HONOLULU (KHON2) — After nearly two years, cruises are returning to Hawaii amid a COVID surge, but officials said this is an agreement that has been in the works for months.
The Grand Princess, which will be sailing from California, will be docking on Sunday, Jan. 9, in Honolulu. It is the first cruise ship with passengers welcomed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic after the state reached an agreement with Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines.
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The Hawaii State Department of Transportation (HDOT) Public Information Officer Jai Cunningham said part of the agreement between the cruise lines and the state requires at least 99% of passengers to be vaccinated against COVGID — which is above the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold of 95%.
“These cruise lines realize it’s been 22 months since they’ve been up and running in Hawaiian waters,” Cunningham explained. “They’re very serious about this, and they don’t want to misstep in this because they know that the ball’s in our court.”
Those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and admitted on board must have a negative test. Those who are onboard the cruise ship will also follow the state’s Safe Travels program, just like passengers arriving by plane.
Cunningham said, “The fact that people were saying that they’ll just be able to get off the boat without testing, absolutely not true. It is not true, they will be tested, or they will have been vaccinated and show their documentation to prove that.”
Despite COVID safety protocol, at least 12 passengers tested positive for COVID aboard a fully vaccinated Princess cruise sailing from Mexico to San Francisco.
COVID cases on cruises will be reported to Hawaii authorities, and cruise ships are equipped with isolation rooms and medical facilities to prevent taxing local health care resources.
“They have quarantine rooms to be able to isolate people, passengers who may have COVID,” Cunningham added. “And then they also have even critical care rooms. So, they’re very aware, and they’ve medically ramped up so that they can take care of anything that happens on board.”
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The agreement is somewhat open-ended as it allows the state to suspend, rescind or amend the document at any time. Counties may also add their own restrictions at any time.