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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 26, 2002

Cruise ship joins Islands

By Kelly Yamanouchi
Advertiser Staff Writer

A second Norwegian Cruise Line ship will arrive in Honolulu tomorrow for a seven-month stint of cruises through Hawai'i and to Fanning Island.

The 10- and 11-day cruises on the Norwegian Wind will run through April, when the ship will return to Vancouver.

While the Norwegian Wind has sailed in Hawai'i before, it is normally here for only a month and a half in the spring or fall. During the rest of the year, the ship is used for seven-day cruises in the Caribbean or Alaska from Vancouver.

But Norwegian said late last year that it would extend the ship's stay in the Islands, giving an added boost to the state's burgeoning cruise industry.

Over the next seven months, the new ship is forecast to bring in a total of nearly $26 million in spending and about 36,000 visitors to the state, according to state economist Pearl Imada Iboshi. Cruise passengers typically spend about $90 a day and stay two days extra in the state, spending about $700 per trip, according to state figures.

Norwegian started year-round seven-day cruises through Hawai'i and to Fanning Island in December with its Norwegian Star.

The longer 10- and 11-day cruises being offered on the Wind are expected to attract older visitors who are more likely to have the time to take a two-week vacation.

The Norwegian Wind will alternate between the 10-day and 11-day routes. The 10-day cruise starts in Honolulu, then sails to Kona, takes the two-day trip to Fanning Island, then goes to Hilo, Lahaina and Kaua'i and returns to Honolulu. The 11-day cruise spends two days at Lahaina.

But Norwegian has had some difficulty attracting customers for the longer cruises, with ships sold out only two or three months ahead and cruises in the first quarter of next year now only about half full, chief executive Colin Veitch said yesterday.

Because of the narrower appeal of the longer cruises, the prices for some dates are currently less than the seven-day cruises. Norwegian yesterday was offering specials for some 10- and 11-day cruises in November and December for $699. The cheapest seven-day cruise in October was priced at $799.

The new ship can carry 1,740 passengers and is smaller with fewer restaurants than the Norwegian Star, which carries 2,250.

Originally, the Norwegian Wind was planned for cruises in Asia and would have been in Hawai'i for only January through March.

"We cancelled the program after Sept. 11 because we said, 'No one's going to fly out there (to Asia)' and said, 'Let's just go out to Hawai'i,' " said Veitch.

Next year, Veitch said, the Wind will likely return to the Islands for a shorter period of cruises, because this seven-month run is "a Sept. 11 phenomenon."

"It's part of our plan to build up a 10- and 11-day business in Hawai'i, but the natural growth of that would be a lot slower," Veitch said.

Reach Kelly Yamanouchi at 535-2470 or kyamanouchi@honoluluadvertiser.com.