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Originally published October 17, 2003 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 14, 2004 at 5:44 PM

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More ships will ply the waters of Hawaii

Norwegian Cruise Line is betting on Hawaii. The Miami-headquartered company will have four ships sailing among the Hawaiian islands next year, two foreign-flagged and two U.S.S.-flagged vessels. By...

Norwegian Cruise Line is betting on Hawaii. The Miami-headquartered company will have four ships sailing among the Hawaiian islands next year, two foreign-flagged and two U.S.-flagged vessels. By 2006, almost a third of the cruise line's fleet capacity will be in Hawaii.

The Pride of America and the Pride of Aloha will be U.S.-flagged, which makes them subject to U.S. labor laws and other regulations, unlike foreign-flagged cruise ships. They'll sail year-round among the islands, with one trip starting in July and the other in October.

Two foreign-flagged NCL ships will offer Hawaii/Fanning Island itineraries — the Norwegian Wind sailing year-round and the Norwegian Star through April. The 3,000-plus passenger ship shifts to Alaska for the summer season.

Under U.S. maritime law, only U.S.-flagged ships can sail directly between U.S. ports. Foreign-flagged ships must call at a foreign port; hence Norwegian's port calls at Fanning Island in the Republic of Kiribati, about 1,000 miles south of Hawaii.

Many other major cruises lines also offer Hawaii cruises, including Holland America, Crystal, Princess and Celebrity. However, their sailings are more limited, and they depart from ports in Canada, Mexico or call at Fanning Island since they're foreign-flagged.

As the Hawaiian cruise industry grows, state government agencies are reviewing their anti-pollution policies, and environmental groups are raising concerns about possible pollution from the ships.

Docks and other facilities also need to be improved for the influx of cruise passengers, estimated at nearly 200,000 next year according to the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, a 40-percent increase from this year.

Going off to sea in record numbers

This could be a record year for cruising, say upbeat projections by the Cruise Lines International Association. CLIA predicts its member lines will carry more than 9.6 million vacationers worldwide this year, up from 8.65 million last year. The 24 member lines of CLIA account for 95 percent of all cruises taken by North American passengers (who are the world's main cruise market).

Royal Caribbean's colossus of the seas

Royal Caribbean International has sealed the deal to build Ultra Voyager, a vessel weighing in at about 160,000 gross registered tons.

To date, this is cruisedom's biggest behemoth — larger even than Cunard Line's forthcoming 150,000-ton QM2. The megaship is slated to begin service in May 2006.


The Ultra Voyager will be roughly 15 percent bigger than the line's Voyager-class ships — currently the biggest passenger ships in service. It will soar 18 stories high and stretch 1,112 feet in length. At 100 percent occupancy, it will carry 3,600 passengers and 1,400 crew members.

Wildlife warning for Caribbean passengers

As the Caribbean cruise season gets going this fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and TRAFFIC have issued a brochure to help travelers avoid buying illegal souvenirs made from endangered species. More than 4 million Americans visit the Caribbean each year, many on cruise vacations.

Many wildlife products sold as souvenirs or clothing overseas cannot be brought into the United States or require permits to do so. In the Caribbean, these include sea-turtle products; certain types of coral; certain leather products; animal furs; and bird feathers.

"Unsustainable trade is wiping out some of the very wildlife and habitat that travelers go to the Caribbean to enjoy. Yet Americans unwittingly load their suitcases with contraband every day while on vacation and illegally bring it home," said Leigh Henry of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of World Wildlife Fund and IUCN-The World Conservation Union.

"Buyer Beware," published by TRAFFIC and the Fish and Wildlife Service, will be distributed free to travelers at border crossings and travel agencies and will be made available to cruise lines, visitors bureaus and other traveler services. Or see

Cruising from Manhattan

It was inevitable. Once Norwegian Cruise Line decided to sail its splashy new Dawn out of New York year-round, the competition came up with some juicy offerings of their own.

Royal Caribbean International will put its whiz-bang Voyager of the Seas to sea from New York next year. It will be the largest cruise ship to offer Caribbean and Canadian itineraries from Manhattan.

Voyager is the colossus that changed the face of cruise vacations when it launched in 1999. Aside from sheer size, the 142,000-ton, 3,114-passenger ship introduced a bevy of revolutionary features, including the first seagoing rock-climbing wall and ice-skating rink.

Voyager's other amenities include a mini-golf course, an in-line skating track, a jogging track, a full basketball court, three pools, six whirlpools, an adults-only Solarium, a 15,000-square-foot fitness center and spa. Sounds like a nice match for a city that already has everything.

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