(The Center Square) – Carnival's Grand Princess will sail into Honolulu harbor at 6 a.m. Sunday, marking the first time a cruise ship has docked in Hawaii in 22 months, said Jai Cunningham, public information officer for the Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT).
Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines are the first ships to reach port agreements with the state as required by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC). Norwegian is expected to bring its Pride of America ship back to the island March 5, Cunningham said.
Tourism is Hawaii's largest industry, and the return of cruise lines is expected to have an impact, Cunningham said, but the reduction in air travel has had a large affect on tourism, too.
The latest report from the Hawaii Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism shows visitor expenditures were 11.5% less in November 2021 than in November 2019. Statistics from November 2020 are not comparable because the only data available would reflect visits from the U.S., according to the report.
State officials are expecting the industry's bounce back to add more money to the state's coffers. A report presented Thursday at a meeting of the Council on Revenues showed tax receipts could increase by 15%, The Associated Press reported.
Cruise ships stopped sailing to Hawaii in March 2020 when the CDC issued a No Sail Order that was in effective until November 2020. A conditional sailing order from the CDC currently is in effect that requires cruise lines to show how they would handle an outbreak and house passengers and crew if they needed to be quarantined. All ships must have COVID-19 testing and medical staff onboard, according to the CDC guidelines.
Hawaii is behind other states in signing port agreements required by the CDC, Cunningham said. The cruise lines also must comply with the Safe Travels Hawaii Program, Cunningham said. The program requires all visitors to Hawaii to either have proof of vaccination, a negative test within 72 hours of arriving in the state or quarantine for five days once they arrive.
The ships are entering the state at a time when COVID-19 cases are increasing because of the omicron variant, but the port agreements have been negotiated for moths, Cunningham said.
"It just happens that now that we are welcoming ships back the numbers are starting to expand and folks are worried," Cunningham said. "The CDC conditional sail order expires Jan. 15. The important part of what we have put into place is if the CDC lets that sail order cease, our's supersedes it. And part of those agreements is if there is at anytime we need to amend it or we need to cancel it, we have the power to do that."