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American Cruise Lines plans Portsmouth NH stops in summer, fall 2024

by Staff

PORTSMOUTH — Officials from the Port of New Hampshire continue to firm up plans with American Cruise Lines about making multiple stops in Portsmouth this summer and fall.

Geno Marconi, the director of Ports and Harbors for the Pease Development Authority, recently shared a number of dates with the PDA’s Board of Directors on the cruise ships could stop in Portsmouth.

They include July 8, July 22, Aug. 5, Aug. 17, Oct. 3, and Oct. 28, Marconi told the board recently.

“You’ll see that they would arrive on a Monday or a Saturday,” he said.

The stops of about 24 hours would be at the Port, which is located off Market Street.

Marconi, who worked in the cruise industry previously, said American Cruise Lines is “the largest domestic river and coastal cruise company in the United States.”

18 ships for river and ocean cruises

The company, headquartered in Connecticut, operates 18 vessels along a variety of waterways nationwide, including Puget Sound, the Mississippi River and the Atlantic Ocean along the East Coast from Maine to Florida.

“They advertise quite a bit, I don’t think you can pick up a publication where you don’t see it,” Marconi told the board during a recent meeting. “The most important thing about them is they are U.S.-built vessels, they’re U.S. flag vessels and the crew on the boat is a U.S. crew.”

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In discussions with American Cruise Line representatives, they said they’d likely come into the Port on one of two ships, including one that launched in 2023 and “is on its inaugural voyage as we speak,” Marconi said.

‘Not huge’ cruise ships

One of the two ships planned to be stopping in Portsmouth holds about 100 passengers and features 56 rooms and six common areas.

The second ship holds about 170 passengers, Marconi said, with 90 rooms and eight common areas.

He stressed, as he did previously, that American Cruise Lines is “not the giant Kathie Lee Gifford floating Las Vegas type vessel. One of the most important things that needs to be said, especially in a public venue, is these are not huge cruise ships.”

Their vessels are “going into small ports … going into places where those big boats don’t go,” he added.

Marconi made those comments in response to what he’s seen on “the unofficial blogs going around on the Internet” that have asked “what are we going to do with 3,000 people dumped in downtown Portsmouth?”

American Cruise Lines ships typically hold around 100 guests, but can go up to about 170, he said.

A “back of the note pad estimate” on what it would cost the company to spend 24 hours at the Port came out to about $409 for each stop, Marconi said.

Board member Steve Fournier, Newmarket’s town manager, then joked “it costs me more to park my car in Portsmouth than to park a boat.”

Marconi noted that in other ports like Portland, Maine, “there’s other amenities that are provided, they’ve got a cruise terminal.”

“When people step off the boat here, if it’s raining out, it’s raining out,” he said. “You have to take those things into consideration.”

No conflicts at Port

Port officials have already reached out to the Piscataqua Maritime Commission to make sure a planned tall ship event doesn’t conflict with the American Cruise Lines stops.

“As of right now that date does not conflict with their schedule,” Marconi said.

One of the two companies that brings in salt to the Port already said “they were willing to work around the schedule if necessary,” he said.

Marconi added the busiest time of the year for salt deliveries is in the winter.

He said because “this is a working port, and it’s an industrial port, we can’t have passengers walking through the terminal.”

That’s because of truck and equipment traffic through the terminal, Marconi said, “and the fact that the pavement is uneven because of all the activity there.”

American Cruise Lines representatives told Marconi they have a motor coach that sometimes transports passengers downtown once they get to a port.

For people who want to walk up Market Street to downtown, the company also has golf carts to take them off the property, he said.

Eric Dussault, the director of port operations for American Cruise Lines, believes “Portsmouth is going to be a really good fit for us.”

“Knowing the vicinity of downtown to the Port and what downtown has to offer, our development team is going to have a very easy job deciding what guests will be doing when they come to Portsmouth,” he said during a previous interview. “There’s so much to offer there.”

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