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Jewel of the Seas to visit Midcoast Maine

Midcoast to go all out for megaship’s first visit.

By Sally Noble
Click to expandThe 962-foot-long cruise ship Jewel of the Seas will send passengers ashore by tender.
Click on the image above to expand.
At dawn on Sunday, October 4, 2009, the 962-foot-long Royal Caribbean Cruise Line’s cruise ship Jewel of the Seas will drop anchor off Rockland Harbor. By 7:00 a.m., the first of a series of mustard-yellow tenders will be lowered from the megaship, which carries about 2,500 passengers and 760 crew, ready to ferry those passengers to waiting tour buses. The tenders will dock at Harbor Park, where two bands will welcome them — the local Bay Winds North Band and the jazz-playing Breakers — the goal is to put cruise ship passengers in the mood to plunge into a bountiful line-up of local sightseeing options.                          “We’re hoping it will be a lovely fall day and people will stroll Main Street, stopping at galleries, shops and, of course, the Farnsworth Museum,” said Lorain Francis, director of Rockland Main Street, Inc., which is part of the National Historic Trust. Francis and her team have been planning for this event for nearly a year. “Think about it — there’s training all the welcome volunteers and addressing Homeland Security issue,” she said. Rockland Harbor will be the first stop in the Jewel’s seven-day round-trip cruise from Boston (the cruise itinerary also includes stops in Bar Harbor, Maine; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia). It is hoped by many that this will be a big step forward in boosting Midcoast tourism, and could mark Rockland and Camden’s place on Maine’s map of preferred cruise ship stops. “The Maine region is growing in popularity,” said Christopher Allen, director of deployment and itinerary planning for Royal Caribbean Cruises. The number of guests Royal Caribbean will carry to Maine will have grown 64 percent from 2008 to a year from now (based on advanced bookings), according to Allen.  “That translates into 73,000 more visits,” he summarized.   The Jewel of the Seas will be visiting a city that has transformed itself from working class scruffy to charming and chic. Rockland, after all, first made the map of Maine with its limestone industry, then a Birdseye factory dominated the waterfront scene in the 1940s and 1950s, recalled Frank Isganitis, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce for Penobscot Bay Region. Smaller cruise operations — American Cruise Line and American Canadian Line — have visited Rockland in past years, but this first big ship will make a significantly larger splash.  Fall foliage may draws the tourists in this shoulder season, but things turn relatively quiet after the busy summer season. “Rockland and Camden realize that it’s important to have a diverse economic mix,” said Amy Powers, director of Cruise Maine. “You don’t want to throw all your eggs in one basket, especially in this economy.” Passengers will be offered experiences ranging from kayaking to wine tasting, and from from fly-fishing to daysailing. The ship plans to offer four official excursions:  “Best of Midcoast Maine and Lobster Bake,” “Camden and Mount Battie Summit,” and “Owl’s Head Transportation Museum and Lighthouse.” On the fourth excursion, owner Bettina Doulton will welcome visitors that arrive at her Cellar Door Winery aboard Jim Gamage’s “All Aboard Trolley” after a short trolley ride from Rockland. The experience, said Doulton, will offer a “unique perspective of Maine — come by cruise ship to visit a winery.” The Jewel of the Seas appeals to a healthy, active, middle-aged market. Treadmills sport ocean views and aerobics classes are held on a suspended wood floor that is surrounded by huge wrap-around windows. A climbing wall towers at the top of the ship and a full-length sports court stands ready for a game of basketball. Since this ship accommodates the fitness-focused, Rockland and the surrounding towns plan to keep these passengers active with fly-fishing tours and windjammer experiences.  Super Fly Charters plans to welcome disembarking cruise-ship passengers with a chance to go fishing for striped bass, blue fish, and blue fin tuna. Breakwater Kayaking will offer guided tours past the Rockland lighthouse – a vigorous experience not designed for the out-of-shape novice.  “If this is their first kayak experience,” warned owner Mark DiGirolamo, “they will have to remember that they are the kayak’s motor and they have to put in the effort.” Meanwhile, for cruise ship passengers who like to meander while in port, there will be a stream of shuttle buses running between Rockland and Camden all day.  The day of local sightseeing will end at 5:00 p.m., when the last tender will depart from Harbor Park. Shortly afterward the Jewel of the Seas will literally sail into the sunset, headed, said Allen, for the next “quaint New England town.”
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