The 86,000-ton, 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit docked at Pier 10 Friday. The cruise industry is bringing more visitors to the islands, about 4 percent of all those who visited during the first quarter of the year.

Cruising along

The number of visitors seeing the
isles by ship is up 16 percent this year

The number of cruise-ship passengers arriving in Hawaii rose 15.9 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared with a year ago, clear indication that the isle cruise business is growing.

It still isn't huge. The 62,345 cruise visitors in the latest quarter made up only 4 percent of the total of 1.56 million visitor arrivals in the same period. But that was a growth from 3.5 percent of total visitor arrivals in the 2002 quarter. Total visitor arrivals in the first quarter were up 1.7 percent year-over-year.

The cruise-ship visitors spend money in the islands in addition to their shipboard expenditures, statistics issued yesterday by the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism showed. Cruise-ship travelers from outside Hawaii spent $39.9 million on shore here in the first quarter of this year, a little more than $90 per person per day.

The money went into land tours while ships were docked, restaurant meals and, for some, hotel stays before or after their cruises, DBEDT said.

The biggest share, just short of $24 per person per day, went into tours on shore. Local lodging accounted for $16.43 a day for each cruise visitor. Food and beverage spending averaged $11.80.

The DBEDT figures show that the cruise visitors mostly spent their time aboard ship, but did make some hotel stays. Those arriving by air to greet a cruise here stayed an average of 1.64 days before joining the ship and 1.16 days at the end of the cruise.

Norwegian Cruise Line has been stepping up its business in the islands and now has two vessels operating around the islands. An NCL spokesman, Steve Hirano, said that because it is a Hawaii-based operation its guests average 2.2 to 2.3 days on land in the islands, higher than the overall average.

That is because passengers come to Hawaii to join their cruises and leave the ships in Hawaii before heading home. NCL's Norwegian Star and Norwegian Wind go to Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati in mid-cruise to comply with laws governing foreign ships in America.

The other cruises originate in foreign ports, such as Ensenada, Mexico, and end back in those ports.

No matter what their itinerary, cruise visitors are good for Hawaii, the state says.

"We are very pleased by the steady performance from our cruise market despite the difficulties faced by vacation destinations around the world," said Ted Liu, DBEDT director.

The business shows no sign of slowing.

The full year 2003 will bring about 60 cruise stops in Hawaii, not counting the Hawaii-based activities of NCL. By itself, NCL has 63 round-the-islands voyages this year.

On the books already for 2004 are 56 Hawaii cruises, not counting NCL's, according to voyages listed by the harbors division of the State Department of Transportation.

But NCL's relaunch of the Project America plan started by defunct American Classic Voyages will add many more cruises. Using ships newly licensed under the American flag and not needing to go to a foreign port, Project America will have 28 sailings in Hawaii in the second half of 2004.

NCL's foreign-flag Hawaii schedule calls for 26 sailings of the Norwegian Star next year and 22 by the Norwegian Wind.

That adds up to 132 Hawaii sailings next year, up 7.3 percent from 123 this year. Other voyages could still be added by international lines.

Norwegian Cruise Line, by far the biggest cruise presence in Hawaii, has not yet published all of its plans for this year and 2004.

The Miami-based line did say in late April, however, that it will move the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Star from Honolulu to Seattle in the spring of next year to run Alaska cruises until September 2004. When it leaves Hawaii, the ship will add a casino, something it was not allowed to have in gambling-prohibited Hawaiian waters.

However, the slack will be more than picked up by the 1,750-passenger Norwegian Wind and the Project America vessels.

The Norwegian Wind's 2003 cruises ended in late April but are scheduled to resume in May 2004. NCL expects to have the first of its Project America vessels at work in Hawaii in early July 2004.

A shipyard in Germany is finishing two 1,900-passenger vessels that were started in America for American Classic Voyages. NCL has the right to use them under the U.S. flag and can reflag at least one foreign-built ship, but it has not said specifically which ships it will use in Hawaii.

NCL says it expects to bring 400,000 people to Hawaii in 2005, and as many as 650,000 a year by 2007.


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