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Is anyone familiar with the Portland Mail Boat?


Nashna
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We are docked in Portland from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm, which gives us plenty of time to walk around the city.  We are looking into the mailboat ride spending  2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours sailing around the islands.  I would love to hear from others who might have done this cruise.  Frequently Asked Questions - Casco Bay Lines

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Interesting!!  Our cruise on Zaandam in late April has issued port itinerary changes today.  Originally scheduled to stop at Newport RI and Bar Harbor, but both have been cancelled.  NOW, we are stopping at Portland Maine on a Sunday.  But also no shore excursions have been listed.

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It's lovely. We like to go up to Portland for the weekend and have done it a number of times. There are several options (some stop at all the islands, some don't), but all are a circuit from the same place.

Here are some pictures from last spring:

 

PXL_20220326_173008872.thumb.jpg.360b6edada5679b389d86d2e0dff4bfd.jpg

 

PXL_20220326_173813033.thumb.jpg.a95118eeba813bcf9be8b5f32910f184.jpg

 

PXL_20220326_172311929.thumb.jpg.59ca9b6f59bcb119faa9e8073aae404a.jpg

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  • 3 weeks later...

This New York Times article by Ben Ryder Howe (I've shared as a gift so hopefully it won't be behind a paywall, but the Times tends to allow 5 articles per month for free) is about the family that operates the mail boat and was so interesting. 

 

Sorry about the long link, this is how it loaded 🙂 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/03/business/maine-mail-boat-covid.html?unlocked_article_code=uk0vV8SSyjfljVvAIGllV_3zhOG9dGGX8xtUDkLZ0PJ4_YGTSb0cFZe8CuwsXjjEH7FIwwTCCggDMw7nYK6aF7WnNqVWhk_txhtoDaHMsDSKpqwyBMRMtP-aEiHfrfR0Ouzh_AZ9o74bqto1Z9QFdAL6lJjRY79xiMHKUUNvbyBiSTKi_lDbjt4ksUp6BC05pWdQe4JL3sl9ZR10AMcV_jmYCr4TaLPbcCk4BNm-H0av4Zi5IDj0YxT3IswhnWhqII1EaK9bRU0S35vhTrgaJNtGcfFhVX1nFR4GbhKDwlbcJVE2YN00NLcnxNwcP12B4I93_EbL7gN8rmzhyoygjQ&smid=url-share

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13 hours ago, Host Bonjour said:

This New York Times article by Ben Ryder Howe (I've shared as a gift so hopefully it won't be behind a paywall, but the Times tends to allow 5 articles per month for free) is about the family that operates the mail boat and was so interesting.

While that is about a mail boat up in Hancock County (which is where Bar Harbor is), what is being discussed is the Casco Bay Ferry Line "Mailboat Run", down in Portland.  This has been a licensed mail carrier since the 1870's, and delivers not only mail and packages, but groceries, and propane tanks to islanders in Casco Bay as well.  Islanders will shop for groceries on the mainland, then at checkout, they tell the cashier that it is an "island delivery", and the food is taken in back of the store, boxed up (usually one bag of groceries goes in each of a top or bottom of a banana box), refrigerated or frozen (shoppers usually provide coolers), and delivered to the ferry terminal in the afternoon, with the owner's name on  the boxes.  Each island's deliveries are palletized and wrapped, loaded on the boat, and delivered to the island dock.  The owners then come down and claim their stuff and take it home.  Some islands don't allow cars, so golf carts are the delivery haulers.  Some islands do allow cars, and several families will frequently go in together to buy an old car that probably would not pass state inspection (too much rust, etc), and designate these as "island cars", which don't need inspections or license plates as long as they don't leave the island.

 

Casco Bay Ferry also provides the transportation  for middle and high school students from the islands to the schools on the mainland, both ways, morning and afternoon.

 

I live in Portland, and one son worked for Casco Bay Ferries for a while, so if the OP has questions about the "run" or the islands, I can help.

Edited by chengkp75
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  • 2 months later...
On 4/12/2023 at 6:24 AM, chengkp75 said:

While that is about a mail boat up in Hancock County (which is where Bar Harbor is), what is being discussed is the Casco Bay Ferry Line "Mailboat Run", down in Portland.  This has been a licensed mail carrier since the 1870's, and delivers not only mail and packages, but groceries, and propane tanks to islanders in Casco Bay as well.  Islanders will shop for groceries on the mainland, then at checkout, they tell the cashier that it is an "island delivery", and the food is taken in back of the store, boxed up (usually one bag of groceries goes in each of a top or bottom of a banana box), refrigerated or frozen (shoppers usually provide coolers), and delivered to the ferry terminal in the afternoon, with the owner's name on  the boxes.  Each island's deliveries are palletized and wrapped, loaded on the boat, and delivered to the island dock.  The owners then come down and claim their stuff and take it home.  Some islands don't allow cars, so golf carts are the delivery haulers.  Some islands do allow cars, and several families will frequently go in together to buy an old car that probably would not pass state inspection (too much rust, etc), and designate these as "island cars", which don't need inspections or license plates as long as they don't leave the island.

 

Casco Bay Ferry also provides the transportation  for middle and high school students from the islands to the schools on the mainland, both ways, morning and afternoon.

 

I live in Portland, and one son worked for Casco Bay Ferries for a while, so if the OP has questions about the "run" or the islands, I can help.

We are looking to do this in October.  I am guessing the boat ride will show some nice fall foliage.  Do you book ahead of time?   Or do you just go to the dock and buy a ticket?   Are there usually long lines?  

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2 hours ago, itsanita said:

We are looking to do this in October.  I am guessing the boat ride will show some nice fall foliage.  Do you book ahead of time?   Or do you just go to the dock and buy a ticket?   Are there usually long lines?  

I contacted the company about buying tickets in advance. They said no, you just walk up. Said the boat is very big and there is always room.  They are near where the cruise ships dock. 

 

We are planning on doing this for our stop there in September.

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31 minutes ago, ellenw said:

I contacted the company about buying tickets in advance. They said no, you just walk up. Said the boat is very big and there is always room.  They are near where the cruise ships dock. 

 

We are planning on doing this for our stop there in September.

Thanks for checking.    

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On 6/19/2023 at 3:20 PM, Ashland said:

Did you check booking with "Dave's Taxi Tours" ? Hopefully they might have an opening. 

His website is not functioning.  I think he may be out of business.  

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On 6/22/2023 at 12:39 PM, ellenw said:

I contacted the company about buying tickets in advance. They said no, you just walk up. Said the boat is very big and there is always room.  They are near where the cruise ships dock. 

 

We are planning on doing this for our stop there in September.

They have a very nice terminal building with benches, restrooms, and vending machines as well. I also think the water fountain has a water bottle fill station, but I might be misremembering.

 

I've never had to wait more than a few minutes in line to buy tickets, and the ferries are usually on time. Just listen for the announcements - the Peaks Island Ferry is a car ferry, so it boards on one side and the other ferries usually board on the other.

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  • 4 weeks later...

We would like to do the Casco Bay Mailboat Run in October.   Is it close to where the ship docks and would we make it back to the ship in time.?   Guess we are worried that the mailboat could break down and won't make it back to the ship in time.  Anyone have any experience doing the Mailboat Run??

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15 hours ago, D & S said:

We would like to do the Casco Bay Mailboat Run in October.   Is it close to where the ship docks and would we make it back to the ship in time.?   Guess we are worried that the mailboat could break down and won't make it back to the ship in time.  Anyone have any experience doing the Mailboat Run??

It's right next to the cruise ship dock. I've taken several times. While anything could happen on any mode of transportation, it's a daily ferry that everyone who lives on those islands depends on. There are also several different routes at different times, so unless you have a very short call in Portland, you should be able to have a comfortable buffer. Make sure to look at all their offerings - the Diamond Pass Run is very similar and equally beautiful - it just skips the farthest out islands if I remember correctly.

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On 6/22/2023 at 11:39 AM, ellenw said:

I contacted the company about buying tickets in advance. They said no, you just walk up. Said the boat is very big and there is always room.  They are near where the cruise ships dock. 

 

We are planning on doing this for our stop there in September.

Hey @ellenw what ship and sail date are you there in Sept? Portland is on our itinerary Sept 16-29. We also want to do this. Looks like we only go to Portland once - Mon Sept 25.

Edited by Haljo1935
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https://www.cascobaylines.com/maine-boat-tours/specialty-cruises/mailboat/

Direct link to the tour company - of the 4 tour options,  2 time with our port stop; schedule allows for only 1/day so have to choose between Mail Run and Diamond Pass.

We're canceling our Kennebunkport excursion hoping to do one of these.

Thanks for sharing!!

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29 minutes ago, Haljo1935 said:

Hey @ellenw what ship and sail date are you there in Sept? Portland is on our itinerary Sept 16-29. We also want to do this. Looks like we only go to Portland once - Mon Sept 25.

We are on the Joy out of NY on 9/4/23. We will be in Portland on Wednesday, 9/6. Planning on doing the 10:00 Mail Run.

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1 hour ago, ellenw said:

We are on the Joy out of NY on 9/4/23. We will be in Portland on Wednesday, 9/6. Planning on doing the 10:00 Mail Run.

Thanks - will you follow up with your thoughts after you go? We'd like to do this, which would require canceling what we have for Kennebunkport,  so all the feedback we can get to help us make our decision is appreciated. 

Safe travels  - enjoy your cruise!

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20 hours ago, ellenw said:

We are on the Joy out of NY on 9/4/23. We will be in Portland on Wednesday, 9/6. Planning on doing the 10:00 Mail Run.

 

Please post your experience after you sail as we are looking into this for October also.  We recently did a similar thing in Seattle, just took a commuter ferry roundtrip for cheap money instead of an expensive harbor cruise and really enjoyed it.  If the weather is right, we definitely want to do the mail run.

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22 hours ago, Haljo1935 said:

Thanks - will you follow up with your thoughts after you go? We'd like to do this, which would require canceling what we have for Kennebunkport,  so all the feedback we can get to help us make our decision is appreciated. 

Safe travels  - enjoy your cruise!

 

4 hours ago, reallyitsmema said:

 

Please post your experience after you sail as we are looking into this for October also.  We recently did a similar thing in Seattle, just took a commuter ferry roundtrip for cheap money instead of an expensive harbor cruise and really enjoyed it.  If the weather is right, we definitely want to do the mail run.

I will let you know how we make out. Will try to post while we are still cruising, but no guarantees! You know how time gets away from you when cruising.

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2 hours ago, massmomoftwins said:

Curious if you can see any of the lighthouses while on the Mail Run? I would like to see the Portland Head. Thanks!

During our Mail Boat Run we sailed by Portland Headlight as we started our tour.

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