Portland, Maine, USA cruises
Nestled in the south of Maine, Portland is a picturesque waterfront city that has been attracting visitors for more than 400 years.
Portland port guide
Europeans settled in Portland in the 1600s, and colonial influence can be seen throughout the city today. As you wander the streets, you’ll see plenty of 19th century architecture, and the remnants of Portland’s historic trading and fishing station character.
In addition to maritime history, find opportunities to explore some wonderful quirky art scenes, raw and rugged natural scenery, world-class dining, and much more.
Top landmarks and sights in Portland
Portland brings the chance to take a closer look at the US’ colonial past. From the still-bustling Old Port to historic mansions and other buildings, you’ll find you may not want to put your camera away.
Portland Old Port
18th century architecture and eye-catching modern buildings live harmoniously in Portland’s Old Port. Wander along cobblestone streets to find some excellent bars and restaurants, and opportunities for a little souvenir shopping. Along the way, you’ll pass the freshest catch in fishmongers’ warehouses as fisherfolk haul their catch off their boats. Dine on expertly prepared seafood. Sample craft beers at local microbreweries. Gaze up at Portland City Hall, all in this quirky and historic space.
As an integral city in US sea trade, Portland is home to many landmarks that hark back to its maritime history. In the East End find Portland’s Observatory, a communication station commissioned by Captain Lemuel Moody in 1807, and the last remaining signal tower in the US today. You could also visit the oldest lighthouse in Maine, Portland Head Light, or Fort Gorges, a mid-19th-century military fort.
Victoria Mansion in downtown Portland was once the summer home of Ruggles Sylvester Morse, a Maine-based hotelier. Modeled on decorative Italian villas, this mid-19th century architecture now acts as a reminder of Portland in a bygone era. The Tate House is one of the oldest colonial homes in the US, built in 1775 for a senior mast agent in the British Royal Navy, Captain George Tate. Then there’s the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, now a museum, that was once owned by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s family.
Things to do in Portland
Portland offers something for all its visitors. Spend your time wildlife watching, or perhaps wandering through picturesque parks in the city. Museums abound, should you want to learn more about Maine’s history and culture, or maybe you’d simply enjoy a slow pace, exploring unique neighborhoods, stopping once or twice in a welcoming café.
Museums and culture
Congress Street is the backbone of Portland’s art center, where you’ll find a number of historic art museums that await your discovery. You can also find exciting concerts, symphonies, and ballet performances should you get an opportunity to indulge. Most galleries stay open late, and the Portland Museum of Art often hosts special events to keep an eye out for.
The waters of Casco Bay are home to an abundance of wildlife that can be spotted on foot on a local hike trail, or perhaps you’d prefer to rent a kayak or paddleboard and get a little closer to the seals, dolphins, and more. Another unique and inexpensive experience is to join the locals on the Casco Bay Lines Mailboat Run. This historic, working vessel transports passengers, as well as mail, to the islands in the bay.
Portland's neighborhoods and parks
One of the best-preserved Victorian neighborhoods in Portland is known as West End. Spend time getting lost as you stroll along charming tree-lined streets, taking in restored brick homes adorned in ivy and surrounded by original iron fencing. Perhaps you’ll end up in one of Portland’s many parks. Deering Oaks is the largest, featuring plenty of beautiful green space and a pond, as well as recreational facilities such as tennis courts and a playground.
Eating and drinking near Portland
Washington Avenue is a known foodie hotspot in Portland. Here you’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, and distilleries to explore, so whether you’re in the mood for fresh and fragrant oysters, or some flavorsome international cuisine, discover it here.
As a center of maritime history, it will be no surprise to learn that fish is often the order of the day in Portland. Clam chowder, fresh oysters, cod, salmon rolls, and lobster rolls are all excellent choices if you’re a lover of seafood. Portland also has a reputation for tasty sweet treats, from creamy ice cream to baked goods like sticky buns and maple bacon donuts.
Shopping in Portland
In Downtown Portland, you’ll find an array of shops and unique boutiques, including both chain stores and independent businesses. Take your time browsing trinkets and treasures, whether you’re looking for a memento for yourself or a special surprise for a loved one.
Art galleries across the city offer many thought-provoking pieces for sale, which could take pride of place in your home and act as a beautiful reminder of your time in Maine. Perhaps you’d rather purchase handcrafted pieces at a local market. East End Vend is one such market where you can shop for crafts, as well as browse fresh farmers’ produce.
Getting around: Portland transport
Portland’s cruise terminal is on the city’s historic waterfront, which is within walking distance of many of the city’s highlights. It’s roughly a 15-20-minute walk to spots like Congress Street and Downtown Portland.
Should you wish to travel a little further afield, taxis are readily available in the city, as well as public transport options. A company called TriMet runs a bus service, a streetcar, and the MAX light rail service, the latter of which extends to more than 90 stations across 60 miles throughout Portland.
Portland port facilities
There are two cruise ports in Portland, Maine. Portland Ocean Terminal (Maine State Pier) and the Ocean Gateway Terminal. The Cunard Queens may dock in either, and you’ll find basic amenities in both including toilets, an information desk, and ATMs.
Top tips for Portland
The currency in Portland, as with the rest of the US, is the US Dollar (USD). You’ll find ATMs and currency exchange services in Portland itself or, alternatively, it’s possible to purchase USD on board your ship.
While most businesses throughout Portland will accept card payments, it can be useful to carry some cash with you if you’ll be shopping at markets, or smaller cafes and shops.
It is customary to leave a tip for many services in Portland, and indeed across the US. In cafes and restaurants, 15% or more of your total bill is appropriate. For other services like taxis and bartenders, at least 10% is roughly the norm.
In Maine, the summer months of June, July, and August reach average highs of between 73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. The winter months of December, January, and February, on the other hand, average temperatures of between -17.5 and 32 degrees Fahrenheit. October and November see the most rain, and August is the driest month.