Cruise ship arrives at Kahului Harbor, first with passengers to disembark in 22 months
January 12, 2022, 10:19 AM HST
* Updated January 13, 5:58 PM
The Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at Kahului Harbor on Maui on Wednesday, (Jan. 12, 2022) with an estimated 1,188 passengers aboard and 900-plus crew members. The vessel is the first with passengers to disembark from a cruise ship in 22 months, since the industry halt in March of 2020 amid pandemic concerns, according to Department of Transportation spokesperson Jai Cunningham.
The Grand Princess departed from Los Angeles, Calif., on Jan. 4, and arrived in Honolulu over the weekend. It then sailed to Nāwiliwili on Kauaʻi on Monday, and Hilo on Tuesday, before arriving on Maui today. According to portcall.com, the cruise ship is scheduled to depart from Maui at 6 p.m.
Despite precautions taken, there are confirmed positive COVID-19 cases aboard the Grand Princess, according to Cunningham. A specific number was not disclosed, but HDOT officials note that anyone who tested positive (symptomatic and asymptomatic alike) will not come ashore.
The health program aboard the ship includes rooms to isolate infected individuals, and also features rooms for critical care. “If they had anyone who is serious enough to come ashore, it doesn’t cost us anything,” said Cunningham, noting that transportation and medical care is set up with specified providers.
While the CDC agreements call for a 95% vaccination rate, both NCL and Carnival have agreed to a much higher standard of 99-100% vaccination, leaving room for medical or religious exemptions, according to Cunningham.
“For the foreseeable future, any cruise ship that originates from the mainland will have its first port of call in Honolulu,” according to Cunningham. Citing infrastructure, Cunningham explained that any cruise ship would start in Honolulu before making its way to the neighbor islands.
Many different entities worked on the port agreements including the CDC, US Coast Guard, the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Health, Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, the governor’s office and all four county mayors.
The state’s Safe Travels program at airports is also in place with ships. The only difference is at airports, contract workers check on QR codes and ensure tests have been taken within the last 72 hours. With cruise ships, the companies themselves check on documentation and testing.
With a maximum capacity of 3,006 guests, the Grand Princess is only about 38-39% full of passengers. Cunningham said this is not because of any limits in place, but due to the hard time cruise ships are having at filling occupancy.
None-the-less, the industry has returned and another ship is scheduled to arrive on Maui this weekend. On Saturday, the Carnival Miracle is scheduled to arrive at Kahului Harbor at 8 a.m. and depart at 11 p.m.
Most sailings include one-day stops at various ports, with passengers completing their itinerary on the same day as arrival or within 24 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a conditional sail order for any ship traveling in and out of American ports. While the CDC order expires in just a few days on Jan. 15, Hawaiʻi DOT officials say both Carnival and NCL have agreements with the state that last past anything the CDC has set up.
“If at any time we want to amend or end agreements, we have that ability,” said Cunningham in a phone interview with Maui Now on Wednesday morning.
The state also has a memorandum of understanding or port agreement in place with Norwegian, which operates the Pride of America, an NCL ship that sails interisland with five ports of call at: Honolulu, Oʻahu; Kahului, Maui; Hilo, Hawaiʻi; Kona, Hawaiʻi; and Nāwiliwili, Kauaʻi. The company has permissions to resume sailing at the end of the month, but transportation officials say they donʻt plan to be in service for another six weeks, until early March.
Since anyone on that ship has either flown in, or is a local resident, Safe Travels checks do not apply aboard the Pride of America. For other ships that have port calls outside of Hawaiʻi, they start with their first port call in Honolulu, where they are cleared, “and once confirmed, itʻs just like neighbor island travel,” said Cunningham.
There is another ship, Residences of the World, that is currently sitting at Pier 2 in Honolulu. According to Cunningham, their port agreement is under review with the state Department of Health. While they are at Pier 2, they are not allowed off the ship, because there is no signed agreement in place, according to the HDOT.
Transportation officials say that during the middle of the holiday season, about 30,000 people were arriving at Hawaiʻi airports statewide, compared with 1,000 or so arriving on cruise ships today.