Superferry: Short On Super

If the Hawaii Superferry had a battle cry, it might be “Foiled again!”

By: Catharine Lo

This is the first Image
The Hawaii Superferry runs from Oahu to Maui.
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.

This is the second Image
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 impressed him.

“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 grim.

“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 the nausea.

This is the second Image
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 sandwiches.

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 tolerable.


Exclusively Online

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 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. (HST).