BELFAST — Every Monday around 1:30 or 2 p.m., depending on weather conditions, the American Cruise Liner Independence docks at the city wharf and unloads its precious cargo — visitors. According to the Belfast harbormaster’s schedule, starting May 25, 19 ships were expected to dock in Belfast through Sept. 27, and with each cruise, a potential of 100 new visitors to the city.

This year, in light of the pandemic, chamber Executive Director Steve Ryan said the state of Maine and city of Belfast had to come up with rules and protocols to allow cruise ships to resume operations. After American  halted tours last year, Ryan said, “they were able to pull it off.” 

The economic impact of the cruise line industry on the city is an interesting question, Ryan said, and the chamber is trying to improve it. 

For the past three years, the chamber has been working on activities for cruise ship visitors to take part in while off the ship. They need a push, or a pull, as it were, to make their way up the hill and discover Belfast as an interesting, fun and memorable destination, he said.

Ryan is working with merchants to donate giveaway items for cruise ship visitors, while ship staff would have information sessions prior to docking on what to do, where to eat and how to sign up for area events.

“If we could give them items for a raffle where they could make the connection,” Ryan said, visitors could learn about the different stores and restaurants available in the city.

Ryan said the program is still a relatively new idea in Belfast and he has been “shopping it around.”

Many merchants say they get little if any additional business from the cruise ship visitors, according to Ryan. Some, like the Purple Baboon, located just past the public pier, get more business than others.  Businesses in the upper square, he said, say passengers hardly ever venture that far.

“We are working on having (ship) staff walk people up the hill,” he said. “Previously, they didn’t have that focus.”

Patty Crichton, a chamber member who operates Alaska and Beyond, a cruise agency specializing in tours worldwide, said some ports of call she has seen have booths waiting for cruise ship passengers to disembark, with information about what there is to do, where to stay and where to eat.

“It’s a huge opportunity,” she said. Crichton has seen some ports even give out ice cream or hats, and at the end of their cruise, passengers rate the different ports.

Currently, several chamber members have activities geared to giving visitors a glimpse of what Belfast has to offer.

Front Street Shipyard offers a free walking tour of its operations. The one-hour tour begins promptly at 2:30 p.m. and passengers are asked to meet on the Harbor Walk at “Building 5.” For more information, call 930-3740 or visit frontstreetshipyard.com/.

Belfast Fiberarts, at 171 High St., is offering a creative session where visitors will make their own memory book. A $20 fee provides people with all materials needed. The store also offers handmade creations and gifts of all sizes. For more information, call 323-5248 or visit belfastfiberarts.com.

Belfast Historical Society is offering guided tours with Museum Director Megan Pinette. Tours meet at the park near the pier and last approximately an hour. The free tour includes Belfast history, notable people and events, as well as architectural styles, and ends at the museum to see the 1864 Civil War soldiers’ inspirational quilt. For more information, call 338-9229 or visit belfastmuseum.org.

Local Color Gallery at 135 High St. will offer a tour of the gallery. The event is free; unvaccinated visitors are asked to wear a mask. For more information, call 218-1249 or visit Facebook.com/LocalColorGalleryMaine.

Ananda Yoga, located at 9B Beaver St., offers a one-hour class from 3 to 4 p.m., exclusively for cruise ship guests. Led by one of the studio owners, the class will align to visitors’ specific needs. For more information, call 218-7017 or visit Facebook.com/anandayogamaine.

A guide will lead people to any of the locations noted above. For more information, call the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce at 338-5900 or email director@belfastmaine.org.