It's a rare win for a small-time local operator to get a global cruise company to buy locally, but both Somers and Celebrity deserve a pat on the back for realizing there's no downside to serving cruisers incredibly fresh Maine lobster in the summer.
A second cruise ship line has agreed to buy lobsters from local suppliers when one of its ships visits Maine in September and October, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Wednesday.
Celebrity Cruises has agreed to purchase about 3,800 pounds of lobster when the Celebrity Summit visits Bar Harbor and Portland, Pingree said. The 965-foot ship carries more than 2,000 passengers.
Officials said last week that Holland America Line agreed to purchase locally caught lobsters for its cruise ships when they visit Bar Harbor several times this season.
The cruise line purchases are good news for Maine’s lobster industry, which has been suffering under rock-bottom prices this summer because of a strong harvest that has resulted in an oversupply of lobsters. Although the purchases represent just a tiny amount of the catch, they could spur other cruise lines to follow suit and raise awareness about Maine lobsters among cruise ship passengers, said Dane Somers, executive director of the Maine Lobster Promotion Council.
Lobster dealers in Maine have been in discussions with other cruise ship companies to see if they’ll also buy local product when they visit Maine, he said.
“Cruise lines are in a competitive industry. They’re all competing and trying to give their passengers something extra,” Somers said. “If they can offer passengers fresh Maine lobsters literally off the dock in the summer, that’s a treat. I don’t think their passengers will ever forget that.”
September and October represent the busiest time of the cruise ship season in Maine. About 120 ships are scheduled to stop in Bar Harbor this year, with an additional 60 or so visiting Portland.
Cruise lines already buy large amounts of frozen lobster products, from processors in both Canada and Maine, Somers said. But cruise companies usually negotiate long-term contracts far in advance for their food purchases and rarely make purchases while their ships are en route, he said.
That hasn’t deterred Pingree from writing a letter to the heads of every cruise ship company visiting Portland this year, suggesting they buy live Maine lobster while in the state.
In announcing Celebrity Cruises’ decision to buy lobster while in Maine, Pingree said she has also heard from another major cruise ship company that’s in talks with local lobster suppliers.
“It’s a little too early to announce more purchases but we have some good prospects and at least one company is talking specifics with suppliers and has asked for some sample product,” she said in a statement.
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