PORTLAND – Fewer ships, but a record number of passengers, are expected to come to Portland during the 2011 cruise ship season.

City officials expect 59 cruise ship visits and nearly 90,000 passengers, with many of the bigger ships taking advantage of Portland’s new, larger berth and the Ocean Gateway cruise ship terminal.

Portland expects 31 ships that carry more than 2,000 passengers. Six of those carry more than 3,000 passengers. The largest is Princess Cruise Lines’ Caribbean Princess, which has a capacity of 3,622 passengers.

That ship will come in September, which will be the busiest month for cruise ships in Portland, with 24 visits.

September’s schedule also includes a stop by Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, making its maiden visit to Portland after joining the line’s fleet last fall. The ship’s predecessor, the Queen Elizabeth 2, last visited Portland in 2001.

Last year, 71 cruise ships came to Portland, carrying a total of more than 75,000 passengers.

The city’s cruise ship business has been growing steadily for the past decade, but officials think there’s still an opportunity for more.

Nicole Clegg, the city’s spokeswoman, said a couple of city transportation officials were at a recent cruise industry convention, promoting the city’s “mega-berth” that can handle the larger ships.

In the past, some large ships had to anchor in Portland Harbor and use smaller boats to ferry passengers ashore. Now, even the largest ships can berth and their passengers can walk into the Old Port, or onto tour buses that take them to Freeport or Kennebunkport.

Clegg said many cruise lines plan their routes a year or two in advance, so it may take some time to see if the push to promote the new berth pays off.

Clegg said more ships berth in Bar Harbor than Portland, and the city will try to persuade them to add Portland as they cruise up the coast.

“We do see an opportunity to grow some more,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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