JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Atlantis Cruises' dinner boat Navatek 1 recently went through a renovation that cost about $350,000. The remake included putting in new interiors in both the upper and lower dining rooms as well as repainting the exterior. Navatek 1 cruise executive Ken Kessler chatted on the phone in the Alii Room of the vessel Tuesday afternoon.
Navatek shows off overhaul
The dinner-cruise boat gets a $350,000 upgrade and raises its prices
Sharon and Richard Ludden of Sunset Beach, N.C., and their 6-year -old granddaughter Aneesah Baptist wore smiles as wide as the ocean as they watched the sun set from the deck of the Navatek two miles offshore.
"We like Waikiki because there is so much to do," said Sharon Ludden, who has visited Hawaii four times.
The family, with an Oahu trip packed with plans including hula lessons, a luau, a visit to the North Shore, a snorkel trip to Hanauma Bay and rafting on Waikiki Beach, said that they decided to add Navatek's submarine ride and dinner cruise package to their list Tuesday evening because, at 33 percent off, it seemed like a good value.
The Luddens are one of the first groups of tourists to take advantage of the Atlantis Navatek Cruises package since the boat's refitting. Atlantis put the vessel in dry dock for three weeks and spent more than $350,000 on fresh paint, new flooring, upscale linens and decorator touches. The company also lost about $20,000 a day in visitor revenues during the refit.
The renovation, the first major overhaul since Atlantis purchased the vessel in 2000, is intended to capitalize on Oahu's growing tourist market of active, affluent travelers looking for something more than Hawaii's sun, sand and surf, said Ken Kessler, cruise manager.
"You can really see the difference. The colors are brighter and the product just looks much more fresh and clean," Kessler said. "We needed an update. When you run 300 people a day and another 300 people a night through this boat, it takes a toll."
Renewed tourist demand for Oahu, especially from the U.S. mainland, boosted the state's visitor counts to 7.5 million and spending to $11 billion in 2005. The Navatek is experiencing growth that parallels the rest of Hawaii's visitor industry.
The company is banking on continued growth as well as slight price increases to make its refit investment pay off and cover additional costs associated with the rise in fuel prices and Oahu's notoriously tight labor market, Kessler said.
Dinner cruise prices have risen from $100 to $105 for Navatek's Deluxe Royal Sunset steak-and-lobster dinner. Buffet dinner prices also have risen from $62 to $75. Guests can offset some of the price increases by booking online or by purchasing combination packages.
Troy Allen, who grew up in Pacific Palisades, and his wife, Gina Louise, of Knightdale, N.C., were among those booking the buffet package. Allen, who moved from Hawaii in 1979, said that the cruise was a highlight of the couple's trip.
"It was my first time in Hawaii," Louise said from the deck of the ship as the wind whipped through her hair Tuesday evening. "What a wonderful way to see Waikiki. We'll definitely be back."
Atlantis also is piloting a moonlight cruise that will run from July 5 to Aug. 20 so the company can decide whether to make it a permanent offering.
"We haven't been able to offer a moonlight cruise since 2001. Now, we're bringing it back to give people something to do in Waikiki after dark," Kessler said.
The cruise is geared to the revitalized kamaaina market that has benefited from the strength of Hawaii's economy.
"We will serve up more local-style pupus and entertainment," Kessler said.
The evening cruise, which will depart each night at 8:30 p.m. from Pier 6 at the Aloha Tower Marketplace and return to port at 10 p.m., will carry guests along the shoreline of Waikiki Beach, Diamond Head crater and East Honolulu.
Kamaaina rates for the moonlight cruise are $35 for adults and $20 for children with proof of residency. Rates for non-residents are $58 for adults and $29 for children, with complimentary round-trip transportation from Waikiki hotels.