This is a counterpart to our previous blog of a guide to those wanting to know more about the cruise ships docking in Bar Harbor.

If you don’t want to interact with the cruise ship and passengers, this post is your guide for how to avoid the cruise ship scene.

Understand the schedule and amount of passengers in each boat. 

By looking ahead to each date and the ships in port, you will have a very good idea of how busy it will be in downtown Bar Harbor and at the most popular sights. (See our last blog post linking too both the schedule and the passengers/ship.)

Note that most of these passengers roam the Bar Harbor streets from 11am to 2pm, so it’s best to avoid downtown during this time (and popular spots like the top of Cadillac.)

So if you have your heart set on downtown Bar Harbor, doing it on off peak days and times will save you from dealing with the masses.

Go a little off the beaten path.

Think about it: if you were getting off a boat in a new state or country for four hours, would you walk 20 blocks to find a place to have lunch? Probably not. Grabbing lunch on lower Main Street, on the outskirts of Cottage Street and otherwise staying away from the ten block radius where the passengers are being dropped off is not a bad idea if you want to avoid cruise ship passengers.

Go to Northeast Harbor or Southwest Harbor.

Mount Desert Island has the fantastic towns of Northeast Harbor and Southwest Harbor that have hikes, restaurants, shops, and attractions. Go check them out, with or without a cruise ship in town.


Figure out which businesses cater to cruises and bus tours.

Even if you are looking beyond downtown Bar Harbor, you may notice businesses in other places seem to get lots of cruise ship or bus tour passengers. By looking at the publications distributed by the cruise ship and bus tour companies, you can have a good idea of who, businesswise, is catering to the cruise ship crowd. Other indicators include ‘tours welcome’ signs and any signage welcoming a particular cruise ship on a day that it is in port.

Download Waze.

Waze is a crowd sourced map, showing things like where traffic is backed up. As more users (and local users) install this service on their phones, the more accurately everyone using the app can know which places to avoid because of traffic congestion.

Use reservations.

Yes, some restaurants don’t take reservations… but if you really have your heart set on eating lunch near ‘cruise ship central’ at 1 pm, why not call to reserve a table ahead?  

All in all, cruise ships make up a part of our local economy and people have strong feelings about them both ways. Here at Gift MDI, we know all we can do is give our tips, for both those who want to get a little closer and those who want to get farther away, for dealing with this part of life here on Mount Desert Island.



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