HONOLULU -- Islanders here got a feel for what the much-heralded,
high-speed Hawaii interisland ferry -- still two years from its
debut -- will look like when the new Spirit of Ontario I stopped
The Spirit of Ontario I, from the same company commissioned to
build two similar ferries for use here, sailed into Hawaiian waters
en route from a shipyard in Australia to its port in Rochester,
Though not an exact likeness of the Hawaii Superferry ships
planned for service here (the Spirit of Ontario I is 20% smaller),
it gave locals and tourists on four islands a chance to explore a
new type of oceangoing catamaran that offers an alternative to
ever-increasing interisland air fares.
But for all the hoopla at the ports, not everyone is jumping on
"The ferry has surprised me before," said Frank Haas, director
of marketing for the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "We tried [ferry
service] for locals," he said, and it did not succeed.
Although he is reserving judgment on the ferry project, Haas
said he is for anything that further diversifies the product.
"We are a diverse destination," he said, pointing to the
islands' variety of accommodations and activities as an example.
"[The ferry] helps diversify transportation. Anything that expands
variety is attractive."
The public queued up to board the ship in Honolulu on March 6
for an inspection before it sailed on for similar welcomes in
Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. Those who toured the vessel
described the passenger area as spacious and the deck quiet,
despite the ship's oversized engines.
The ferry's speed (at 45 mph, it will sail from Honolulu to Maui
or Kauai in three hours and the Big Island in four) can't beat air
service (30 to 50 minutes), but a steady rise in interisland air
fare in the last decade and the comparatively low cost of ferry
transportation could alter the way locals, tourists and cargo
travel from one island to another.
Is the price right?
"[Success] will depend on the pricing," Haas said.
"Air fares have gone up substantially, and the schedules are
less convenient compared with where they were historically," Haas
The passage will cost about half the price of flying, according
to Honolulu-based Hawaii Superferry.
Hawaiian Airlines' "anytime fare" from Honolulu to Maui is $126
each way; from Honolulu to the Big Island, $131; and from Honolulu
to Kauai, $106. Aloha Airlines flights are $141 to Maui and $140 to
the Big Island and to Kauai.
Initially, the ferry will make one run per day, including
weekends, from Honolulu to Maui and Kauai, and three per week to
the Big Island. Once the second ferry comes on line, there will be
two trips a day to each of the islands. Booking can be done by Web
Back to the future
"For Hawaii, the new ship is 'back to the future,' as the ships
are 21st century descendants of the double-canoe catamarans the
Polynesians invented and used to find and populate Hawaii," said
Terry White, chief operating officer of Hawaii Superferry.
The four-deck, 340-foot-long catamarans can carry 900 people and
250 cars, trucks and buses on three vehicle decks.
The ships will have multiple dining options, satellite TV,
movies and a play area for children. Seating will be
airplane-style, with those in Club Class having wider, reclining
seats. A high-speed Wi-Fi network will keep people connected.
The two U.S.-flagged vessels will be built in Mobile, Ala., by
Hawaii Superferry in partnership with Austal USA, a joint venture
of Austal, a leading producer of fast ferries, and Bender
Industries, a U.S. shipbuilder.
Construction is scheduled to begin on the first ferry in
January. The ship is slated to enter service in late 2006. The
second ferry is tentatively scheduled for a 2008 delivery.
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