Portland (Maine) (Photo:Sean Pavone/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Renee Ruggero
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Portland (Maine)

Portland, Maine, is all about lobster. It's hard to imagine this crustacean was once deemed poor man's food, but it's true -- lobsters would wash up on Portland's shores after a storm and be used primarily as fertilizer and bait. But with the advent of land transportation, lobsters were brought inland by the mid-1800's, and as the demand for lobsters increased so did the price. Today, the city boasts numerous restaurants -- all of which feature lobster (in some form) on their menus.

About Portland (Maine)


Pro

Fresh lobster and historic landmarks pepper this appealing New England port

Con

Come equipped with a windbreaker and some layers for windy or drizzly days

Bottom Line

Portland offers cruisers a classic taste of the Northeast, from a notable lighthouse to seafood aplenty


Find a Cruise to Canada & New England



But Portland has more to offer than a bunch of crustaceans. The coastal New England port boasts a vibrant working waterfront, an abundance of Victorian-era architecture and numerous historic lighthouses. Nestled on a picturesque seascape, the city is perched on a peninsula jutting out into the island-studded Casco Bay, protected from the Atlantic Ocean. The romantic movie "Message in a Bottle" was filmed in this seaside town and even the famous Portland-born poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called Portland a "Jewel by the Sea" in one of his poems. The city welcomes close to 50,000 cruise ship passengers annually.

The historic port was once a major shipbuilding center, as well as one of the busiest fishing ports on the Atlantic as far back as the 18th century. Its success as a port made it a prime target for the British during the War of 1812 and also for the Confederates during the Civil War. The coastline and islands are still dotted with forts that were built to protect the city. Ironically, during an Independence Day celebration in 1866, a firecracker ignited a fire that quickly spread across the city's east end, destroying 1,800 buildings.

The city quickly rebuilt, resulting in lovely Victorian-era architecture, and today the Old Port (sometimes referred to as the Old Port Exchange) is a bustling seaport with a high concentration of quality eating and drinking establishments. With less than 65,000 residents, Portland is compact enough for visitors to explore the town thoroughly -- tourists can stroll along the working waterfront of Commercial Street, walk the cobblestone streets of the restored Old Port district, or visit a historic building or two.

What will you remember most from a visit to Portland? Will it be the lobster traps piled on the wharf, the smell of sea air combined with the chatter of seagulls or a visit to a historic attraction? If you're like the majority of visitors, a succulent lobster lunch may be your most savory memory of this New England port.

Where You're Docked

Major cruise ships dock at the Portland Ocean Terminal and the Ocean Gateway Terminal, both on the fringe of the Old Port.

Good to Know

Although Portland is a fairly safe port, it's always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and leave unnecessary valuables and cash in your stateroom safe.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

There are ATM's and banks located throughout the city. One of the closest ATM's can be found at the Casco Bay Line Terminal adjacent to the Maine State Pier and the cruise terminal at Portland Ocean Terminal (56 Commercial St.). To exchange other currencies into U.S. dollars, TD Bank has regular weekday and limited Saturday hours. (1 Portland Square; Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Language

English is spoken in Portland.

Shopping

Buy a souvenir that celebrates Maine's lobsters, lighthouses or maritime industry. Porte 4, 366 Fore Street, sells fine jewelry with nautical designs such as 18K gold sailboat and lighthouse pendants. For unusual and historical nautical artifacts, check out Shipwreck and Cargo, 207 Commercial Street. Another unique souvenir is Sea Bag's handmade water-resistant tote bag made in Maine from recycled sails. The company's headquarters is located on the working waterfront, 24 Custom House Wharf.