Norwegian Cruise Line announced Wednesday the Pride of America will return to Kona on May 30. The company previously made the decision to bypass Hilo and Kona due to the ongoing eruption.
“Over the last couple of weeks we have been carefully monitoring the geological conditions on The Big Island of Hawaii,” NCL said in a statement. “Our top priority continues to be the safety and security of our guests and crew.”
Earlier this month, NCL announced it was modifying the itinerary of Pride of America to ensure guests have the best vacation experience possible. The company has not said when the cruise ship will return to Hilo.
Business owners in Hilo, Volcano and lower Puna on Hawaii island said they’ve taken a hit since cruise ships bypassed the Big Island.
Jeanette Baysa, owner of Hilo Coffee Mill, said she’s lost 80 percent of her business since the cruise ships stopped coming.
“We have cruise ship visitor clientele and so with them not being here it makes a big difference. We also cater for some of the tour companies that sell excursions. It affects them, which trickles down and affects us,” Baysa explained.
Hilo Coffee Mill was founded in 2001 and sits on 24 acres in Mountain View.
Baysa said having the cruise ships return is good news for everyone.
“The return of the ships hopefully that will get us back to normal over a period of time and then I can get my people back to working,” Baysa said.
Officials have been working around the clock to let visitors know Hawaii island remains a safe place to visit.
“I have been doing outreach to just assure visitors from around the world that hawaii is still open for business,” Gov. David Ige said. “The area of the eruption is a very, very small part of Hawaii island. Hilo, Pahoa, the Kona coast, Waimea are all very vibrant attractive opportunities for our visitors to come and enjoy.”
Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO George Szigeti said they’re continuing to work with all of their marketing partners to get the word out.
“We’re really happy to see the NCL is reinstating their Kona stop over starting next Wednesday,” Szigeti said. “Princess Cruises did a stop over last week and extended their stay from a half a day to 12 hours to help the small business owners and that was appreciated as well.”
“We will continue to assess the situation carefully and will make changes to our planned itineraries if conditions warrant,” NCL said. “We will commence calls to Hilo as soon as conditions allow.”
Despite concerns from businesses on Hawaii island, Szigeti said visitor arrivals are actually up.
“The visitor arrivals for May have been very, very good. We had a strong year record last year and those numbers are above 10 percent from last year. Arrivals have been very good.”
Szigeti said they are concerned about the booking pace for the upcoming summer months.