Cruise ships) are the poster child of contagion, and nobody wanted to go there."

He added that American caters to travelers age 60 and up who would be at elevated risk of complications should they contract the coronavirus.

Ryan said the cruise line had told him its trips for 2021 were filling up well, and Bullock's statement appeared to confirm that. He wrote, "We are very disappointed not to have been able to share your beautiful cities with our guests this season, but look forward to our triumphant return in 2021."

Speaking to The Journal Friday, Paul Taiclet, vice president of hotel operations for American, said the company had canceled its Maine season for this year because "It just became apparent that it wasn't the right time" to come here.

He said American had submitted a plan to the state epidemiologist and the Maine CDC, which was under review when it announced it would not come to the state this summer. The company was still talking with most of the ports it usually visits in Maine, except for Bar Harbor, when the announcement was made. The Town Council there had already let American know they "felt it wasn't the right time" for cruise ships to visit, Taiclet said.

Taiclet confirmed that the cruise line's advance bookings for next year in Maine and elsewhere are ahead of where they usually are at this time of year. He added that he was "feeling very positive about the 2021 season in Maine."

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