Wednesday, October 10, 2001

The Carnival Spirit cruise ship, docked yesterday
at Honolulu Harbor, made a return trip today to
Kauai's S-shaped Nawiliwili Harbor.

A tight squeeze

The 86,000-ton Carnival Spirit
alleviates concerns by successfully
navigating Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor

By Russ Lynch

One of the world's biggest cruise ships, the 86,000-ton Carnival Spirit, set a precedent for a liner that big by going into Kauai's Nawiliwili Harbor Saturday and did it again today.

Tourism officials have expressed concerns that in a new era of gigantic cruise liners, Kauai's S-shaped harbor is keeping out too many visitors. But the Kauai stops were made possible by weeks of cooperation between ship operators, state officials and local harbor pilots, the professionals whose job is to bring visiting ships safely to the pier.

This visit was "a pivotal success," said Bill Thayer, president of the Carnival Cruise Lines' port agency, Waldron Steamship Co.

"It means we can get these bigger ships in," Thayer said. "It means a lot to Hawaii, especially to the neighbor islands and especially to Kauai."

Harbor pilot David Lyman, who headed the team that guided the ship into Nawiliwili, said the visit was "uneventful." That was something of an understatement because nobody wants "events" in handling something that big, but what made it possible was long preparation, said Lyman, who was at Nawiliwili yesterday preparing for today's visit.

The ship is huge. It is 963 feet long. It has about 2,100 passengers and 930 crew members aboard for this trip, its first Hawaii voyage since its maiden trip to Miami from its launching from a Helsinki, Finland, shipyard in April.

Lyman, president of the Hawaii Pilots Association and Hawaii's veteran ship guide, said it took work to make the Kauai trips smooth.

He spent a couple of weeks aboard a similar-sized ship, the Infinity. Several other Hawaii pilots went to Alaska and traveled on the bridge of the Carnival Spirit to get the feel of ships that big.

They are called "Panamax" class vessels, the biggest that can be allowed to squeak through the Panama Canal.

A high-rise ship like that can be moved by the wind and Lyman was not prepared to guarantee he could always get such vessels into Nawiliwili.

"Because they are so big and so susceptible to windage and so on, just because we managed to get one in doesn't preclude weather shutdowns," Lyman said.

"I wouldn't bring in the Norwegian Sky (Friday) because the wind was very, very strong and in very unfavorable directions." The next day, docking the Carnival Spirit at Nawiliwili presented no problems, he said. The ship must make a turn through a gap that is 865 feet wide, a tight squeeze that requires the ship to continue its forward motion while turning in order to fit.

On board directing the ship were Lyman and fellow pilot Ed Enos, who was there because he had trained on the ship and was "a second pair of eyes," Lyman said.

A third Hawaii pilot, Leonard Stenback, was also aboard as an observer.

As far as the Hawaii tourist industry is concerned, Carnival Cruises was not about to make guesses about the future since this voyage was booked well before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and had few cancellations, a spokesman said.

But he said it was significant that the heavily booked ship is 40 percent bigger than the previous vessel the company had in the islands, the 1,486-passenger Carnival Jubilee.

Waldron's Thayer said the way the big ship was successfully handled in and out of Nawiliwili bodes well for other cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Lines, which plans to base a big liner in Honolulu starting in mid-December for round-the-islands cruises.

Meanwhile, Honolulu Harbor today is host to two other cruise ships, the 77,104-ton, 2,002-passenger Norwegian Sky operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines and the 77,713-ton, 1,870-passenger Mercury, operated by Celebrity Cruises.

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