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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 13, 2001

Ships to help refloat tourism

By Susan Hooper
Advertiser Staff Writer

The arrival Saturday of Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Star promises to give Hawai'i's struggling visitor industry a vital boost around the Islands' main ports.

Advertiser library photo • Nov. 2001

Cruise ship officials are projecting sizable growth in the industry in Hawai'i next year, despite the troubles tourism has had worldwide since the Sept. 11 attacks.

John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, told a special meeting of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority yesterday that 250,000 cruise ship passengers are expected to visit the Islands in 2002, up 56 percent from 160,000 passengers this year.

"Our assessment is in fact that the forecast would be upwards in response to the events of Sept. 11," Hansen said after the meeting.

Hawai'i's tourism industry was rocked by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in October of American Classic Voyages, which had two cruise ships in service here and was the only domestic cruise line operating in the Islands. About 80,000 passengers sailed on American Classic Voyages' 1,212-passenger Patriot and its 867-passenger Independence this year, the cruise ship association said.

But Hansen said that the home-porting in Hawai'i of Norwegian Cruise Line's 2,200-passenger Star will boost the industry's presence here. The Star arrives in Ho-nolulu on Saturday and begins its maiden Hawai'i voyage the next day, launching its career as the state's only locally based interisland cruising vessel.

In addition, Hansen said, the Star's sister ship, the Wind, will bring more passengers to the Islands by visiting Hawai'i for six months next year.

Another 16 cruise vessels are expected to visit the Islands during one or more months next year, the association said.

Hansen told the authority that, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, cruise ship passengers perceive Hawai'i and other North American destinations as safer than some other locales such as the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

And cruise lines have repositioned their ships away from those areas, he said.

The association estimates the cruise industry's annual economic benefit to Hawai'i at $91.9 million. That includes $28.6 million spent by passengers on pre- and post-cruise packages, $16.1 million for shore excursions, and $24.7 million in fuel costs.

With the size of cruise vessels increasing dramatically, the cruise industry has expressed concerns about the need for improvements to Hawai'i's harbors. Representatives of the cruise ship association met yesterday with state Department of Transportation officials, Hansen said, and further meetings on the subject are planned.

"These are not major redevelopments," Hansen said. "They are improvements to existing facilities like extending a dock so that you could, instead of being able to tie up one ship, you could tie up two ships."

State Transportation Director Brian Minaai said his department is working with the cruise ship association on the needed improvements, especially at Hilo Harbor.

Reach Susan Hooper at shooper@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8064. The Associated Press contributed to this story.