Cruise Passengers Briefly Stranded in Portland as Caribbean Princess Dodges Low Tide

September 29, 2011

(6 a.m. EDT) -- Passengers on Princess Cruises' Caribbean Princess were left temporarily stranded on shore in Portland, Maine, on Tuesday when the ship's captain made the unusual decision to move off the town's new megaberth, Ocean Gateway Pier II, three hours ahead of schedule.
According to local newspaper The Portland Press Herald, the captain was uncomfortable with the lack of water under the ship's keel due to an exceptionally low tide caused by a new moon.
A Princess spokeswoman confirmed the incident, telling Cruise Critic that the tenders on Caribbean Princess, anchored in Portland Harbor, were used to "take the remaining passengers ashore back to the ship. We departed at 4 pm as scheduled."

Although several other large ships have already visited, this was Caribbean Princess' maiden call to the Ocean Gateway Pier II, which was built with a $6 million state bond and opened this month. The occasion was heralded with a presentation to the captain by the town's mayor, Nicholas Mavodones, of a commemorative plaque and a quantity of Maine lobsters.
Whether the embarrassing gaffe was a freak occurrence, a design flaw in the new berth or a miscalculation of the tide remains to be seen. According to the Press-Herald's newspaper report, city officials denied that the design of the deepwater pier is flawed, noting that the astronomical low tide and the need to dredge a small area at the eastern end of the pier may have contributed to the captain's decision. But this section of the North Atlantic coastline is known for its large tidal changes, and any dredging, according to Mayor Mavodones, is unlikely to be done until next year.
This isn't the first incident in recent times of passengers arriving at the dock to find their ship has disappeared. In August, Carnival Victory and Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas were instructed by the port authority in San Juan to leave the port's berth three hours early to avoid Hurricane Irene. Some 445 passengers were left stranded, with a much unhappier outcome, as many ended up having to forego their cruises.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor