(Updated 12:45 p.m. EST) -- Despite last-ditch efforts by cruise lines, Hawaii will not be open to cruise ships for the remainder of this year, leaving some passengers out in the cold.
Whether cruises will be allowed to resume in January 2022 is still a question mark.
"Currently, the earliest resumption of cruises to Hawaii would be January of 2022,” Jai Cunningham, public information officer for the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) told Cruise Critic. "While no firm date is currently set, HDOT, in coordination with the various State, Federal, and Local entities, is focused on the safest possible resumption of cruise."
Cunningham added that as of this week, no local port agreements -- with pandemic-related health and safety protocols as required by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention -- had been signed. He said there would also have to be an expansion of Hawaii’s Safe Travels program for those arriving by cruise ship.
Cruises to Hawaii on Viking Ocean Cruises, UnCruise Impacted
The immediate impact of the Hawaiian delay is on two lines: Viking Ocean Cruises and UnCruise Adventures.
Viking Cruises this week cancelled two 16-night Hawaii sailings on Viking Orion that were to embark Los Angeles in December, one of which was a Christmas and New Year’s holiday cruise. Replacing the Hawaii cruises is a Mexico itinerary calling in La Paz, Puerto Vallarta (for an overnight) and Cabo San Lucas (overnight), with eight days sailing the Pacific Ocean. Guests were offered shipboard credit on the new itinerary (the amount based on cabin category), the option of alternative itineraries booked by Nov. 21, or a full refund.
"While restrictions have been eased in most destinations around the world, the impacts of the pandemic continue to make cruise travel particularly complicated in some specific locations," said Richard Marnell, executive vice president, said in a letter to impacted guests. "When we developed our Hawaiian Island Sojourn voyage, travel to Hawaii was possible."
Small ship line UnCruise was to return to Hawaii this month, with its 36-passenger Safari Explorer spending the winter cruising between Molokai and Kona. Then came last-minute word of a "stipulation" that could change the line’s ability to operate at the dock in Molokai, cruise line officials said. As of Thursday, the company was still in negotiations with local authorities, while the season-launching Nov. 20 sailing was cancelled due to weather delays repositioning the ship across the Pacific Ocean.
"We were specifically allowed to base our operations out of Molokai because we were not a large ship, but rather a very small experiential culture and adventure-based travel option," said Dan Blanchard, CEO of UnCruise. "It is my sincere hope that reasonable minds will prevail, and that permission to operate on Molokai will be granted."
Blanchard added, "You can imagine the highly negative impact on Molokai based accommodations, small businesses, Hawaiian practitioners and even my own small business. It is difficult for me to comprehend the reasoning behind this decision from the state of Hawaii and the Maui County mayor’s office."
Cruise Lines Look to 2022 To Return to Hawaii
Carnival Cruise Lines earlier this month had cancelled a two-week Carnival Journeys sailing aboard Carnival Miracle from Long Beach that had been scheduled to embark on Nov. 28, and was to visit several of the Hawaiian Islands and Ensenada. "While the ship is ready and we agreed to all the protocols required by the State, they will not be ready to restart cruising in Hawaii until 2022," John Heald, the line’s brand ambassador, said on Facebook. Future cruise credits were offered, as were refunds.
Princess Cruises also cancelled a sailing that was to cruise to Hawaii, roundtrip from Australia. Australia is also closed to international ships.
Were the ban on ships to continue into January, it could impact other cruise lines as well, most notably Norwegian Cruise Line, which has set the return of its one-week Hawaii cruises on Pride of America for January 22. Pride of America is the only large-scale, U.S.-flagged passenger ship that sails to Hawaii roundtrip from Honolulu.
Other lines with Hawaii sailings on the books for January include Holland America Line, Princess, Carnival and Oceania.