January 19 • 2011
Dotting the shores and among the islands of Casco Bay a troop of white, black, yellow and red ferries shuffle visitors and residents back and forth throughout the day, every day. These ferries play an important role if you are planning a wedding on one of the islands, or even if you decide to marry on the water or treat your guests to a water cocktail hour or reception. Casco Bay Lines director of sales and marketing Caity Baker walks us through this multifaceted ferry business based in Portland, Maine.
L&L: Tell us a little bit about the background and history of Casco Bay Lines.
BAY LINES: Casco Bay Lines has a rich history in Portland; in fact, there has been scheduled ferry service to the islands in Casco Bay since around 1870 or 1871. Several companies, including Casco Bay Steamboat Company, Harpswell Lines, and, most recently Casco Bay Lines have provided this service.
Casco Bay Lines currently has a fleet of five Coast Guard inspected vessels ranging from 65 to 122 feet in length, with passenger capacities of 299 to 399. Year round service to six islands including Peaks, Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague, and Cliff is provided.
Casco Bay Lines is the “lifeline” for residents of the islands. Approximately 1,000,000 passengers, 25,000 vehicles, and 2,600 tons of cargo are transported annually.
In addition to commuter service, scenic tours, private charters, lobster bakes, summer music cruises, and seasonal service to Bailey Island are provided.
L&L: Some of our readers may have their wedding on one of the islands in Casco Bay. What are some of the services CBL offers?
BAY LINES: The islands of Casco Bay make great destinations for wedding events and Casco Bay Lines can help get you there, whether it is on our convenient commuter service trips or on a private chartered boat. We can also help with the logistics of getting freight and vendors to the islands and helping guests find parking.
L&L: What is included in a cruise and or private charter?
BAY LINES: Our private charter boats are available year round for all your wedding needs. Whether it is service to one of the islands with a cocktail hour, wedding ceremony and reception on board, or an after party from one of the island venues, the boat is a full functioning event facility. The Bay Mist has tables and chairs for 200 (between 2 decks), a galley for a caterer, and a view unlike no other. On a Casco Bay Lines private charter we take care of the tables, chairs, bar set up, and bartenders. We give you the flexibility to choose your caterer, photographer, florist, decorator, and any other vendors you may have in mind for a unique wedding experience.
L&L: Couples are always looking for ways to entertain an out-of-town guest. Does CBL have things to do?
BAY LINES: Casco Bay Lines scenic tours are a great way to entertain out of town guests. From a 20 minute ride over to Peaks Island for lunch and a bike ride to a 5 hr. and 45 min. cruise to Bailey Island for lobster at Cook’s Lobster House. Highlights in the bay include lighthouses, lobsterman tending to their traps, Victorian cottages, turn of the century forts, and the occasional seal or whale.
L&L: What are some tips couples should consider when planning to get their guests over the islands?
BAY LINES: Planning an island wedding can be challenging but also an adventure; however most couples would agree that the hard work will pay off when you create the wedding day of your dreams. When deciding on an island wedding, our marketing department is a good place to start. We will help you determine whether a charter or regular service makes the most sense, where your guests can find parking, how to make sure all your guests get on the right boat at the correct time, and offer suggestions on vendors that are familiar with the island venues. We also have a great freight department that can help sort out logistics of getting vendors and supplies to and form the island.
L&L: Do you offer a group rates? Is it an option for couples to purchase gifts ahead of time for their guests? Would those guests need CBL’s ticket in hand or do you have something like a guest list for ticket pick up?
BAY LINES: There are no group rates for tickets to the islands but we do offer the ability for people to purchase tickets up to sixty days in advance. We don’t hold tickets in our will call but rather suggest your designate someone to stand at the gate and hand out tickets. That way your guests will know they are at the correct gate.
If you are on a budget you could also have guests buy tickets individually. Whatever option you decide be sure to alert Casco Bay Lines to the number of guests, the island, the ferry the majority of the guests will be on, and the ferry guests will be retuning on. This allows us to have enough staff on board the boats to accommodate your group and to be able to answer questions should your guests have them.
L&L: Do couples ever tie the knot while aboard?
BAY LINES: A Casco Bay Lines ferry is a unique venue for a wedding ceremony. We can accommodate up to 100 for a wedding ceremony. Our captains will take you to your favorite spot in the harbor where you can say your vows in the backdrop of Casco Bay. This option would allow you to choose your own officiant and customize the ceremony to meet your needs. The reception can continue on the boat, on one of the islands, or back in Portland.
L&L: How far in advance should a couple book a private charter or cruise?
BAY LINES: We tend to book our private charters a year in advance but dates can be available on shorter notice. Saturday dates tend to go first with more flexibility for Friday and Sunday dates.
L&L: What must see places and eateries do you suggest fold from out of town check out while visiting Maine?
BAY LINES: My must see places on Casco Bay are the Chebeague Island Inn; they have an amazing deck with a view of the bay and a great menu. On Peaks Island I recommend renting a bike and exploring the rocky back shore of the island with a final stop at Peaks Café or Hannigan’s Island Market for a sandwich. For a great day in Portland I would highly recommend walking through the shops in the Old Port, a visit to the Portland Observatory with a bird’s eye view of Casco Bay, drinks at the Top of the East, and dinner at Walter’s.
L&L: Thank you for giving us an inside peek into the Casco Bay Lines. If readers want to get in touch with you to inquire about availability, what is the best way for them to reach you?
BAY LINES: For more information on Casco Bay Lines please visit our webstie at www.cascobaylines or contact me directly at 207-774-7871 x105 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, don’t forget to become a fan on facebook for the latest news and happenings, www.facebook.com/CascoBayLines.