HONOLULU (KHON2) — In early April, Norwegian Cruise Line returned the only cruise ship to sail year-round in Hawaii, and as part of the port agreement, the ship can only sail at 50% capacity.

Now, the capacity for Pride of America is even lower due to a staffing shortage. Visitors have reported last-minute cancellations by the cruise — some trips were even booked a year in advance.

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Tara Seely, who lives in Chester, Virginia, was one of them. She and her husband booked a cruise to Hawaii as a once-in-a-lifetime trip to celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary on July 3. They have been planning this trip for almost a year but can’t cross it off their bucket list just yet.

“This would have been our first and probably only trip to Hawaii. We are both educators, and after a very long and difficult school year, this was something that kept us going,” Seely said. “In addition, my father passed away in February, so Hawaii gave me something happy to think about and plan for. We were devastated when we received the email, and I was incredibly emotional that evening.”

While her husband has been on cruises in the past, this would have been Seely’s first. They were set to sail from July 2 to July 9, then stay an additional two days in Waikiki. They were notified on May 24 that the trip was canceled.

“I have always been apprehensive about cruises,” Seely said. “However, we believed it would be the best way to see the most that Hawaii has to offer by visiting four islands.”

In a letter sent to Seely, NCL said: “In order to adjust to the current staffing levels, unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate your upcoming reservation aboard Pride of America and will be canceling your current booking. We share your disappointment and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. A full monetary refund of the fare paid will be automatically returned to the form of payment provided at the time of reservation.”

A spokesperson for NCL sent KHON2 the following statement on June 2:

“We always strive to deliver an exceptional onboard experience to our guests. Currently, due to the tight labor market, we have not been able to fully staff Pride of America. Therefore, in order to maintain the highest possible onboard guest experience, we are operating at a lower guest capacity.” 

Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson

As a result, NCL has stopped selling select sailings to manage guest capacity.

“For guests currently booked on Pride of America for voyages that surpass current capacity levels, we will help them rebook new reservations for available voyages across the fleet, and we will compensate them for this unfortunate turn of events,” NCL’s spokesperson said.

Seely said they’re still going through the process of getting their money back after having booked three excursions for their trip. She just had to cancel one she didn’t pay for yet, but for another, she had to send several emails before she was reimbursed.

“We have not received the full reimbursement from NCL yet, but our travel agent is trying to work out those details for us,” said Seely. “We are also still waiting for reimbursement for the hotel in Waikiki.”

She added that they couldn’t get reimbursed for their travel insurance and instead received a voucher that has to be used within two years. However, NCL did indicate they would be fully reimbursed and receive 100% toward a future cruise.

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“We do plan to try and take the trip next summer,” said Seely, “and hope that by that time, the staffing shortages and any other issues that NCL is experiencing will be worked out.”