SALEM — The Grande Caribe pulled into the Blaney Street landing last week, a glimmering white ship carrying 64 passengers.
This was the first cruise vessel to dock here in five years, but it won’t be the last. Another ship may stop in October, and the 184-foot Grande Caribe, which sails the New England and Canadian coast, expects to return next year.
Even bigger plans are afloat.
Although Salem appears a likely port-of-call for small to medium-sized vessels, the city is also eyeing the occasional larger ship with more than 1,000 passengers and, if all goes well, up to a dozen cruise ship visits during the tourist season.
While the business community may be cheering, the next-door neighbors are concerned.
With that in mind, Mayor Kim Driscoll wrote a letter this month to residents in the Derby Street area to explain the city’s plans and try to allay some fears.
“In general, most cruise ships visiting Salem will be under 500 passengers,” she stated in an Aug. 15 letter. “While the berth at Footprint can support vessels carrying over 1,000 people, we do not anticipate that many ships of this size would be visiting during the course of a year.”
The mayor mentioned Footprint Power, the owners of the 65-acre power plant site next to the ferry landing, because she is negotiating an agreement with them to use their dock and to build a pathway over to the Blaney Street landing. The power plant’s deep-water dock, which welcomed huge coal ships, is just off the federal channel and the ideal spot, officials say, for larger cruise ships.
In July, the city filed a request with the state to make improvements to the power plant dock in order to handle cruise ships. That has triggered a letter-writing campaign for and against the permit request.