Nearly 400 ship visits are scheduled to take place this year, rivaling pre-pandemic levels when ships made 408 port calls
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Credit: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Large ocean cruise ships have returned to Maine for the first time in more than two years, bringing vacationers a taste of the state's gorgeous coastal cliffs and fresh seafood.

First up was the Norwegian Pearl, which docked in Bar Harbor on Thursday morning, the first of many cruise ships that are expected to call on the New England state, tourism company CruiseMaine shared with Travel + Leisure. In fact, 360 ship visits are scheduled to take place this year, rivaling pre-pandemic levels when ships made 408 port calls in Maine.

In total, just over 450,000 passengers are expected to step off a boat in Maine this year.

"It's exciting to see these ships and their passengers coming back to Maine," Sarah Flink, the executive director of CruiseMaine, said in a statement shared with T+L. "These visitors love coming to Maine and seeing our beautiful coast. They are an important part of Maine's tourism industry, contributing millions of dollars a year to Maine's economy in passenger and crew spending alone."

For its part, Norwegian Cruise Line sails to Bar Harbor on cruises that traverse New England and Canada, which recently dropped pre-arrival testing requirements for vaccinated visitors and once again started allowing cruise ships.

While Maine did welcome American Cruise Lines' smaller river ships last year, this season will mark the first time since November 2019 that a large ocean cruise ship will visit the state. Additionally, Hurtigruten Expeditions' MS Roald Amundsen will also make its maiden voyage to Maine this year.

"A lot of hard work went into clearing the way for cruise ship visitors to return to Maine this year," Flink said. "Harbormasters, the Maine CDC, cruise ship companies, local businesses and community leaders all came together to create a safe and responsible plan to restart cruise ship tourism. This included the creation of U.S. CDC mandated port agreements for Eastport, Bar Harbor, Rockland and Portland."

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed its warning against cruise ship travel for the first time in two years. The decision came months after the agency allowed its Conditional Sail Order to expire in January, making its guidance optional for cruise lines.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.