WASHINGTON -- Norwegian Cruise Lines remained silent last week
about its plan for basing a ship in Hawaii, but a Congressional
action to restrict cruise ship operations in the state had no
shortage of critics elsewhere in the industry.
ASTA and ARTA separately criticized the federal action after
Congress passed a measure that would ban cruise ships with casinos
from offering cruises that begin and end in Hawaii.
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Hawaii's governor also blasted the action, as did Senate
Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The measure, authored by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), appears
to scuttle Norwegian Cruise Line's plan to make Hawaii the home
port next year for the SuperStar Leo, now in the fleet of its
parent Star Cruises.
As most observers understand Inouye's action, the ship could not
be based in Hawaii unless the casinos were removed.
"The legislation as we understand it goes too far," said William
Maloney, ASTA staff executive vice president.
ARTA president John Hawks said the measure "gives consumers only
one choice for Hawaii cruises and that's bad news for agents."
J. Michael Cry, president of the International Council of Cruise
Lines, a trade group representing the 16 largest cruise lines, said
the legislation "seems counterproductive to attracting additional
tourism revenue" to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, NCL reiterated an earlier statement that it needed
time to review Congress' action "thoroughly" before it could
Several suppliers and tourism officials in Hawaii also declined
to comment on the legislation that has quickly become a hot potato.
Some privately called the last-minute maneuver by Inouye, a
powerful tourism advocate, "protectionist" but most declined to be
"I wouldn't touch that one with a 10-foot pole," said one
supplier operating in the islands, while another supplier in Hawaii
retracted his comments against the bill over concerns that they
might spur reprisals.
Under the narrowly worded measure, which was tacked on to a
labor appropriations bill that President Clinton is expected to
sign, a cruise ship could not begin and end a cruise in Hawaii if
it has a casino -- even if the casino is closed.
The measure would not affect cruise ships that only call on the
islands so long as the gambling facilities are closed when the
vessel is in Hawaii and the passengers don't embark from Hawaii,
which prohibits gambling in the state.
Inouye said he sponsored the measure out of concern that cruise
ships might attempt to circumvent the state's gaming laws to
operate shipboard casinos while in port, by using a loophole in the
Gambling Devices Transportation Act, a federal law regulating
gaming on cruise ships.
Inouye indicated that he was specifically concerned about NCL,
calling it "a foreign cruise line that is substantially owned by
foreign gaming interests."
Ironically, Dec. 13, two days before Congress quickly passed the
measure, NCL vice president of strategic planning Michael Pawlus
was making a presentation before the Hawaii Tourism Authority, in
which he assured officials that there would be no gaming on the
Superstar Leo while in port.
Critics of the legislation said it appeared as if Inouye was
going out of his way to help American Hawaii Cruises. In 1997,
Congress approved Inouye-sponsored legislation that allowed
American Hawaii Cruises to temporarily add re-flagged foreign
vessels, such as the Patriot, to its fleet. Inouye's wife was
dubbed the Patriot's "godmother" when she christened the ship
earlier this year.
Speaking on the Senate floor, McCain said Inouye "has once again
gone to great lengths to provide protectionist legislation to the
lone U.S. operator of large cruise ships in Hawaii."
McCain said the legislation provides American Hawaii Cruises
with the protection they need to keep out other cruise operators
who depend on gaming to attract passengers.
ICCL's Cry said the Inouye provision could cost Hawaii hundreds
of millions of dollars over time, since "every home port call by a
major cruise ship generates approximately $1 million for the local
At least one supplier estimated that NCL had plans for over 200
port calls a year in Hawaii. While conceding the legislation
appeared to be directed at NCL, Cornel Martin, vice president of
corporate affairs for American Classic Voyages, American Hawaii's
parent, said casinos never were an issue for his company.
"We knew going into Hawaii that gambling wasn't allowed," Martin
said. "So it has never been part of our business plan. In fact, we
spent quite a bit of money taking the casino out of the Patriot,"
after the former Nieuw Amsterdam was acquired from Holland America.
It went into service in Hawaii Dec. 16.
The casino, Martin said, was replaced with a Hawaii Destination
State's governor joins the chorus
HONOLULU -- Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano said a move by Sen. Daniel
Inouye (D-Hawaii) to ban cruise ships with casinos from starting
and ending itineraries in Hawaii is bad for the state's
"I think the federal legislation is bad," Cayetano told Travel
Weekly. "It may stifle other cruise ship lines from coming to
Inouye's measure is expected to be signed by President Clinton
and could hurt plans by Norwegian Cruise Line to base its
1,960-passenger SuperStar Leo here next year. Cruise ship gaming
regulations should be handled at the state level, not at the
federal level, Cayetano added.
Cayetano has been an advocate of growing the cruise ship
industry in Hawaii, and he supports the idea of investing in
upgrades to the state's port infrastructure in order to draw more
cruise ships here.
NCL's vice president of strategic planning, Michael Pawlus, told
members of the Hawaii Tourism Authority during a recent
presentation that its SuperStar Leo would contribute $99 million a
year to the state's economy, and that's not including air fares and
hotel stays related to cruise vacations.
Doug Oakley and Brian Major contributed to this