The Grand princess has become the first cruise ship to dock in Honolulu harbor in nearly two years after the state ceased operations due to the COVID-19 threat.
The vessel brought over 2,000 passengers from Los Angeles, which represents a third of its capacity.
According to tourism industry analysts, the resumption of the cruise line business is a critical aspect of the sector’s recovery.
Before the pandemic, the cruise industry drew more than 143,000 tourists to Hawaii each year, with an annual spend of $58 million.
During 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 added in the next few months.
Last week, the Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Harbors Division, Carnival Cruise Line, and Norwegian Cruise Lines inked a new health and safety agreement that allows cruise lines to operate in the state.
The document detailed on-board testing and medical capabilities, including passenger and crew evacuation, quarantine and isolation housing arrangements, and acceptance of local and state health standards to battle the spread of COVID-19 spread.
Despite this effort, some analysts claim that the ship should not have been allowed to dock in Hawaii because it was assigned the yellow status by the CDC, meaning that numerous passengers or one or more crew members could be infected with the virus.
“At this time, I really am surprised that we have allowed the cruise ships to come back,” said Jerry Agrusa, 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 member of the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s board and spokesman for the quarantine watchdog group the Kapu Breakers.
Other tourism representatives, however, believe that now is the ideal time to restore cruise operations to the island.
“It’s important because you have a lot of loyal cruisers … If we don’t have enough cruise offerings, they’re going to go elsewhere,” said Keith Vieira, principal of the hospitality consulting firm KV & Associates.
For the time being, six cruise ships with more than 26,000 passengers will dock in Honolulu Harbor over the next few weeks.