Report: Cruises to Hawaii on the Rise

While airlift to Hawaii has increased significantly over the last year, the Washington Post is reporting that the islands' cruise industry is also on the rise.

More than 104,000 travelers arrived in the islands on cruise ships—mostly from the West Coast—in the first 11 months of last year, the report says, noting that this is a 14.5 percent increase from the same period in 2010. Fifty-nine cruise liners pulled into Hawaiian ports during that time, an increase of 11.3 percent.

There are several reasons for the growth, industry experts say, including the presence of more cruise ships in the Pacific and a fear among some travelers of ongoing drug-cartel related violence in Mexico.

The industry still hasn’t recouped a pre-recession peak of about 130,000 passengers reached in 2007, but travel agents say demand for West Coast to Hawaii cruises is strong.

Marya Minter with Frosch Travel told Travel Agent that she personally has not noticed an increase in cruise travel to Hawaii. "There are a lot more options available, and because of the maritime law—the Jones Act—inter-island cruising is limited unless the ship is registered in U.S., meaning hull was built here. Foreign ships cannot skirt around the islands." The MS Pride of America, currently owned by Norwegian, was partly built in the United States (its hull was built in Pascagoula, Mississippi), so it is now the only American registered major cruise ship serving the Hawaiian market from Honolulu. "Cruise lines with foreign flags have to go to foreign ports," Minter explains.

On the other hand, Minter does say that she has seen an increase in repositioning cruises, especially for ships returning from Alaska after the summer. "To reposition to Southern California for Mexico cruises, some will go from Vancouver to Hawaii and then to Mexico before settling in Southern California."

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