The Hawaii Superferry left Los Angeles yesterday morning after a refueling stop and could arrive in Honolulu as early as this weekend.
Terry O'Halloran, director of business development for the Superferry, said the exact arrival date hasn't been pinned down. It is traveling at about 20 to 23 knots, day and night, he said.
"There's a crew of 12 on board," he said. "This includes the captains, the chief mate, the maintenance engineer and a cook. This will be the crew that will be operating the vessel after it arrives in Hawaii."
The 350-foot-long Alakai is still anticipated to begin service from Oahu to Maui and Kauai in late August.
"We'll be working with the Coast Guard while she's here and before she goes into service," O'Halloran said. The ship will be open for public boarding on each island over the summer; days and times will be announced soon.
The vessel, which is projected to carry about 400 passengers and 110 vehicles of all sizes on the three-hour interisland voyages, will be taken on a route-familiarization trip after it arrives. The Alakai, which was built in Mobile, Ala., by Austal USA, left there on June 13 and traveled through the Panama Canal before arriving in Los Angeles Sunday evening.
Once it begins service, the ship will depart daily each morning at 6:30 a.m. from Honolulu and arrive in Kahului, Maui, at 9:30 a.m. It then will depart Maui at 11 a.m. and return to Honolulu at 2 p.m.
Its Kauai service will be offered every day but Saturday. The ship will depart Honolulu at 3 p.m. and arrive in Nawiliwili at 6 p.m. It then will leave at 7 p.m. and be back in Honolulu at 10 p.m.
One-way fares for both islands are $52 for adults on off-peak days (Tuesdays through Thursday) and $62 on peak days (Friday through Monday). With a 14-day advance purchase on the Internet, fares are $44 and $54, respectively.
For children ages 2 through 12, seniors 62 and over, and retired military, the fares will be $41 for off-peak travel and $51 for peak travel. The fares for children under two will be $17 regardless of day. The cost to transport a car or SUV one way is $59 on off-peak days and $69 on peak days.
The Superferry plans to offer service to the Big Island and a second daily route between Oahu and Maui in early 2009, after the company's second ferry arrives.