Sole Hawaiʻi-based cruise ship returns to Maui, weekly interisland trips
After more than two years, Norwegian Cruise Liner’s Pride of America — the only U.S.-flagged vessel based in Hawai’i — is sailing interisland cruises again, with Maui as its first stop.
After departing from its Honolulu base Saturday, the ship docked at Kahului Harbor at 7 a.m. Sunday. It is slated to leave the Valley Isle at 6 this evening for Hilo.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Jai Cunningham said Pride of America is operating at 50% capacity as part of the port agreement. The ship has a capacity of 2,300, and a little more than 1,000 guests are aboard.
He added that restrictions for the cruise industry are more stringent than the airlines sector. “The port agreements in the cruise industry is far more regulated than the airline industry, so when it comes to COVID-19, we have had people call worried about any sort of an outbreak or any cases that may be on board,” he said. “Just know that there are strict regulations that are put in place.”
Other Norwegian Cruise Liner COVID-19 rules for US ports require that all guests 12 and older, along with crew, must be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to departure. At check-in, all guests must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test within two days of embarking.
Onboard medical centers conduct testing and contract tracing, according to the company website. Masks are recommended onboard but not required.
Cruise ship tours shut down in Hawaiʻi after the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and they returned to the state in January.
The Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at Kahului Harbor on Jan. 12 when the state was still under COVID-19 restrictions, sparking several concerns from residents.
Pride of America, the only cruise ship to sail throughout the state year-round, ports at all four counties, with overnight stays on Maui and Kauaʻi, the company website says.
“Being the only cruise line to sail year-round from Hawai’i, we’re thrilled to be back at last,” Norwegian Cruise Line President and Chief Executive Officer Harry Sommer said in a company news release published today.
Cruise ships that came to Hawaiʻi in February were required to follow strict health and safety protocols under the Hawai‘i’s Safe Travels program including vaccination, COVID-19 testing, and have dedicated medical staff on board, cabins for isolation, and a contingency plan with local hospitals to handle any COVID issues, according to Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.
For the first two months of this year, 13,960 visitors entered the state via 11 out-of-state cruise ships, HTA said.
In comparison, 26,015 visitors entered Hawai‘i on 16 out-of-state cruise ships, and 20,671 visitors came by air to board the Hawai‘i home-ported cruise ship during the first two months of 2020.
In the first two months of 2019, 28,348 visitors came to Hawai‘i by way of 15 out-of-state cruise ships and 94,927 visitors flew to Hawai‘i and boarded the Hawai‘i home-ported cruise ship.