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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 19, 2001

Hawai'i climbs in cruise market

By Michele Kayal
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i will rocket into second place among destinations offered by Norwegian Cruise Line after the company bases its ship the Norwegian Star here later this year, NCL's top executive said yesterday, and the anticipated success of those cruises could bring more vessels this way.

Colin Veitch, Norwegian Cruise Line's chief executive officer, is meeting with key political figures in the Islands.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"If the first ship succeeds, there's room for a second ship, for several ships," Colin Veitch, NCL's chief executive officer, said yesterday.

NCL will become the first non-U.S. cruise line to base a ship in the Islands when the 2,200 passenger Star arrives in December, offering seven-day cruises around the islands with a stop in Kiribati.

In 2002, NCL will bring 120,000 passengers to Hawai'i, Veitch said, overtaking the company's Alaska cruises, which hold second place behind the Caribbean. Norwegian will spend $17 million marketing Hawai'i, which Veitch said is the best-booked of the company's seven-day itineraries for the coming year. The first cruise, slated Dec. 16, is about 40 percent full, he said.

In a wide-ranging interview yesterday, Veitch said he sees Hawai'i as a major component of NCL's long-term strategic plan. He will be in town through tomorrow meeting with key political figures, including the governor and legislative committee chairs, as well as top tourism executives.

"We're here to make friends," he said. "It's good to have friends."

NCL's plans seemed in danger late last year when U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye introduced a measure in the final hours of Congress that bars ships with casinos from beginning and ending cruises in Hawai'i.

Veitch said yesterday the legislation, which passed, was a "surprise" for NCL, and that it has helped push the company to consider whether to continue the 10-day cruises it offers in Hawai'i on ships that do have casinos. Under current plans, the gambling equipment will be removed from those ships while they are in Hawai'i, and will be replaced later, an operation that will cost "hundreds of thousands" of dollars, Veitch said.

In addition, NCL is reviewing plans to call in Kaua'i, whose S-shaped Nawiliwili port entry poses problems for ships the size of the 965-foot Star.

Celebrity Cruises' Infinity, the first ship of the Star's size to attempt Nawiliwili, was unable to dock there during its first Hawai'i cruise three weeks ago.