(5:45 p.m.) -- It's official: Pride of Hawaii will be re-flagged for its move to Europe next year -- but what does that mean for the future of NCL America?
Norwegian Cruise Line created the NCL America subsidiary to offer inter-island Hawaii sailings on three U.S.-flagged vessels: Pride of Aloha, Pride of America and Pride of Hawaii. In a nutshell, most cruise ships fly foreign flags and thus are prohibited by law from carrying passengers between U.S. ports without at least one international call. Due to the unique flagging, NCL America is able to offer weeklong itineraries that never leave the Hawaiian Islands.
Pride of Hawaii's departure will leave just Pride of Aloha and Pride of America flying the American flag. The ship will be renamed (specifics have not yet been announced; guesses on the NCL forum include Norwegian Sapphire and Norwegian Diamond) -- and its registry will be switched from the United States to the Bahamas.
The question is, can it be switched back? Cruise Critic member BruceMuzz posts: "The U.S. flagging agreement that NCL has with the U.S. government allowed them to put a U.S. flag on their ships. But if they decide to change that flag at any time, they will not be allowed to change it back to U.S. later on."
However, the cruise line tells us that they will work with U.S. governmental authorities at the appropriate time to take the necessary steps to return the ship to U.S.-flagged operation in Hawaii.
Robert Kritzman, executive vice president and managing director for NCL America, told Honolulu's Star Bulletin that Pride of Hawaii's employees will be offered new positions within the company.
We'll keep you posted as modifications to the ship and its itinerary are announced.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor