Latest interisland cruise ship sets sail

NCL Corporation launched its third Hawaiian-based cruise ship Wednesday, though Pride of Hawai‘i won’t make her island debut until June 5.

The half-billion dollar ship is the largest, most expensive passenger vessel registered in the United States, with 93,500 gross tons and a total capacity of about 3,500.

“Pride of Hawai‘i is the ninth in a series of 11 ‘Freestyle Cruising’ ships delivered as part of a $5 billion program undertaken by Star Cruises and NCL since 1998,” Star Cruises chairman Tan Sri LIM Kok Thay said at the hand-over ceremony in Holland.

Departing every Monday from Honolulu, the German-built ship will overnight in Nawiliwili each Saturday starting on June 17, after stops in Hilo, Kahului and Kona.

“Pride of Hawai‘i will bring around half a million passengers a year to the Hawai‘i Islands,” said NCL President and CEO Colin Veitch.

Veitch said the ship will help create about 20,000 U.S. jobs and pump more than $800 million into the economy, with most of the benefit coming directly to Hawai‘i.

While the economic impact of a 2,400-passenger ship excites local retailers and tour operators, some Nawiliwili residents already on edge about crime and noise in the area are not as enthusiastic.

“The busiest nights are when the cruise ships dock,” said Paul Pomroy, a Nawiliwili resident who has called 911 several times due to fights and noise in and around Nawiliwili Park.

Sixteen cruise ships are registered to dock in Nawiliwili throughout the year, but only the NCL vessels Pride of Aloha and Pride of America stay overnight, on Mondays and Thursdays, respectively.

With Pride of Hawai‘i’s Saturday night stay, residents are concerned about the 1,000-person crew more than the passengers.

“The crews can’t drink on the ship,” said Garden Island Inn owner Steve Layne, and when they are on shore leave, “they don’t have to be back on the ship until 6 a.m.”

Layne said they will often loiter in Nawiliwili Park, which is on county land and lacks liquor consumption regulations or a curfew.

Regardless of any legal issues, harbormaster Bob Crowell said that Nawiliwili can handle Pride of Hawai‘i, which is scheduled through 2009.

“Operationally, we are able to handle these numbers now,” he said. “Our challenge will be to provide time for other vessels to occupy the passenger ship berth for their operations as well as finding time for maintenance.”

Crowell said the harbor will work with the cruise lines on the scheduling issues as the need arises.

Ford Gunter, business reporter, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or fgunter@kauaipubco.com.

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