Cruise lines voluntarily suspend operations

  • A tender makes its way from Kailua Pier to the Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Pride of America anchored Wednesday in Kailua Bay. No cruise ships will anchor in Kailua Bay through mid-April after the industry voluntarily suspended operations Friday amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

  • The Norwegian Cruise Line vessel Pride of America is anchored Wednesday in Kailua Bay. No cruise ships will anchor in Kailua Bay through mid-April after the industry voluntarily suspended operations Friday amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

No cruise ships will anchor in Kailua Bay through mid-April after the industry voluntarily suspended operations Friday amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The decision to put all ocean-going sailings on hold for 30 days was made Friday by the Cruise Lines International Association, which is the world’s largest cruise industry trade association that provides “a unified voice and leading authority of the global cruise community,” according to a press release.

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“CLIA cruise line members are voluntarily and temporarily suspending operations from the U.S. as we work to address this public health crisis,” said Kelly Craighead, CLIA president and CEO. “This is an unprecedented situation. Our industry has taken responsibility for protecting public health for more than 50 years, working under the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and prides itself on its ability to deliver exceptional vacation experiences for guests, as well as meaningful employment opportunities for crew. This has been a challenging time, but we hope that this decision will enable us to focus on the future and a return to normal as soon as possible.”

The move followed voluntary suspensions implemented by Norwegian Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean earlier in the day. The suspension, which is to remain in place until April 12, took effect at 6 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Friday.

Kailua-Kona was slated to have eight vessels visit through mid-April. Four of the now-off-the-calendar visits were by the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, two by NCL’s Norwegian Pearl and one each by Holland America’s Maasdam and Eurodam.

Kona Councilwoman Rebecca Villegas, who previously called for a halt, commended the voluntary actions taken through the day and the overall decision to temporarily suspend operations, “because we obviously don’t have the leadership in our federal government to ask them to stop.”

“It’s going to be challenging financially, but at this point we have to prioritize health over wealth,” she said. “As a country, we have resources to tap into, as a community we have one another, and as a collective, we cannot afford to continue to be exposed.”

According to the CLIA, the cruise industry is a “vital artery” for the U.S. economy, supporting over 421,000 American jobs and annually contributes nearly $53 billion to the U.S. economy. Cruise activity supports travel agencies, airlines, hotels and a broad supply chain of industries that stretches across the United States.

“We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA Global chairman.

In 2018, amid the Kilauea Volcano eruption, Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, estimated Kailua-Kona lost $175,000 for each canceled visit. Based on eight canceled visits and that 2018 figure, the area could be missing out on approximately $1.4 million.

Attempts to reach Birch on Friday were unsuccessful.

“In the long run, it’s going to cost us more,” Villegas said about losses that will be incurred. “It’s totally a proactive measure that we have to take.”

She urged residents to support local business in the wake of the suspension.

“Go spend the money locally, lets make sure they are OK,” Villegas said urging people to shop and dine at local establishments. “They’re going to take a hit.”

Wendy Laros, executive director of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, said that while the organization is “very concerned about the economic impact” of the coronavirus on the state with reduced air travel, lodging and event cancellations and altered cruise ship schedules, the action taken Friday was necessary.

“We believe taking precautions at this time is very important for the long-term safety and health of our community,” she said.

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Guests who are booked on cruise itineraries which will be impacted by this decision are encouraged to contact their travel advisors or reach out to their cruise lines directly. For additional information, please contact press@cruising.org.

“The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our highest priority,” said Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, who also noted no cases of coronavirus has been confirmed among its 28-ship fleet. “We understand the inconvenience that this disruption may cause our guests and travel partners during these quickly evolving and challenging times, and we appreciate their understanding as we partner with local, state, federal and global agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

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