By all counts, Gloucester businesses and organizations were as coordinated as ever Tuesday when the 1,350-passenger Holland America cruise ship Veendam settled in off Stage Fort Park and its guests sailed in to visit the city and its environs.
The Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce got the word out to area businesses — along with some posters they could use to welcome their cruising visitors. Buses and trolleys provided by Cape Ann Transit Authority were to the ready to shuttle interested riders to the Rocky Neck art colony and even to Hammond Castle, with Cruiseport Gloucester’s Sheree DeLorenzo heading up the city’s greeting parties.
A number of downtown restaurants were ready and willing to deal with the added Tuesday lunchtime crowds, while downtown shops reached out as well.
In short, many throughout Gloucester’s business community were prepared to make the most of the opportunities brought ashore by passengers from across the country who stopped in Gloucester on a cruise that began out of New York bound for Nova Scotia and then to Montreal.
The real test of downtown’s resolve, however, will come the next time around — when the 936-foot, 2,100-passenger Eurodam, a regular visitor for the last two years with its 11 passenger decks and 929-member crew, pulls in for its first visit of the fall.
If you think that can bring a bonanza for local businesses, you may be right. Yet, if you’ve looked at your calendar, you’ll also notice that Sept. 16 is a Sunday. And that poses an important question for business owners.
Last fall, hundreds of Eurodam passengers also visited Gloucester on a Sunday, all with money to spend. And beyond the city’s major restaurants, most found a city that had essentially closed its window of opportunity. Few downtown businesses were open, leaving significant business opportunities — and, for those passengers, at least – Gloucester’s reputation as a welcoming city on the doorstep.
Simply put, that should not happen this time. For all the gains they have made in recent years, the fact is, some Gloucester merchants still like to whine about declining business and a lack of new opportunities coming into town. Here is one such opportunity — if they have the work ethic to plan ahead and open their doors to these visitors who are anxious to see what our city has to offer.
The cruise ship business continues to hold immense potential for Gloucester and its downtown business community. But business opportunities are a two-way street — even when they involve ocean cruise lines.
Come Sept. 16, it will be time for this city’s downtown businesses to open their doors and welcome the Eurodam and its passengers — or forever hold their peace.