Hawaii cautiously welcomes large cruise ships: Travel Weekly

Tovin Lapp

The first cruise ship bound for Hawaii in nearly two years arrived in Honolulu on Jan. 9, marking the restart of major island crossings for the first time since the pandemic began.

A handful of cruise lines have reached agreements with Hawaii state officials, including the Department of Transportation, to resume operations in the state under specific health and safety regulations.

Carrying 1,188 passengers and 915 crew, Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess embarked in Los Angeles on January 4 before docking in Honolulu five days later and will make stops in Kauai, the island of Hawaii and Maui .

“We are thrilled to call on Hawaii again, and our guests are very excited about visiting Aloha State and doing so safely,” a cruise line spokesperson said. .

Other cruise lines that have reached agreements with the state to resume excursions during the first part of the year include Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and World Residences at Sea.

UnCruise Adventures, a small cruise operator that runs intrastate excursions on a 36-passenger ship, previously restarted operations around Thanksgiving. No major cruise travel had been allowed to Hawaii since pandemic restrictions began in March 2020.

But in a sign of the continuing precarious situation for cruise restarts, earlier this month Norwegian Cruise Line postponed a list of scheduled departures, including a Pride of America Hawaii cruise that was pushed back from January to March. On Dec. 30, the CDC recommended no cruise travel regardless of vaccination status due to rising Covid-19 case rates across the country linked to the omicron variant.

As a result, the state is deliberately moving as it welcomes cruises, said Hawaii Tourism Authority CEO John De Fries.

“Our Department of Transportation and the Ports Division are implementing very high level security protocols,” De Fries said. “I know the people running these areas, and no one is in a rush to ramp up all of this activity like it’s 2019 again. I think you’re going to see a measured response with each of these cruise lines.”

Follow state and CDC rules

While CDC regulations require that at least 95% of cruise passengers be vaccinated, Hawaii requires that 99% of all passengers be vaccinated. Under the agreements signed with the state, cruise ships must also have an established quarantine/isolation system, onboard medical and testing rooms, and medical personnel. Cruise lines have also agreed to testing and cleaning protocols before boarding. All out-of-state cruises must first dock in Honolulu, where there are more medical facilities and resources than anywhere else in the archipelago, before continuing to other destinations in the state.

Arriving passengers are also subject to the state’s Safe Travels program which applies to anyone entering Hawaii from the continental United States, which means they must present proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test to to be able to disembark.

The agreements with the cruise lines are effective regardless of any future changes to CDC guidelines, and Hawaii officials may suspend, cancel, or modify them at any time should circumstances change. Hawaii counties may also implement additional restrictions at any time.

Yet even with improved protocols, the first upcoming Aloha State cruise in 22 months has arrived with at least a handful of Covid-19 positive people on board. Under the CDC cruise ship monitoring system, the Grand Princess is currently listed in the “yellow” category, which means that one or more crew members have tested positive for Covid-19, or 0, 10% or more of passengers have tested positive. The cruise line is not disclosing the number of Covid-19 cases found on the ship, but Hawaii Department of Transportation officials have confirmed that positive cases have been identified and those affected are being quarantined on board. of the ship.

For state officials, the cases reinforce the need for continued vigilance and adjustment.

“Cruise lines are doing everything necessary and more,” De Fries said. “I’m heartened by this, and, at the same time, there have been reports of cruise ships having blowouts around the world. It’s such a matter of consumer confidence. So I hope the industry is able to handle those situations well, and we have to learn our way through that.”

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