Sole cruise ship from Hawaii returns to Maui, weekly inter-island sailings
After more than two years, Norwegian Cruise Liner’s Pride of America – the only US-flagged ship to be stationed in Hawaii – is once again plying inter-island cruises, with Maui as the first stop.
After departing from its Honolulu base on Saturday, the ship docked at the Port of Kahului at 7 a.m. Sunday. Scheduled to leave Valley Isle for Hilo at 6pm tonight.
US Department of Transportation spokesman Jai Cunningham said Pride of America is operating at 50% capacity under the port deal. The ship has a capacity of 2,300 and just over 1,000 guests are on board.
He added that the restrictions on the cruise industry are stricter than those on the airline sector. “Port arrangements in the cruise industry are far more tightly regulated than in the airline industry. When it comes to COVID-19, we’ve had people calling us concerned about any kind of outbreak or cases that might be on board,” he said. “Just know that there are strict regulations that are being put in place.”
Other Norwegian Cruise Liner COVID-19 rules for US ports require all guests 12 years and older, along with crew, to be fully vaccinated at least two weeks prior to sailing. Upon check-in, all guests must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen or PCR test within two days of embarkation.
According to the company’s website, onboard medical centers conduct testing and contract tracking. Masks are recommended on board but not required.
Cruise ship tours were suspended in Hawaii following the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020 and returned to the state in January.
The Grand Princess cruise ship arrived in the port of Kahului on Jan. 12 when the state was still under COVID-19 restrictions, raising several concerns among residents.
Pride of America, the only cruise ship that operates year-round through the state, ports in all four counties, with overnights in Maui and Kauai, according to the company’s website.
“As the only cruise line operating year-round from Hawaii, we are thrilled to finally be back,” said Harry Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line’s president and chief executive officer, in a company press release released today.
Cruise ships calling in Hawaii in February were required to follow strict health and safety protocols under Hawaii’s Safe Travels program, including immunizations and COVID-19 testing, and have dedicated onboard medical staff, isolation cabins and a contingency plan local hospitals to treat any COVID issues, according to the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority.
In the first two months of this year, 13,960 visitors entered the state from out of state via 11 cruise lines, HTA said.
This compares to 26,015 visitors arriving in Hawaii on 16 out-of-state cruise ships in the first two months of 2020, and 20,671 visitors arriving by plane to board the Hawaii-based cruise ship.
In the first two months of 2019, 28,348 visitors arrived in Hawaii on 15 out-of-state cruise ships, and 94,927 visitors flew to Hawaii and boarded the Hawaii-based cruise ship.