Cruise ship arrival is hopeful sign for Islands
The arrival of the Norwegian Star cruise ship at its Honolulu home port this weekend may mark the start of an important new era in Hawai'i's maritime history.
While Hawai'i has been able to offer a cruise experience for some time, through the now-bankrupt American Classic cruise ships, the Norwegian Star creates the potential to put the Islands on par with the modern cruise industries operating in Alaskan and Caribbean waters.
It is an important addition to the mix of attractions we offer visitors and could be a big boost for a tourism industry still reeling from the aftershocks of Sept. 11. Eventually, the Star and its sister ship, the Norwegian Wind, will account for some 90,000 hotel nights and a $140 million bump for the local economy.
The growth of a modern cruising industry brings with it some concerns, of course. It's not hard to imagine the environmental and social stresses when a 500-room "hotel" shows up at the dock.
Norwegian's operators say they have learned a lot of lessons over the years . Environmental practices, including sewage disposal and pollution abatement, are now state of the art. They have even learned techniques to offset the impact of thousands of curious visitors as they step ashore.
The state will have to monitor such issues closely, to ensure this exciting new industry lives up both to expectations and its promises.
Following the advent of the jet age and mass tourism, Hawai'i lost much of its connection with the sea. With the arrival of Norwegian Cruise lines in our waters, there's hope that this connection with all its potential can be restored.