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Cruise industry seeks a restart in Hawaii as ships plan to dock in January

According to the Department of Transportation, five different cruise ships plan to dock at Honolulu Harbor next month, bringing up to 8,000 visitors here.
Published: Dec. 23, 2021 at 6:58 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 23, 2021 at 9:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The cruise ship industry, which has been on hold in Hawaii’s since the beginning of the pandemic, wants to resume service next month. But medical experts question the timing of the move.

According to the state Department of Transportation’s website, five different cruise ships plan to dock at Honolulu Harbor in January, bringing up to 8,000 visitors here.

But with the Omicron variant surge, some medical experts say cruise ships should not be back in business.

“At this stage, there is absolutely no way we should be considering having cruise ships stopping in Honolulu or any of our neighbor islands,” said Dr. Scott Miscovich of Premier Medical Group.

The industry already has a problem in the Caribbean where two island nations are refusing to let a Royal Caribbean cruise ship dock right now because 55 fully vaccinated crew members and passengers are infected.

But visitor industry advocates said it’s safer to bring tourists to Hawaii by cruise ship than by plane.

“Cruise ships have already gone through the process of shutting down and quarantining and it’s keeping people in one place -- as opposed to people who fly here and are going through Safe Travels ... who are going to disperse all throughout our community,” said Toni Marie Davis, executive director of the Activities & Attractions Association.

Before the pandemic, the cruise ship industry brought in 143,508 visitors a year to Hawaii from out-of-state ports, contributing $58.4 million in direct spending, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“The return of cruise ships to our islands in 2022 is yet another indication that the travel industry continues its recovery,” said John De Fries, the HTA’s CEO.

“HTA has been in close discussion with the cruise lines, as well as the Department of Health and Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division, to monitor new health and safety protocols being implemented as cruises resume in the islands next year.”

Before the cruise ships can sail here, they have to finalize a port agreement with the state which ensures that all of the safety protocols are in place.

The state is requiring the cruise ships to abide by CDC requirements and those of Safe Travels Hawaii, which requires proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test for crew members and passengers.

The state said it’s still working on those agreements with the three major cruise lines that stop here.

But Miscovich said the state should also require that a person get the booster shot. He said people who have gotten their first two shots can still get infected by the Omicron variant.

“We know we need a third vaccination to start having more reasonable protection,” he said.

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