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Sag Harbor to Welcome Cruise Passengers

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 12:28
With ship capacities of just over 100 passengers, American Cruise Lines, which is set to visit Sag Harbor this summer, seeks to draw a contrast with larger oceangoing cruise ships that hold thousands.
American Cruise Lines

In just three months, the first cruise ship to call Sag Harbor a stop on its itinerary will moor in sight of Long Wharf. Shelly Hartfield, a director of product development for American Cruise Lines, spoke to the Sag Harbor Village Board at Tuesday night’s meeting to let the board know the company’s plans.

Sag Harbor is already on the cruise line’s schedule, and Aidan Corish, a village board member, pointed out in a conversation after the meeting that the village really had no way to stop the ship coming even had it wanted to. “We can’t restrict trade. We can’t restrict legitimate business, and we can’t pick winners and losers,” he said.

“They can use state waters, no matter what,” said Deputy Mayor Ed Haye.

It seemed clear, however, that the board wasn’t necessarily looking to poke holes in the cruise line’s plans that night, but was working instead to make the ship’s presence less burdensome.

The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, for one, was downright giddy at the prospect. “It’s a no-brainer for us to say that the chamber of commerce would support American Cruise Lines in the village,” its president, Ellen Dioguardi, said.

Ms. Hartfield assured the board that the ships would have a maximum capacity of only 109 passengers, “if every bed was filled with a head,” but since some people travel alone, the number will likely be closer to 100. Their average age, she said, is 70.

Importantly, she told the board the ships will visit Sag Harbor only in the “shoulder months,” and not on weekends — twice in May, once in June, and five times in October, as part of the cruise line’s Yankee Seaports itinerary. The ship will also visit once on its New England Fall Foliage cruise.

American Cruise Lines prepares itineraries for its passengers in advance, so many of its onshore events will be pre-planned and prepaid, Ms. Hartfield said. Ms. Dioguardi said the business interests she represents appreciated that. Ms. Hartfield mentioned that she had already spoken with Bay Street Theater, Kidd Squid, the arts center The Church, the Whaling Museum, and the American Hotel. The onshore events are capped at 20 passengers, she noted. “We do things in small groups as we move through the community.”

The ship will typically arrive in the waters off Sag Harbor by 9 a.m. and be gone by 5 p.m., leaving for its next stop, either Port Jefferson or Old Saybrook, Conn.

The board’s fear of overcrowding during the summer season seemed to be allayed. Mr. Corish pointed out that the Hampton Jitney drops off perhaps 60 people in the middle of the village, all day every day, through the busy season. “It’s a Jitney and a half. We’re a harbor community,” he said after the meeting ended. “Having waterborne business is good for the community.”

“Our name sometimes gives an image of a large cruise ship, but we are not that,” Ms. Hartfield told the board. “We like to call them boutique ships.”

During public comment, however, John Parker, a member of the village’s harbor committee, commented on the size of the ships. “They’re larger than any yacht we see in the summer, so where it’s anchoring is significant, because it will have an impact in terms of congestion and the view,” he said. “The village could have control over that if they’re anchoring in the village’s jurisdiction.”

Mr. Parker also noted that the ships have a crew of 40 or 50, which would add to their total capacity, a point not disputed by Ms. Hartfield.

Mary Ann Eddy, another harbor committee member, confirmed that the passengers will be transported to the transient dock, just off Long Wharf, in a tender, which will travel back and forth to the cruise ship through the day.

Three different ships, the American Glory, the American Eagle, and the American Independence, will visit with the Yankee Seaports Cruise. The cost of the cruise varies from $4,645 per person for the eight-day, seven-night sail, to $7,780 for the June date. The New England Fall Foliage Cruise is twice as long and starts at $13,605. Sag Harbor would be only a daylong stop on that cruise as well.

Jeanne Kane of the board said she had spoken with the cruise line’s other ports of call, including Bar Harbor, Me., which can receive ships carrying over 3,000 passengers. “We only heard really positive feedback,” she said, noting that Bar Harbor has recently limited the number of people who can enter there from a boat to 1,000 per day.

“A hundred-person boat is one thing, a thousand-person boat is a whole different animal,” Kathleen Mulcahy, a former Sag Harbor Village mayor, said during the public comment period. “We could make a plan that we look at this post-October, and figure out what the right number” of people disembarking should be. The board agreed.

The Star asked the public relations manager for American Cruise Lines, Alexa Paolella, about another website,, which shows sail dates to Sag Harbor during July and August.

“If anything conflicts on the other website, it is incorrect,” she texted. “Or being misread.”

The cruises are selling well, she said. “All of our summer sailings throughout New England are extremely popular, as American is the only cruise line in the world that offers 100-percent U.S. itineraries along the entire East Coast.”


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