Plymouth Harbor will become a regular port of call for cruise ships this coming summer after the select board Tuesday night approved a deal with American Cruise Lines.
The unanimous vote came despite threats of a lawsuit from local lobstermen.
The one-year agreement calls for a cruise ship to dock in the harbor 23 times between May 1 and Oct. 25.
The lobstermen, who were only able to make their case during the public comment period after the vote had been taken, said they don’t oppose the whole plan; they just don’t want the ships here in May and early June, when whales have left the area and they first are legally allowed to fish.
Under the contract with the town, the company will pay it $74,000 for the right to dock in the harbor — $3,000 each time it stops in Plymouth between May 11 and June 15, and $2,000 for each stop between June 18 and Oct. 25.
If a ship docks for more than 29 hours, the company will have to pay the town $3,000.
The plan appeared to be a done deal even before the select board vote — the American Cruise Lines website already listed Plymouth on its itinerary for 2024.
Their cruises aren’t cheap — prices start at around $5,000. Plymouth stops are part of the company’s Yankee Seaports Cruise (which goes to New York City), its 14-night Grand New England Cruise (with prices starting at $11,740), and the line’s Cape Codder Cruise.
Town officials tried to accommodate fishermen by making sure they still have access to three winches on the pier — mini cranes used to get their fishing gear off and on their boats.
Town manager Derek Brindisi said the ships will generate revenue for local businesses — and the town is projecting that passengers will spend $175 each, visiting local landmarks, restaurants, and shops, he said.
Brindisi also said the town was prepared to enter into a 20-year agreement with American Cruise Lines, but didn’t out of deference to the fishermen.
Select board member Charlie Bletzer acknowledged the fishermen’s concerns but said cruise ships will draw tourists and residents to the waterfront, generating economic benefits for the town.
“You have to remember, this harbor is not just for one industry. It’s for the good of the whole town,” he said.
Unpersuaded, the lobstermen threatened to file a lawsuit.
In a letter read at the meeting, Curt Holmes, president of the Plymouth Commercial Fishermen Association, asked the select board to table the vote, alleging that by approving the plan, the town would be reneging on an agreement it made with the fishermen to keep the cruise ships out of the harbor between May 1 and June 15.
“I’m here to ask you to honor your agreement,” the letter said. “If you don’t, you will be compounding hardships for the lobster industry here…We will take legal action if we have to.”
Last summer, the cruise ships came to Plymouth three times — as part of a trial run.
The first time it docked, the ship was greeted by fishermen. They were accused of harassing the crew, which was trying to deliver welcome gifts to the passengers and onlookers. Crates filled with rotting lobster bait were stacked up on the pier, according to someone who was there. Lobsterman Tom O’Reilly told the select board that the incident never happened.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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