NCL Bullish on Hawaii, Fanning

NCL in talks with senator about expanding cruise operations in the islands

By: Theresa Norton Masek

Norwegian Cruise Line is in discussions with U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (Hawaii) about expanding its presence in the islands.

The influential Inouye was a champion of the now-shuttered American Classic Voyages, which ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy Oct. 19. Inouye’s wife, Maggie, christened an AMCV ship on Dec. 8, 2000, but the senator did not attend the Norwegian Star’s inaugural celebrations in Honolulu a year later.

Inouye helped AMCV’s two Hawaii-based cruise lines, American Hawaii Cruises and United States Lines, secure an exemption to the decades-old passenger shipping law that requires foreign-built-and-flagged vessels to stop at one foreign port during a cruise to and from U.S. ports.

Inouye was also instrumental in shepherding a federal law in December 2000 that outlawed shipboard gambling, as NCL finalized plans to enter the Hawaii market. The measure removed what could have been a potential marketing edge for NCL, since the two AMCV vessels did not have casinos.

AMCV enjoyed an exemption that allowed it to operate the Patriot in Hawaii without stopping at a foreign port, even though the vessel was built overseas. Is NCL interested in securing a similar exemption now that AMCV is no longer around?

If it is, the line would use it to expand in Hawaii, not to replace the Fanning Island call on the Norwegian Star’s weekly itinerary, NCL said in a statement.

“We are clearly committed to Hawaii cruising and are the market leader there. So it should not be surprising that we have indeed had discussions with Sen. Inouye’s office to understand his criteria for supporting a broadening of the cruise options available in Hawaii,” the statement said.

NCL made it clear that it would not abandon Fanning Island as a port call, even though it is approximately 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.

“We are strongly committed to continuing to offer our existing itineraries based on Fanning Island, where we have already invested millions of dollars in infrastructure,” NCL said. “Fanning Island, to many people’s surprise, has become one of the passenger highlights of our Hawaii-based cruises.”

NCL did not say whether shipboard gambling was discussed and it did not elaborate on the negotiations.