More than 82,000 people are expected to arrive in Portland on cruise ships this year, an increase of 15 percent over last season.
The city will also host more ships – 74 versus the 58 that came last year.
Portland is an increasingly popular cruise ship destination, said Bob Leeman, who oversees cruise ship marketing for the city. And the $9.2 million project to dredge Portland Harbor’s ship channel, completed this year, has helped increase cruise ship traffic, since the harbor can comfortably accommodate larger ships, he said.
“If the dredging did not happen, we would be losing ships, not gaining ships,” he said.
Portland’s 2014 cruise ship season began May 30 with the arrival of the Independence, a small ship operated by American Cruise Lines. The company offers eight-day cruises along the Maine coast on the Independence and its sister ship, the American Glory. Portland is the home port for both ships.
A new high-end cruise line, Pearl Seas Cruises, will bring its first ship to Portland this month. The Pearl Mist, which has capacity for 210 passengers, is scheduled to arrive on June 30 and depart on its maiden voyage July 9. Portland will be its home port. The ship will sail to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and down the St. Lawrence Seaway to the Great Lakes.
The first big ship of the season, the Veendam, a 1,350-passenger ship owned by Holland America Line, is due to arrive on Aug. 22.
September will be the busiest month, with 27 ships scheduled to call on the city.
The largest ship this year will be the Explorer of the Seas, which is scheduled to arrive on Sept. 13. It has capacity for 3,114 passengers.
Next year, the Liberty of the Seas, with capacity for 3,643, is scheduled to visit the city four times. The ship will be the largest ever to call on Maine, Leeman said.
Passengers who arrive in Portland this year will be able to buy bus tours when they get off the ship. In the past, they have been able to buy bus tours only on the ship. Tours are offered for Portland, Freeport and Kennebunkport.
Passengers also will be able take a trolley around the city that will allow them get off or climb aboard whenever it comes to a stop.
The ships will dock at two city-owned facilities, the Maine State Pier and the Ocean Gateway terminal. The city receives a $10 fee for each passenger aboard a cruise ship with more than 1,000 passengers. For smaller cruise ships, the per-passenger fee is $5.75. Last year, the city received more than $700,000 from hosting cruise ship passengers.
The entire 2014 cruise ship schedule is available www.cruiseportlandmaine.com.