Destination Portland: Portland's Cruise Ship Industry

Cruise Ship Passengers Entering Portland. Credit: Press Herald

Cruise Ship Passengers Entering Portland. Credit: Press Herald

 When most people think of cruise ship stops, they usually think of the palm trees and white beaches of the tropics, but not all places visited by cruise lines are in the Bahamas. Portland Maine, the site of Tall Ships Portland 2015, is, surprisingly a popular cruise ship destination.

Growing Popularity

Portland hasn’t always been favored for cruise ships. The city once received very few visits from cruise ships, but that began to change when the city took on new projects designed to increase large ship traffic in Portland Harbor. The construction in 2011 of the 1,200-foot Ocean Gateway Pier II, a berth designed specifically to harbor cruise ships represented an uptick in Portland’s cruise ship fortune. The city’s cruise ship traffic has grown drastically since then, with 400 ships visiting Portland in 2014. City officials have responded to this growth by giving the go ahead on projects designed to make Portland Harbor an even better destination for cruise ships - a dredging project in 2014 with a 9 million dollar price tag made the harbor deeper so that bigger ships could sail through it. In a 2015 Portland Press Herald article entitled “Portland expects more cruise ships and passengers in 2014,” Bob Leeman, the city overseer for cruise ships, credited the continued growth in 2015 to the dredging project, saying “If the dredging did not happen, we would be losing ships, not gaining ships.” Clearly, Portland’s cruising fortune is on the rise- but what does this mean for the city?

New Jobs 

The increase in Portland’s cruise ship traffic has put more money into the Old Port and waterfront, which draws heavy foot traffic from cruise ships. Portland is a popular destination for both the more intimate cruises, which favor the wealthy, and for the larger, more populist cruises. This mix of cruise ships means Portland experiences routine, regular traffic - the type of tourist influx that grows jobs. Portland is not a hotspot for large ships during the height of the summer months. Aside from a few large ships in May and June, Portland’s cruise ship pilgrims are those who travel to the city on smaller cruises. In September and October however, the city brings in the larger ships in droves. If Portland was reliant on either type of ship, the Old Port would boom in September or July, but not at both times. Both because of its popularity with both types of cruises, and commitment to cruise ship visits,  Portland is sure to see plenty of growth in the future.


If you’re interested in Maine’s maritime history and culture, be sure to come to Tall Ships Portland. Tall Ships are visiting Portland harbor in July from the 18th to the 20th. Tickets are on sale now!