The largest city in Maine, Portland was founded in 1632 on the Casco Bay Peninsula. It quickly prospered through shipbuilding and the export of inland pines which made excellent masts. A long line of wooden wharves stretched along the seafront, with the merchants' houses on the hillside above. From the earliest days it was a cosmopolitan city. When the railroads came, the Canada Trunk Line had its terminal right on Portland's quayside, bringing the produce of Canada and the Great Plains one hundred miles closer to Europe than any other major U.S. port. Some of the wharves are now occupied by new condominium developments, with the exception of the Customs House Wharf, which remains much as it used to be.
Grand Trunk Station was torn down in 1966 and a revitalization program of this historic section was spearheaded by a group of committed residents. The result was the revival of the Old Port Exchange District with its redbrick streets built in the 1860s following a disastrous fire. The area today features a wide variety of restaurants, specialty and antique shops, and makes for a pleasant place for a stroll. Congress Street and its many side streets are an engaging mixture of culture, commerce and history. Art is everywhere, from the Portland Museum of Art to the many statues and monuments throughout the city. Other points of interest include the Portland Observatory, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home, several colonial mansions and Fort Williams Park, with the adjacent Portland Head Light. Farther afield one can visit the charming yachting and fishing village of Kennebunkport, also noted as the locale of the home and summer White House of former President George Bush.
Going Ashore in Portland
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Portland Ocean Terminal, a very easy walk to the Old Port District located about two blocks away. Taxis are available at the pier.
A wide range of Maine-made clothing, crafts and imported items can be found in shops along the cobblestone streets of the quaint Old Port Exchange. Small boutiques and numerous art galleries feature everything from paintings, crafts and furniture to prints and photographs. Antique lovers will enjoy browsing through area shops. Bargain hunters may want to visit the designer factory outlet shops in Freeport. On Sundays, most shops are open from 12:00 noon to 5:00-6:00 p.m. The local currency is the dollar.
Portland has the most restaurants per capita, second only to San Francisco. Eating establishments are as diverse as the menus they offer. The fresh catch of the day can be found on most menus, but seafood is only one of many culinary delights. From specialty coffee houses and ethnic restaurants to chowder and lobster houses to elegant dining rooms, Portland makes it easy to please every palate.
Longfellow's "City by the Sea"
Portland is a walkable city, and a good place to start exploring is at the Old Port with its striking buildings comprising a bevy of architectural styles, ranging from Italianate to Mansard, Queen Anne to Greek Revival. The charming streets house an amazing collection of shops, galleries, bookstores and restaurants. Congress Street and the Arts District reflect the changes of 350 years of history, boasting an engaging mixture of culture and commerce.
Portland Museum of Art
The museum's award-winning building is a blend of 1911 Beaux Arts and 1983 post-modernism. It houses one of New England's finest art collections. Don't miss the museum's indoor Sculpture Garden.
Built in 1807, this is a rare example of a signal tower from which signal flags would be flown to identify incoming vessels.
Factory Outlets of Freeport
About a 25-minute drive north of Portland (approximately $35 one way for a taxi), this shopping mecca is crammed with serious shoppers who come from as far away as New York.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.