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Hawaii Welcoming Back More Large Cruise Sailings

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After almost 2 years, in January of 2022, the Hawaii government decided to lift the ban on large cruise ships from coming to the islands. Now, the first of the large ships docks on the archipelago with the only American-made cruise ship, the almost 1,000 foot Pride of America, doing round trips between Hawaii and California.

pride of america ship

The cruise industry which was thriving with steady strides suffered a major recession as the cruise lines had to comply with CDC’s “Conditional Sailing Order.”  which was first implemented on March 14, 2020 and was extended multiple times, the last was in October of last year.

According to Hawaiiportal, Honolulu received the most number of cruise passengers in 2019 at  291,080 followed by Kauai at 229,321 and Kahului at 154,024. The island in total received 481,076 passengers in 2019 which was a hefty 34% year on year increase compared to 2018. 

cruise ships in waikiki

Hawaii has always been a tricky destination for cruise ships from the mainland U.S. due to the cabotage laws. The laws from over 100 years ago specify that ships carrying more then 100 passengers must be owned, built and crewed exclusively by Americans when traveling between two domestic American ports. This means that the vast majority of cruise ships, which are crewed by foreigners for economic reasons. have to dock in an international port (mostly in Mexico) before reaching Hawaii, to comply with the law.

pride of america in honolulu

In 2015 Norwegian Cruise Lines built the only American-built and crewed ship, Pride of America, started doing direct round trip cruises between California and the tropical islands of Hawaii. That is until February of 2020 came.

During the height of the first wave of Covid-19, cruise ships were one of the first culprits in the spreading of the virus and they were colloquially known as “virus incubators” due to the fact that all the passengers are just stuck together sharing the same space (and air) for the duration of the trip.

large cruise ship

Then 2021 came, vaccines became widely available and distributed fast, and it’s summer saw the return of the first few cautious cruise lines, but none to Hawaii as the islands’ government decided to uphold the ban. It is 2022 though, the Omicron variant with its high infection rate and low mortality meant that, after a problematic beginning during the winter, the worries about the disease are at an all time low, and everything seems to be under control as the islands brace themselves for post pandemic economic boom where the projected revenue is expected to gross $59 billion by 2027. 

tourists leaving the cruise ship

Cruise lines, however, will unfortunately be another avenue to contribute to over tourism that is rummaging the jewels of the pacific. The accommodation in island is being made deliberately more cumbersome to curb over-tourism with the island O’ahu enforcing a minimal rental of 90 days. Hotel rates are skyrocketing fueled by new demand due to easing of restrictions. Over tourism has been contributing a lot to gentrification and inflation to the point that many Hawaiian locals don’t want tourists to return due to mass over-tourism. Despite all this, the number of rental stays continues to rise

docked ship in hawaii

More indirect problems generated by cruises is the fact that it brings a massive amount of tourists to the islands, most of which do not contribute directly to the islands economy, rather dining and sleeping inside the ships. The lack of locals’ interaction with the cruise economy leaves for most residents (and even tourists who did not come with such cruises) a bitter taste in the mouth regarding large ships around the islands.

pride of america docked in honolulu

Many other destinations around the globe that are also fighting with over-tourism have permanently banned large ships from docking in their ports, for example Venice and the French Polynesia. It remains to be seen if the problem with too many tourists in Hawaii will prompt the authorities to make the tropical archipelago join the list eventually.