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Cruise Line Eyes the Port of Sag Harbor

Thu, 09/14/2023 - 06:39
American Cruise Lines is proud of its American-flagged, staffed, and constructed fleet, and its itineraries are U.S.-dominated.
American Cruise Lines

If Long Wharf in Sag Harbor weren’t crowded enough this summer, it could be even more crowded next year as the village contemplates allowing the Peconic Jitney to run a ferry from the wharf to Greenport and American Cruise Lines eyes the village as a destination starting next spring. 

Peconic Jitney is set to make yet another presentation before the Sag Harbor Village board at its October meeting, but it was the potential for American Cruise Lines, a newcomer to East End waters, to visit the village that created a buzz on social media louder than late-summer cicadas, leaving Mayor Thomas Gardella with more questions than answers. 

“I just found out about this,” he said in a phone call Tuesday. “Obviously they didn’t come to the board or make any applications, and the harbormaster didn’t know anything about it. Something of that magnitude will need permission. I don’t know how a 240-foot-long boat is going to dock on Long Wharf in May. But if the boat is parked outside the harbor and ferries people in on a small vessel, I don’t see how we could stop them.” 

Sag Harbor shows up on two separate cruise itineraries offered by American Cruise Lines. A 60-day cruise called the Great United States and an eight-day Yankee Seaports jaunt. If all goes according to plan, the company’s boats would visit Sag Harbor 10 times between the spring and fall of 2024. Most of the boats that would visit Sag Harbor have a maximum capacitity of 100 passengers each. The trip booking for Sept. 25, 2024, is on the lines’ “constitution class” boat, with room for 170 passengers. 

When people hear the words “cruise ship,” they might think of Royal Caribbean and an Icon of the Seasstyle ship with crowds wearing loudly patterned clothing descending gangplanks to overwhelm the ports at which they stop. 

But a representative of American Cruise Lines says it is different. American Cruise Lines boats do not have pools or casinos, and Alexa Paolella, their public relations manager, says they cater to a “culturally curious” crowd mostly interested in history and fine dining. The boats are built in Maryland and are “equipped with advanced wastewater treatment systems and holding tanks,” she said. “They don’t dump.” 

“Stroll down Main Street and discover the many unique boutiques and mouthwatering restaurants,” says an American Cruise Lines brochure, which describes Sag Harbor as “one of the best-kept-secret small towns on Long Island.” 

“Secret to whom?” you may well ask as you recall the lines for coffee, groceries, and just about everything else in the summer of 2023. 

Ms. Paolella said the operations team would soon be in touch with village officials to work out the details of their arrival. She said they could dock, or moor. “We don’t go where arrangements haven’t been made.” 

She said she understood the concerns of residents but went through great effort to separate her company from the typical cruise line. “We’re nothing like a Disney cruise. We’ve created a market that didn’t exist before. People understand what a river cruise is, we’re like a river cruise, just along the coastline.” 

“We cruise all over coastal New England into a lot of very small places, small intimate coastal communities. We are always welcome because we are so completely different. Our cruises are not about the ships. We bring 100 guests who want to explore the communities they visit. They spend money, they don’t bring their cars. It’s a small number of sophisticated travelers.” 

One of the ships that could potentially visit our waters, the American Eagle, was recently commissioned. It features four decks with 56 rooms. The largest, the 620-square-foot “grand suite” starts at $12,265 per person. 

In other waterfront news, Mayor Gardella said yachts would no longer be allowed to dock at the north end of Long Wharf. 

“The former mayor permitted it, but it’s debatable how much money it brought in,” he said. “We just decided, for all the money we recently put into beautifying the wharf, and the fact that there’s a great view off the end — it’s the place people can go down and sit — but if you’re going to just sit there and stare at the side of a yacht, it’s ruining that experience. 

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