Norm Hjort, Pier Operations Manager Portland & Rockland Maine
What makes you a local?
I am proud to say I am a true “New Englander” and “Mainer”. Born in Portland and living in Maine all but five years of my life. In Maine if you were not born in the state you are “from away” no matter how long you have lived here. However, people should be aware that there are “two Maines” and even with our small cities, the city life in Maine is drastically different to country life, but having both environments adds a distinct charm of Maine.I had a great childhood here, especially at the beach, where my friend and I would row out in a boat to catch lobster – once we drifted out too far, tipped over and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard, which made my mother furious as I didn’t know how to swim…
What do you love about Maine?
There is something for everyone here – as our state motto says: “Maine – The way life should be”. The State of Maine is a great place to be and I have many fond memories growing up in the city of Portland; we have the ocean, beautiful forests & lakes for camping, fishing and hunting, warm summers at the beach, snowy winters to enjoy the excellent museums and fine restaurants, gorgeous autumn leaves and great local people.
Why are you an expert on this destination?
I consider myself a history buff and love the history of Portland and Maine in general, teaching it during my time as a middle school teacher and sharing my knowledge with cruise guests when I was a tour guide, something I continue to do in my current role whenever I have the chance.
Do you know any local “characters”?
When I was a child I thought I knew Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882), an American poet and educator whose works include Paul Revere’s Ride, The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. Longfellow was born in Portland and owned a house there. The house was abandoned and a homeless man moved in. He would tell the local children he was Henry Longfellow and we of course believed him. People would come to see the house and this man would charge them admission to go inside. Unfortunately, the house was torn down in 1959 and I never saw “Mr. Longfellow” again.
What will you smell, see and hear in Maine?
There is nothing like smelling the ocean air and feeling the sand beneath your feet, or venturing out on the cool crisp autumn days or even during a Maine snow storm, which is then followed by the pleasant return of spring after a long winter.
Tell us about your role with Intercruises…
After retiring from teaching, I was a tour guide for a small company; writing scripts, training other guides and supporting pier operations, which is something I now lead in Maine, coordinating guides, transportation and ensuring all tours go smoothly. I really enjoy the special interaction with the guests, onboard team and our local partners, whether it is the guides and bus drivers or port authorities and security. Our tours are a major part of a cruise experience and I want cruise guests to experience the great things of the state and city I love, so hopefully they will want to return.
What does the future hold?
Tourism has taken hold in Portland and there is an explosion of visitors – you should to visit now and experience the rustic small town charm. The Greater Portland area is changing – ocean property is being bought up, taller buildings are being built and vast tracts of natural lands are being develop, but the Maine mystique will remain and the people of Maine will continue to take pride in their state – I could never leave Maine permanently and most Maine natives will always call Maine their home.