The cruise ship Pride of Hawaii left the Meyer shipyard in northern Germany in March of last year before sailing to Hawaii. Cruise operator NCL plans to withdraw the ship from Hawaii in February and put it into service in Europe. CLICK FOR LARGE
Pride of Hawaii's loss will sting, not cripple, isle businesses say
Even businesses that depend on the cruise industry say they'll get by after ship departs
While Norwegian Cruise Line's plan to downsize its Hawaii-ported fleet certainly won't help Hawaii tourism, members of the state's visitor industry say they have survived bigger shocks.
Hawaii business owners who cater to the cruise business anticipate far fewer economic impacts from the loss of one ship than they experienced after the 2001 bankruptcy of NCL America's predecessor, American Classic Voyages Inc.
And they are hopeful that the growing number of foreign-flagged cruise ships entering Hawaii's market will shore up business after Pride of Hawaii leaves in February.
Hawaii business owners who cater to the cruise industry say Norwegian Cruise Line's decision to cut its Hawaii fleet by one-third doesn't compare to the worst they've been through.
"When American Classic Voyages Inc. went bankrupt it was devastating," said Michael Hopkins, owner of Aloha Kauai Tours. "It was worse than Hurricane Iniki."
Maggie Brown, president of Kona-based Body Glove Cruises, which operates whale-watching and other tours, said she lost $68,000 when NCL America's predecessor went bankrupt in 2001 and laid off more than 800 employees.
NCL, which has been credited with keeping many of the isle visitor industry's small businesses afloat and creating expansion opportunities for others, said late Tuesday that it will rename Pride of Hawaii and send it to Europe in February. The ship, which holds about 2,400 passengers and employs 965 workers, will not return to Hawaii until NCL America -- the unit that operates NCL's Hawaii-ported ships -- achieves profitability, NCL said.
NCL is a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Star Cruises Ltd. which is controlled by Malaysia's Genting Bhd. Last month both NCL and Star Cruises posted quarterly and fiscal-year losses.
The Norwegian Cruise Lines ship "Pride of Hawaii on its maiden voyage arrived in Nawiliwili Harbor on Kauai. CLICK FOR LARGE
Hawaii's visitor industry will have to accommodate NCL America's growing pains, said State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert.
"It impacts a lot of activities and attractions on all islands as well as employers," Wienert said. "I'm glad that they aren't doing it right away and that they are giving our businesses enough advance notice to adjust their business model."
While NCL's changes certainly won't help Hawaii tourism, members of the state's visitor industry have said that the downsizing represents a much smaller adjustment than American Classic Voyage's departure.
Hopkins said NCL America provides about 70 percent of his volume. Brown, who estimates that NCL supplies 30 percent of her traffic, has ordered a second tour boat that will allow her to more than double her capacity upon its arrival in July.
"Pride of Aloha and the Pride of America are still here," said Toni Marie Davis, executive director of the Activities & Attractions Association of Hawaii. "If they are able to better fill those cruise ships, we'll still have about the same amount of business."
Hopkins, who relies more heavily on cruise traffic than Brown, said that he's also optimistic that Hawaii's growing popularity with foreign-flagged cruise lines could shore up the market.
"We survived before NCL America came and we'll survive after," he said. "Hawaii is one of the most marketable destinations and I don't think that this will change."
Robert Kritzman, executive vice president and managing director for NCL America, on Tuesday cited increased competition from foreign-flagged ships calling in Hawaii ports as part of the reason for the company's financial problems in Hawaii.
"Everyone wants to put Hawaii in their itinerary," Wienert said. "More cruise ships are calling on Hawaii and our home-ported cruise line is having trouble competing."
Hopkins noted that earlier this year Hawaii was named the fastest-growing cruise destination in the United States by the International Council of Cruise Lines More port visits from foreign-flag ships could help Hawaii's visitor industry, he said.