Hawaii Earthquake -- Any Aftershocks for Cruisers?

October 20, 2006
Hawaii Earthquake Update: Kona Reopens
Earthquake in Hawaii -- Impact on Cruises Unknown
Pride of Aloha Departure Delayed
Live Report from Pride of Hawaii; 6 A.M. Update

From my cushy berth on NCL America's Pride of Hawaii, the major earthquake that rocked Hawaii earlier this week was hardly disruptive. We were docked in Kauai, and I have to admit I slept through the tremors some of my fellow passengers felt; after my daily muffin, I hit Poipu Beach for a surfing excursion, unaware of the story unfolding on CNN, and on the Big Island and Oahu.

Looking back on it, passengers onboard Pride of Aloha (scheduled to turnaround that very day in Honolulu) probably weren't so lucky. With power outages blanketing Oahu, the Honolulu airport was allowing only incoming traffic -- which meant cruisers heading home after their weeklong voyage were facing delayed or, worst case, canceled flights.

At the same time, the Associated Press was reporting that officials had asked cruise ships to keep passengers onboard -- though we were kept notified by NCL and its passengers that folks were disembarking that morning and en route to the airport. Shortly after that, the cruise line issued a statement detailing its plans to assist passengers:

"NCL has made the decision to keep Pride of Aloha in Honolulu overnight to accommodate as many guests as possible, from the just-ended cruise, whose flights out of Honolulu today have been canceled, and to wait until tomorrow for those guests, due to embark the just-starting cruise, whose flights into Honolulu today have been canceled. For those guests who cannot be accommodated because of lack of cabin space on Pride of Aloha tonight, NCL is working to secure hotel rooms in Honolulu. Priority is being given to guests who booked their air travel through NCL, but, as always, the company is working to try to assist everyone affected."

"I was on Pride of Aloha when the quake hit," one reader writes via e-mail. "I don't recall the cruise line doing anything to accommodate those of us disembarking. In fact, they canceled all excursions for that day and sent everyone to the airport via bus ... they gave us no information on the state of the airport. We stood in line for a solid three to four hours at the airport before a United employee told us that all flights were canceled. We were on our own."

On the boards, member murphyrulez posts, "My wife and I disembarked from Pride of Aloha this morning [October 15] at 9 a.m. ... we went to the airport in Honolulu to try to get on our 1:15 p.m. flight to Seattle. We waited at the airport until the power came back on at 6 p.m. Then we waited some more. At first they told us our flight would leave tonight, then they canceled it ... Anyone in Honolulu with a shower at home want to come give my wife and I a place to sleep and a shower tonight?"

So what's the real story? Indeed, passengers were sent to the airport. However, at that point, NCL spokeswoman Susan Robison tells us, it wasn't clear that any outgoing flights were going to be canceled outright. "It was a very fluid situation, and we were releasing information as quickly as we could," Robison said, noting that staffers did an "admirable job" under tough circumstances. (And as far as the AP report, Robison tells us that the request to keep passengers onboard did not apply to Aloha's turnaround.)

Once the decision was made and announced to accommodate displaced guests onboard, NCL was able to track down their air/sea passengers -- but those who booked their cruise only through the line were a tougher lot. To that end, a ground crew was sent to the airport to set up a desk and offer disembarked guests who needed a place to stay two options: come back to the ship or be put up in reserved rooms at area hotels. According to Robison, 116 passengers on the ended cruise came back to the ship; nobody took up the offer to bypass the airport for a hotel room because there was no power at those properties.

When you head out to search for 2,000 passengers, Robison tells us, "you hopefully get everybody, but there were some people that maybe didn't know the desk was there, or to ask for an NCL rep."

Otherwise, with arriving flights still on schedule, incoming guests for the upcoming cruise were brought onboard. "We ran power to the pier, checked people in and kept the ship in port until 8 p.m. the next day [October 16]."

Expect smooth sailing now in Hawaii and for the ships that call there: On October 17, the tender pier and major tourist attractions in Kona -- the section of Hawaii's Big Island that was closest to the epicenter -- were reopened; both Pride of America and Norwegian Wind visited that day as planned.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor