Portland has canceled the first two cruise ship visits of the year and may tell additional cruise lines to avoid the city because of concerns over the growing coronavirus pandemic.

City Manager Jon Jennings announced Friday afternoon that two cruise lines scheduled to send ships to Portland at the end of April have been told not to stop here. There had been a total of 119 ship visits scheduled for the year, including 12 in May.

“This is an ever-changing set of circumstances,” Jennings said. “We are restricting cruise ships for the month of April and we will continue to reassess as we go along.”

The first ship, MS Victory II, which can carry about 300 passengers and crew, was expected to dock in Portland on April 25. It also was scheduled to visit Bar Harbor that day, even before Portland’s cancellation, according to the Maine Office of Tourism’s CruiseMaine website.

The second scheduled visit, on April 30, was the Pearl Mist, a 324-foot ship with 210 passengers.

“Those two cruise ships (expected in April) will not be allowed to come into Portland,” Jennings said.


Larger ships that carry 1,000 to 3,000 passengers are scheduled to arrive later in the season, beginning in mid-May.

The cruise industry brings about 400,000 passengers and $29 million in spending to Maine every spring and fall.

But the industry is especially vulnerable to the impacts of the pandemic.

Cruise ships have become hot spots for spreading the virus that causes the respiratory disease known as COVID-19. A number of ports worldwide have prohibited passengers from disembarking because of fears they could spread the virus onshore.

The U.S. State Department has issued a warning that U.S. passengers, especially those with underlying health issues, should not travel by cruise ship. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued updated guidance, warning passengers to put off cruise ship travel.

Some analysts already have reported double-digit declines in cruise ship bookings worldwide, and two cruise lines announced temporary suspensions of all voyages Thursday.


Even before the announcement Friday, some Portland business have felt the impacts of the virus.

Kathy Frappier, owner of Portland Discovery Land and Sea Tours, told the Press Herald this week that she received her first cancellation from travelers who had planned a cruise in May. Portland Discovery offers trolley tours of Portland and ferry tours of Casco Bay.

“We are feeling it already,” she said. “We are doing what other businesses in our situation are – planning for the worst and hoping for the best.”

The cruise industry, through its biggest trade group, has sought to ease the concerns by announcing extra steps to screen cruise-goers for the virus and deny boarding to potentially infected passengers. The industry has said it does not believe restrictions on the movement of ships are justified, the Washington, D.C.-based Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement.

“The adoption of these measures further demonstrates the cruise industry’s unique ability to respond quickly as circumstances evolve,” said CLIA President and CEO Kelly Craighead.

Bar Harbor, the state’s biggest cruise destination, had not changed its protocols in reaction to the coronavirus as of this week, Harbor Master Charles Phippen said. No changes had been announced as of Friday.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.