Last week the Hawaii Tourism Authority welcomed participants to Honolulu from around the world for the 2018 Global Tourism Summit.  The theme for the summit was Charting the Course with the focus on the need for every destination to continuously balance travel’s popularity with its impact on residents and communities.  The programming was robust with three key tracks which discussed sustainable tourism, global tourism trends and cultural tourism. The key note speakers were thought provoking and gave the audience a lot to think about from tackling over tourism to implementing new technology and how not to lose the human touch.  

I was honored to be invited to speak at the conference this year on the State of the Cruise Industry and give an update on cruise capacity in Hawaii.  Access Cruise has been working with the Hawaii Tourism Authority since 2015 to responsibly grow their cruise capacity and has seen great success. During my presentation I also covered the benefits of the cruise industry in Hawaii.  I won’t get into those details now, but will save it for a separate blog. I will say, “There are many!”

Cruising to Hawaii has been popular for over 100 years.  It’s a marquis destination which consistently ranks high among cruisers.  But Hawaii also has its challenges. Cruise lines must either be U.S. flagged to sail inter-island, such as Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, or they must make a 5- day journey from either side of the Pacific Ocean to reach the Hawaiian Islands.  This year brought a new set of challenges with the eruption of Kilauea Volcano and Hurricane Lane. The Island of Hawaii was affected the most with many cancelled cruise calls to both Kona and Hilo.  Originally 2018 was forecasted to see moderate increases in all ports with the exception of Kona. Sadly, passenger capacity to the Island of Hawaii dropped 6% YOY as cruise lines shifted itineraries.  In some cases, other ports benefited from an additional port call or extended times in port.

Enough of that.  Let’s get to the good news.  The future of cruising in Hawaii is positive!  Every island will see growth in 2019 according to bookings pulled from  The forecast for Oahu is an 8% increase; Kauai an 8% increase; Maui a 6% increase; and the Island of Hawaii is estimated to see a 26% increase in passengers.  Of course, the Island of Hawaii capacity numbers are a little exaggerated because of the cancellations the island received in 2018. But either way, Island of Hawaii was forecasted to see growth.

You may wonder, where is the capacity coming from.  It is currently split evenly between domestic and international carriers.  Norwegian Cruise Line is the only domestic cruise line in the islands and continues to be the dominant player with 53% of the market.  Pride of America provides a consistent number of passengers dispersed to all the major Hawaiian Islands throughout the year.  The international carriers have concentrated calls between September and May. Their numbers continue to increase in both the number of cruise lines as well as the number of passengers visiting the Hawaiian Islands.  MSC and Azamara Club Cruises will be making inaugural calls over the next two years and Disney Cruise Line just announced their return in 2020. There’s more to come, but I can’t share…yet!

As we continue with the theme of Charting the Course, there is much more to talk about when it comes to cruising in Hawaii; sustainability, infrastructure, tourism trends and cultural tourism.  We’ll tackle some of these topics next time as we talk about the benefits of cruising in Hawaii for guests as well as the local community. Until that time, I would have to say that the future is bright for cruising in Hawaii.