After 15 months in dry dock due to the coronavirus pandemic, the passenger cruise industry is preparing to make stops at the Port of Hawaii before the end of the year.
Ross Birch, executive director of the Hawaii Island Visitors Bureau, said on Friday that cruise industry officials were “pretty solid” in their plans.
“It seems after the lectures they’ve had recently and the situation in Florida, a lot of them are sticking to 100% vaccination of passengers and crew,” Birch said. “To be able to navigate they need to start the reservation system now for the November launch dates.”
The “Florida situation” Birch refers to is a June 18 federal court ruling that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not enforce his conditional navigation order on cruise ships in Florida waters. It was a victory for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, who sued the CDC in April.
The conditional departure order required cruise passengers to show that 95% of crew and passengers are vaccinated, or to conduct trial cruises with volunteer passengers to prove they can mitigate the risk of coronavirus.
“The recent ruling only applies to the state of Florida and does not apply to other states at this time,” said Shelly Kunishige, spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Transportation. “The Hawaii Department of Transportation does not intend to deviate from the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their conditional navigation order, to include the need for formal agreements with local jurisdictions. “
That said, Norwegian Cruise Lines Hawaii is reserving seven-day inter-island cruises aboard Pride of America for November and December, as well as January 2022. All passenger cabins except suites – the most frequent passage expensive – are all sold. The suites still available cost over $ 10,000 for cruises departing from Honolulu on November 27, December 7 and December 18.
According to the website hawaii.portcall.com, the Pride of America, which can accommodate 3,236 guests, has stopovers in Hilo scheduled for Nov. 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, and Nov. 7, 14, 21, and 28.
Additionally, NCL’s Norwegian Jewel has stopovers in Hilo scheduled for November 3-10.
Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess is scheduled to make stops in Hilo on November 11, November 25, and Christmas Day. The Ruby Princess is scheduled to dock in Hilo on November 12 and December 15 and 27. Holland America’s MS Zuiderdam recorded stops in Hilo for November 27 and December 11. And the Carnival Miracle is scheduled to stop on December 6 and 12.
The industry is considering an even earlier return of liners to Kailua-Kona.
The Carnival Miracle has stops in Kailua-Kona scheduled for September 24, October 24, and December 5 and 11. The Celebrity Eclipse is scheduled to drop anchor on September 27. 11 stopovers. Norwegian Jewel is due to arrive on October 12, November 2 and 9. MS Zuiderdam has stopovers on November 28 and December 12.
And Pride of America has stops in Kona scheduled for November 3, 10, 17, 24 and December 1, 8, 15, 23, and 29.
“We anticipate the return of Pride of America later this year and are confident that the Hawaii cruise industry can operate safely,” Kunishige said.
Natalie Sampaio, owner of Hilo Ocean Adventures – which offers snorkeling, scuba diving, and tours to see sea turtles and humpback whales – said any arrival of cruise ships in 2021 would be A suprise.
“I thought it wouldn’t happen until early next year at some point,” she said. “I’d be curious to see if that’s really the case… do it so soon.” But if it does, it will affect our business tremendously. First of all, all the guests coming from the ship are walking right next to our facility, so it’s very visible to them.
“The other part, though, is that we are so understaffed that we don’t know if we could handle this now. “
The shutdown of the cruise industry and quarantines on arriving air passengers meant that Sampaio had “almost no business” earlier in the pandemic, forcing layoffs.
“Many of our employees were students, so they had to return home to the mainland. We never really got them back, ”she said.
Sampaio said business has resumed due to the lifting of restrictions on trans-Pacific air arrivals.
“We’ve tried to hire at a feverish level just to have someone help our guests when they arrive,” she said.
“And it’s not just my business. Everyone is understaffed everywhere I go. The businesses are just crowded and the people there are just slammed. And they do their best, but everyone is understaffed.
The Tribune-Herald contacted Norwegian Cruise Lines, who did not respond in time for this story.
Email John Burnett at [email protected]