New Tour Facility Opens on Waterfront for Cruise Ships Today; 60 Cruise Ships Visit This year – Fewer Than Last Year…

Enchantment of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship in Portland Harbor Today. It Left for Bar Harbor about 7 PM.

City’s New TOURS Building on the Waterfront Near Ocean Gateway Terminal

Jen Atkinson & Pamela Lashey at the new TOURS Building on the Waterfront

Commercial Street Artist Karen Tucker With Her Mother (L) Tucker Lives on Great Diamond Island

By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,210)

Under very blue skies, with winds gusting over 30 mph and high seas, the passenger ship Enchantment of the Seas arrived in Portland Harbor late this mornng for a day long visit. Carrying about 2,250 passengers and 870 crew members, she is berthed at the Ocean Gateway International Marine Terminal, Pier II; otherwise known as the megaberth. Street vendors began setting up along Commercial Street about two hours before her arrival time, 11:30 am, in order to claim a choice spot. The strong winds played havoc all day with vendors and their crafts.

Overcrowding along Commercial Street by street vendors has been a problem in the past – congesting the sidewalk and creating what some have called a “circus like” atmosphere – to the dismay of many city officials. Likewise, last summer “hawkers” selling their tours became congested at the front of the Ocean Gateway Terminal whenever the cruise ships carrying passengers with deep pockets came into port. Over the past year, according to sources close to the situation, the city decided to refurbish a former Bath Iron Works paint storage building that had been vacant for many years into a free of charge space for those selling tours both in Portland and the area.

Early this winter, certain tour companies were offered space, free of charge, for the cruise ship passenger season. Today was the first day. About five or six tour vendors had tables inside the new venue. There was no official roll-out of this new facility, possibly to avoid any controversy that might result about the process. An email and cell phone call to a city official by mhn.com to determine the cost of the rennovation yesterday, went unanswered.

Hill resident Pamela Lashey, founder and owner of Maine Foodie Tours, was contacted by the city and asked if she wanted a space in the building about 400 ft. from the Terminal. She was told that the city was looking for a way for the tour operators to interact with cruise ship passengers. She jumped at the opportunity. However, the former BIW building is far enough away from the front of the Ocean Gateway Terminal that Lashey might have to hire someone to serve as a intermediary. Her four year old business has grown between 50 – 60% every year. According to Lashey who had no prior business experience, but lots of other important skills: “Portland is a great place to start a business because there are so many qualified people able to support and mentor start-ups.” Ninety percent of her reservations are made on-line. For information, please visit mainefoodietours.com or call (207) 233-7485.

Not new to the industry but new to the Portland area are Jen and Kahled Atkinson. Also housed at the new TOUR facility are two tours by this couple. One is a narrated round-trip shuttle to Freeport, the home of L.L. Bean. The other trip is a visit to an apple orchard with an opportunity to pick apples. They ran a similar business in Junea, Alaska for four years. Please visit www.The ScenicRouteMaineTours.com for more information.

Although not located close to the front of the Ocean Gateway Terminal, these and other tour guides did not have to battle the winds. By late afternoon some of the street vendors on Commercial Street grew weary of battling the gusts of wind and decided to close down. One of those street vendors was Karen Tucker, Great Diamond Island, who creates several different size bags and paints lovely birds, seagulls and lobsters on them – all for a reasonable price. (mhn.com could not resist the sea gull bag shown above!) Her email address is karenwtucker@gmail.com

Sixty ships carryng a total of 68,977 passengers and 26,425 crew are expected to call on the Port of Portland from June to October this year. A unique ship visit includes The World, which serves as a residence with one hundred and sixty-five units from apartments to studios owned by several hundred people from more than forty different countries. Last year there were sixty-five cruise ship visits in the same time frame.