HILO, Hawaii -- Norwegian Cruise Line will offer free or reduced airfare to
Hawaii in a limited promotion aimed at boosting sales for its Pride of America
ship and more broadly raising Hawaii's profile following the Kilauea volcanic
eruption from May to August.
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Andy Stuart said the air deal will start
Oct. 4 and be an option among five in its "Free at Sea" promotion for
Already, Norwegian had included discounted air and a
pre-cruise hotel stay in "Free at Sea," with prices of $350 or $399
roundtrip for Hawaii bookings.
At an event at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, Stuart said
making the offer free was meant to showcase its value. "We really think it's
going to stimulate demand and get people excited to come back."
The free airfare is being offered from five gateways on the
U.S. West Coast. At 33 other gateways, roundtrip air will be offered from $299
in some Western states to $799 in Miami.
Norwegian tiptoed into free air in Alaska, conducting a
one-day sale with free air for bookings of the Norwegian Joy, which was shifted
from China to Alaska for 2019 on relatively short notice.
Stuart said the offer for Pride of America will be longer
than a day but will be for a limited time.
In an interview, he said that there are no other free-air
offers in the works currently, but that it had worked well for the Norwegian
Joy and if it works for the Pride of America, it could be used in the future.
While luxury lines often use free or reduced air to help
book slow sailings, it is relatively rare for mass-market lines to do so.
Steam venting from Fissure 8, one of the prime sources of lava that added more than 800 acres to the Big Island during the Kīlauea volcano eruption from May through August. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
Tourism to Hawaii, particularly to the Big Island, has been
hit in 2018 by the one-two punch of a significant volcanic eruption, starting
in May, and a tropical storm, Hurricane Lane, in September.
However, lava flows tailed off from the Kilauea volcano
about a month ago and are currently "paused," allowing for a partial
reopening of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park near here on Sept. 22.
Tour companies have started to revamp their offerings to
reflect the changes triggered by the eruption, which added about 820 acres to the
The eruption drained the lava lake at the Kilauea Crater and
expanded the crater's size as it collapsed inward. Large new fields of
solidified black lava are evident from a helicopter tour of the area, as well
as continued steam venting, particularly from the rift known as Fissure 8.
About 750 structures were destroyed or isolated by the fast-moving
lava, according to Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii
Birch pointed to several reasons for visiting the Big Island
now, beyond seeing the incredible changes wrought to the landscape.
The absence of molten lava, which emits sulfur dioxide and
other noxious fumes, has notably improved the air quality, he said. Airlift is
relatively plentiful and because demand has been temporarily reduced, hotel
rates are favorable.
Stuart also said it is a good time to book a Hawaii cruise,
following the tremendous media coverage of the eruption.
"We had a little slowdown during that period. I would
say demand is now similar to what it was before all of that news coverage, but
we had a period of time where business was a bit below, so that's a gap you
want to make up over time," Stuart said.
"The destination is open, we just need to spread the
word," he added.