Photo: Sunday River Mountain Resort
Ziplining - along with geocaching, mountain biking, golf and more offered at Sunday River Mountain Resort.
Geocaching, gem sluicing, the chance to ride on one of the country’s top wooden roller coasters, play lumberjack, savor local wines and microbrews, ride in a vintage Art Deco rail car, take a chondola up a mountain and bike down.
These are a few of the myriad experiences Maine has for visitors. But most cruise lines still market just fall foliage, and offer the same excursions as a decade ago, according to Amy Powers, director of CruiseMaine.
That why CruiseMaine and its partners are inviting senior cruise executives and shore excursion planners on a familiarization tour that will highlight diverse experiences easily accessed by ships calling at Portland, Boothbay, Rockland, Belfast and Bar Harbor.
According to the invitation, ‘This jam-packed itinerary will preview more than 40 products that are group-ready for your passengers. We'll also treat you as our special guests to luxurious lodging, world-class dining and unique insider treats.’
‘We’re offering very diverse experiences. It’s not all lobsters and lighthouses,’ Powers said. ‘Our true identity is “Vacationland” and our true demographic is like that of Royal Caribbean’s. Our experiences run the gamut here, for every age and every activity level.’
Some of the more unusual activities include geocaching, an adventure game using a GPS to locate prizes hidden in an expanse of wilderness, and gem sluicing for treasures like multi-colored tourmaline.
The geocaching is available at Sunday River Mountain Resort, a ski area that’s open year-round with abundant summer activities such as riding a chondola (part chairlift, part gondola) to a peak and sailing down on a mountain bike, ziplining, 4x4 safaris, golf and more. Sunday River is ‘really going to be an eye-opening experience’ for fam trip participants, Powers said, as will Maine’s vineyards, which a senior cruise executive recently deemed of ‘Napa quality.’
Foodies can go on food and wine walking tours in Portland, which Bon Appétit dubbed the ‘Foodiest Small Town in America’ and Travel+Leisure ranked as the East Coast’s hippest and greenest spot. Powers said the availability of award-winning chefs and artisans is right in step with the culinary programs, market visits and cooking classes that many ships offer on board or in destinations—but not, so far, in Maine.
There’s lots for families to do, too. At an authentic lumberjack show with ‘Survivor’ celebrity ‘Timber Tina,’ kids can try sawing a big log or log-rolling, while at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the children’s garden has whales that spout and blueberries to pick. Pineland Farms gives the chance to learn about responsible farming techniques, milk a cow, visit a creamery and see the training of Dutch Warmblood sport horses. Funtown/Splashtown in Saco, the largest amusement park in northern New England, sports the wooden roller coaster and a new waterslide.
‘The product has evolved and it’s time to refresh what people can do when they’re here,’ Powers said. ‘We want people to be able to explore on their own but also to create new revenue streams for the cruise industry.’ This is particularly important because of higher operating costs from the North American Emission Control Area.
Creating new port opportunities to add value may also encourage ships to overnight or disembark passengers for an overland program in one port and pick them up in another. ‘There’s a lot of things that can be done. It just takes some creative thinking,’ Powers said.
Cruise executives from lines with ships of all sizes and demographics are being invited on the fam trip, Sept. 8-14. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org