We’ve started the new cruise-ship season. As the second-deepest natural harbor in the world, and with the attractions we have to offer, it’s only logical that they’d want to come.

But not everybody in Ptown wants them here.

“We’ll have 19 visits, also known as port calls, this season,” notes harbormaster Rex McKinsey. “All nineteen are ‘small ships’ that can dock alongside MacMillan Pier. Only one vessel, the Wind Star, won’t be able to dock alongside the pier, and due to her draft will need to anchor out in the harbor. The passenger capacity of these vessels, including the Wind Star, is about 200.”

With tourism as Provincetown’s major—arguably only—industry, you might think that welcoming cruise ship passengers would be a no-brainer. But while everyone recognizes the need for tourist dollars, cruise ships clearly benefit some businesses more than others. Innkeepers would probably just as soon they stayed away forever. The ships provide meals, so higher-end restaurants aren’t best pleased.

There are, given, some built-in problems. The ships dock fairly early in the morning, between seven and eight o’clock, and passengers are subsequently shuttled to MacMillan Pier via private tenders.

They arrive… and then what? We’ve all been on Commercial Street at 9:30 in the morning and seen people wandering disconsolately about, peering in storefronts and thronging the few places open at that hour. The excursions they might take may not be available. This is a problem.

There’s a problem on the other end, too: Provincetown really gets going around four or five o’clock in the afternoon; by that time, most passengers are being shuttled back to the ships, ready to leave for their next port of call.

So I won’t say that there aren’t problems. But there never seems to be the same brouhaha over the tour buses that disgorge similar numbers of people (the American Constellation and the Victory II hold the equivalent of four busloads each, and they’re not here every day as are the buses), block traffic, emit noxious fumes, and don’t contribute any more to the restaurants’ and innkeepers’ bottom line than do the cruise ship passengers.

Just to shed a little light on the subject…

  1. Cruise ships don’t discharge their waste into Provincetown Harbor. Massachusetts is a no-discharge zone, and every vessel has a sewage treatment plant on board.
  2. The Wellfleet norovirus outbreak of 2016 was not brought about by cruise ships. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, by aliens. They’re equally sensible alternatives.
  3. Yeah, the anchor upsets the harbor floor’s ecosystem. Everything we put in the water upsets the harbor floor’s ecosystem. What we put in the harbor every day from fishing boats, charters, swimming, and so on upsets the ecosystem. Why single out the cruise ships?
  4. Please, would someone say, “Cruise ships ruined Key West”? It should be on a keyboard macro, the number of times it comes up. Cruise ships may or may not have ruined Key West—I have no information on that point—but the comparison is inaccurate. This isn’t a slippery slope: Provincetown’s harbor and docking facilities limit the scale, period.

Okay. I’m done. I get it that they’re not everybody’s cup of tea. But until someone comes up with another equally reliable income stream for town businesses, let’s remember that the summer’s tourism is what helps us survive the off-season, and be grateful.

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