The Great Princess became the first cruise ship to anchor Honolulu port in nearly two years after the state ceased operations due to the threat of COVID-19.
The vessel brought more than 2,000 passengers from Los Angeles, representing a third of its capacity.
According to tourism industry analysts, the resumption of the cruise business is a critical aspect of the industry’s recovery.
Before the pandemic, the cruise industry attracted more than 143,000 tourists to Hawaii each year, with an annual spend of $58 million.
In the last two years, this source of income has been reduced to zero, but as the sector recovers, hundreds of jobs are expected to be created in the coming months.
Last week, the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Ports Division, Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Lines signed a new health and safety agreement that allows cruise lines to operate in the state.
The document detailed onboard testing and medical resources, including passenger and crew evacuation, isolation and quarantine arrangements, and acceptance of local and state health standards to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Despite this effort, some analysts say the ship should not be allowed to dock in Hawaii because it has been given yellow status by the CDC, meaning multiple passengers or one or more crew members could be infected with the virus.
“Right now, I’m really surprised that we’ve allowed cruise ships to come back,” said Jerry Agusa, a professor at the University of Hawaii’s School of Travel Industry Management.
“It is absolutely unnecessary to do what the state of Hawaii and tourism is doing right now,” said Kawaikapuokalani Hewett, a former board member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority and a spokesperson for the quarantine watchdog group Kapu Breakers.
Other tourism representatives, however, believe that now is the ideal time to re-establish cruise operations on the island.
“It’s important because you have a lot of loyal cruisers… If we don’t have enough cruise deals, they will go elsewhere,” said Keith Vieira, director of hospitality consulting firm KV & Associates.
For now, six cruise ships with more than 26,000 passengers will dock at the port of Honolulu in the coming weeks.