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By Andy Gross

KAUAI, Hawaii (The Garden Island, April 12) - Though Kaua‘i has been receiving cruise ships for years, visitor frequency is definitely on the rise, and with it comes some uncharted waters.

With increased passengers from varying cruise lines come potential economic benefits, but also logistical issues. Such as keeping things manageable at Nawiliwili Harbor in terms of greeters, activity solicitors and ground transportation.

"How do we do what is best for the passengers with the facilities we have in place now?" wonders Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau.

"It opens up opportunities for commerce," Kanoho said, regarding activities choices for passengers to get off the ship and partake in golf, a helicopter ride, shopping, or whatever other options might present themselves from greeters and business representatives at the harbor.

Kanoho is also chair of the local cruise ship committee.

"Five years ago, it was more sporadic. Now with Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and more foreign ships coming (and staying overnight), we could get up to five to six ships per week," she said.

Greg Allen, owner and manager of the Harbor Mall on Rice Street in Nawiliwili, which features five restaurants, said he felt proper guidelines were in place to ensure a quality visit.

"We have the one-greeter (per business) guidelines, and it's going pretty smooth getting people on busses. The increased visits are great, wonderful. They are the answer to providing business for the shops during the day."

As a harbinger of things to come and indication of Hawai‘i as a featured destination, NCL's Pride of America will be visiting Kaua‘i weekly beginning in late July, while another ship, the Pride of Hawaii, still under construction, is due within the next two years.

NCL's Pride of Aloha, the company's first U.S.-flagged ship, began sailing seven day, round trip Hawai‘i voyages last fall. The state’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), as of the first quarter of 2004, the average cruise-ship passenger spends $104.77 a day. The spending includes a number of categories, and represents a 16.9-percent increase from the first quarter of 2003.

State Tourism Liaison Marsha Wienert said cruise tourism is an idea whose time has come.

"Cruising is one of the fastest-growing industries, increasing dramatically. We see it as a complement to land-based visits," Wienert said.

The number of visitors who came by cruise ships or who arrived by air to board ships throughout the islands in February climbed 19.6 percent from a year ago, to 20,079 passengers, according to DBEDT statistics.

For the first two months of this year, the number of cruise passengers rose 35 percent, to 42,634, from the same point a year ago, according to DBEDT.

"We hope the cruise visitor will be a return visitors in years to come," Wienert said, alluding to the increased revenue of a visitor returning for a "land stay" that would include a hotel stay and other attendant expenditures.

She said all the harbors are secure and safe, and have infrastructure in place for increased visits, and that future improvements were scheduled for state harbors including Nawiliwili.

Unlike cruise ships in the Caribbean whose leaders often charge passengers a head tax ranging from $10 to $20 per passenger in each port, Hawai‘i does not have a tax on cruise visitors.

Nawiliwili Harbor Marine Cargo Specialist John Nekomoto said the harbor collects an assortment of fees from cruise-ship operators, including dockage and wharfage, and fees for providing fresh water.

The dockage fee for an average-size cruise ship, depending upon its length, would be about $2,000 for a 24-hour period, according to information provided by the state Department of Transportation Harbors Division. Cruise visitors pay a $2.50 embarkation/disembarkation fee.

Nekemoto said to the best of his knowledge no statistics had been compiled to determine the cost benefits derived from the overnight stay of cruise ships, versus those ships that call only for the day.

A total of 1,487 Hawai‘i residents boarded cruise ships touring the islands during the first quarter of 2004, a 57-percent increase from the same time last year, according to information provided by officials in the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism

April 13, 2005

The Garden Island: http://www.kauaiworld.com/

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