Holland America Bypasses Molokai -- Again

Controversial port call is cut after Coast Guard orders Statendam to rescue yacht passengers; next visit planned for April

By: Michele Kayal

Holland America’s Statendam, which plans to be the first major cruise vessel to call on the Hawaiian island of Molokai, was forced to cancel its scheduled visit Jan. 22. The change, which occurred after the U.S. Coast Guard asked the ship for emergency aid, was second time in three weeks that the controversial visit was canceled.

The ship had to cut one Hawaii port call because it lost a day’s travel while helping three passengers aboard a private yacht. A Holland America spokeswoman, Rose Abello, said Molokai was most logical elimination.

“We have a track record in the other ports of getting the people in and we know what kind of experience they’re going to have,” Abello said. “All of Molokai is an unknown because we haven’t been there yet. So when we look at dropping a port, we want to make sure the rest of the experience is as good as we can make it.”

On Dec. 28 the Statendam anchored off shore, but high winds prevented passengers from coming on land. Holland America will get two more chances to call on Molokai this year, with stops planned in April and November.

The ship’s arrival has been controversial on the small island, prized by locals and visitors for its rural charm and Old Hawaii feel. Many residents say they are happy to have a new source of industry on Molokai, where unemployment is the highest in the state. But others fear the island does not have the facilities to handle the 1,000 visitors who were expected to come ashore, and that cruise ships will ruin the island’s rural nature and damage its delicate reef.

The boosters have said that they will support the cruise line’s future visits with festivities and crafts fairs, noting that the port calls are a good way to grow Molokai’s tourism industry without building more hotels.

“If people come over to Molokai for the day, they’re going to come back and stay,” said Sandy Beddow, director of the Molokai Visitors Association.

Beddow estimates the economic impact at $131,000 per visit.

As the ship sat off shore on Dec. 28, a reported 100 or more protesters lined the dock with signs that read “No Aloha for Cruise Ships” and other slogans.

Holland America executives said they added Molokai to the itinerary because many of the people on its 15- and 16-day Hawaii cruises are repeaters, and Molokai offers new sites and activities.

“From what I can see, the Molokai call is going to be very successful,” said David Giersdorf, HAL’s senior vice president for marketing and sales. “The guests are looking forward to us going there, the governor, the mayor of Maui County, the business people are looking forward to us coming and welcoming our guests.”

He said there are no immediate plans to expand the number of calls scheduled for Molokai each year.