Pride of America is the first ocean-going new build to carry a U.S. flag in over 50 years. The ship's concept and construction was initially started under the auspices of the now-defunct American Classic Voyages Co., which filed for bankruptcy in 2001. NCL acquired the partially-built ship, integrated a new design – converting the vessel to "Freestyle Cruising" specs -- and is now completing the building process.
What's significant about Pride of America's U.S. flag is that it can bypass the geographic restrictions imposed on all foreign flagged vessels by the Jones Act. The circa 1920s law requires all foreign flagged ships that cruise U.S. itineraries -- and all the cruise majors (Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, etc.) wave foreign flags -- to make at least one call at a non-American port. That's not typically a big deal on trips in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska and Canada/New England because a foreign port of call is within easy reach.
Hawaii, however, has long been a challenge for the cruise industry and cruise passengers alike. Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati is the nearest "toe-touch" – and it's an onerous distance, requiring itineraries to include two full days at sea. The other alternative is longer-term voyages that depart from the West Coast (stopping at one port in either Canada or Mexico).
In fulfilling the necessary requirements to carry the U.S. flag, however, NCL America also has to abide by other rules – a major one is to employ a 100-percent American crew. To that end, the company also announced last week that the hiring process is underway. So far several officers, graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, have boarded various ships, including Norwegian Dawn and Norwegian Sun, where they’ll undergo training. 100 crew members have also been dispatched to different ships throughout the NCL fleet and the hiring – and training – processes will be ongoing.
NCL America’s second Hawaii-only ship is slated to launch in October 2004. The 77,104-ton 2,002-passenger Pride of Aloha is currently sailing as Norwegian Sky and will undergo a refurbishment before its redeployment.