The first time I tried to take the Superferry, I never made it off
the boat. It was during the ferry’s kickoff season in August 2007.
In the wake of political resistance, I decided to examine the
merits of the service myself. So I booked a ticket from Honolulu to
Kauai. In a dramatic turn of events, Kauai activists on surfboards
and in canoes blocked the entrance of Nawiliwili Harbor and, after
a three-hour standoff, forced the Superferry to retreat to
Honolulu. The company generously offered to compensate each
passenger with five free future trips. The voyages to Kauai have
since been suspended.
The second time I tried to take the Superferry, this time to
Maui, I never made it on the boat. When I arrived at the ferry
landing for the 6 a.m. check-in, a Superferry employee handed me a
letter explaining that, due to rough seas, there was no assurance
of safe docking at Kahului Harbor, so the day’s voyages had been
cancelled. Strike two. I rescheduled my trip and all my Maui
appointments for February.
The third time I wouldn’t really call the charm. I got on, but I
couldn’t wait to get off. After 11 days of cancellations due to
rough conditions wrought by high seas typical of Hawaii’s channels
during winter followed by damaged rudder repair, the undefeatable
Superferry declared it was back on track.
On deck, passengers either love
the views or hate the rough seas.
Everything started off smoothly. I drove on to the 349-foot-long,
twin-hulled behemoth with my truck at dawn. The boarding process
was hassle-free and took less than five minutes. No need to take
laptops out or remove shoes. On the passenger deck, the mood was
one of excited anticipation as travelers secured their seats among
cafe tables, rotating lounge chairs, wide booths, reclining seats
or the outdoor lanai. Staff members welcomed everyone aboard with
big smiles and ginger pills. Joe Anderson, a visitor from
Scottsdale, Ariz., and his friend from Oahu, had booked a one-day
Maui trip “for the novelty of it all.” The ferry’s furnishings
“I used to live in the Virgin Islands, and all the ferries down
there are beat up. Even in Seattle, the ferries are nice, but not
as nice as this one,” Anderson said. “I’m surprised it goes as fast
as it does, and how much roll it gets.”
The “roll” he referred to was a steady swaying that began as
amusement as passengers stumbled to maintain their balance and hot
beverages slid across the tables. Unfortunately, this ongoing roll,
caused by an unforgiving storm, eventually made more than half the
passengers seasick. Out on the lanai, passengers clutching white
motion-sickness bags sought fresh air only to be pelted by rain for
the duration of the three-hour voyage. Attempting to read only
exacerbated the queasiness, so there was nothing to do but wait it
out. A rainbow and the sight of beautiful waterfalls plunging down
the towering Molokai sea cliffs seemed to apologize for the
turbulent ocean conditions, but onboard, the scene remained
“We are dealing with an unusual winter season,” explained
Madeline Lani Olds, Superferry’s director of customer experience
and community relations. “All the mariners have been facing
challenges. Plus we’re in whale season, so we’re going to go on the
north side which is typically rougher.”
Even for seasoned sailors, she advised: “We highly recommend
taking some kind of motion-sickness prevention until you understand
how you’re going to react to the vessel.”
The exceedingly kind staff went out of their way to check on
everyone, but of course there was nothing they could do to reverse
Superferry seating is
clean and modern.
As every cloud has a silver lining, the return trip from Maui to
Oahu downwind and with the current was a much more pleasant
experience. The film “Evan Almighty” and CNN aired on the overhead
flat screens, businessmen paced the aisles talking on their mobile
phones and passengers checked e-mail on their laptops. The cafe
menu offered local favorites like Spam and chicken musubi
(seaweed-wrapped rice), manapua (pork bun), somen noodle salad and
breakfast bentos, as well as a selection of beer, wine, sodas and
coffee. Families sat around bistro tables, enjoying pastries and
That day, Oklahoma resident Kathleen Abbott had dropped her
rental car off at the Kahului Airport and caught a shuttle to the
Superferry terminal. Dollar, Thrifty and Hertz customers can also
make arrangements to bring their rental cars inter-island.
“Everyone was so accommodating. With that kind of convenience, I
wonder why it isn’t crowded,” Abbott raved, gazing toward the blue
horizon. “Look at this! How could anyone not enjoy this? I’m
waiting for a whale.”
For those who like adventures, it’s certainly not dull. But take
heed: Even the finest onboard amenities can’t be enjoyed when
you’re seasick, so err on the side of being overly cautious.
Wristbands, ginger pills and Dramamine can make a tumultuous trip
Superferry Extends Drydock*
Hawaii Superferry announced the need to extend the amount of
time the vessel will be unavailable due to damage to Alakai’s hull
that occurred during the drydocking process and additional
maintenance that was identified.
The Alakai was originally scheduled to resume service on March
3. Sailings have been cancelled through March 24 to complete the
necessary repairs. Reservations for sailings commencing March 25
are being accepted.
Passengers with reservations for affected voyages are being
notified, re-accommodated on a future voyage or refunded.
* Note: March 11th, 2008
Hawaii Superferry announced today that it is extending the
amount of time the Alakai will be in drydock because work to repair
damage to the ship that occurred during the drydocking process is
going to take longer than was previously projected.
Based on the latest repair schedule, reservations for sailings
after April 22 are now being accepted. Updates on the sailing
schedule will be issued as they become available.
Passengers holding reservations for affected voyages are being
notified, reaccommodated on a future voyage or refunded.
Customers are encouraged to visit www.hawaiisuperferry.com for the latest travel
information or they may call Hawaii Superferry’s reservations at
877-HI-FERRY (1-877-443-3779) open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.