It wasn’t that many years ago that the future of Salem’s seaport seemed to be in coal ships. It was not an inviting prospect.
So, when the first cruise ship docked in Salem around 2004, it was cause for celebration. For the first time, residents could look at an area of the waterfront dominated by a power plant and a sewage treatment facility and envision something better. It helped to spur plans to attract more, and bigger, cruise ships in the future.
Even the state kicked in with money to help Salem launch its ferry service and redevelop the area. Next on the agenda are plans to upgrade the deep-water dock on power plant property to make Salem more accessible to larger cruise ships and to build a walkway linking that pier to the ferry landing.
But now that the vision is starting to look less like a dream — heck, some might have said a hallucination — and more like a reality, Derby Street homeowners are starting to worry. In online posts and written letters, they talk about ship passengers being “dumped” in a “residential neighborhood” to “traipse” down their streets — noisy, littering, and probably vandalizing property as they go. One post described them as “ugly,” too.
Anyone who’s lived through Halloween in Salem can understand the reaction, and we applaud the Historic Derby Street Neighborhood Association for taking a careful look at the issue and doing its best to protect those for whom this city is a home, not a tourist attraction.
At the same time, however, it’s important to acknowledge that passengers on cruise ships are a different species of tourist than the rowdy, young-adult revelers who, in years past, drove everyone to distraction on Halloween. Cruise passengers tend to be older couples — age 50 and up — with money to spend. Typically, they would be here for a single day, usually at midweek; they’d disembark, see the sights, sample the restaurants, buy some souvenirs and head back to the ship to leave for the next port of call.