NCL Pulls Second Ship From Hawaii, Down to One

Norwegian Cruise Line has removed yet another ship from the Hawaii market, just days after pulling Pride of Hawaii out. The cruise line announced Monday it would withdraw Pride of Aloha effective May 11, and transfer the ship to sister company Star Cruises, which will use it on Asia itineraries this summer. Pride of Hawaii will begin sailing in Europe as Norwegian Jade after a brief overhaul, while Pride of America will become NCL's remaining ship in Hawaii.

NCL has had a rocky three-plus years of Hawaii sailing, hampered by static demand, service problems and competition from foreign-flagged vessels. (NCL's three ships were American-flagged, which was to give them a quasi-monopoly on Hawaii cruising, by allowing them more lax inter-island rules, than foreign-flagged vessels. This soon backfired.) Competitors such as Princess and Holland America began sidestepping cabotage rules that state a foreign-flagged ship must visit a foreign port between U.S. stops by calling at foreign ports such as Ensenada, Mexico, for sometimes only an hour and at pre-dawn times.

Subsequently, a new federal rule is on the table that will revisit the issue and, if passed, would compel foreign-flagged ships to remain at a foreign port for at least 48 hours. NCL is backing the rule, while U.S. ports, CLIA and other cruise lines with foreign-flagged ships are, unsurprisingly, not in favor.

"Our Hawaii business has been extraordinarily difficult," said Colin Veitch, NCL's president and CEO. "The overall price level in the market has been driven down by an unprecedented expansion of capacity from low-cost foreign-flagged ships operating domestic Hawaii itineraries. We have invested heavily in U.S. flag cruising in reliance on our nation's cabotage laws providing a level playing field in Hawaii." Veitch said that once laws are "clarified and restored," bringing back Pride of Hawaii could be an option.

Until that time, guests booked on Pride of Aloha from May 11 and beyond will have the option of transferring their booking to Pride of America, departing one day earlier, and receive a $100 per-person onboard credit. NCL will also offer varying degrees of protection for air and hotel bookings depending on if the rates were booked through NCL or independently. Guests also have the option of canceling the cruise for a full refund if they elect to do so by March 7.

Pride of America will undergo a drydock from April 26 to May 10 before sailing its four main island itinerary. Visit www.ncl.com. (DE)

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