ongratulations are in order to the State of Hawaii and to Norwegian Cruise Line, for they both have something new to offer, something good. On the Fourth of July, appropriately, NCL began operating interisland cruises within Hawaii, using a modern cruise ship flying the American flag.

We've said before that there ought to be room in the travel industry's product line for interisland Hawaii cruises on modern ships, without the annoying requirement to include a foreign port. Finally, with the inaugural Hawaii cruise of the Pride of Aloha, that product is here.

That's good news, and the news is likely to get better as NCL brings the Pride of America to the market next year, and the Pride of Hawaii in 2006.

All of this should be good for NCL, good for Hawaii and good for cruising. What's missing in all this goodness, however, is the availability of similar opportunities for other cruise operators in Hawaii and elsewhere in U.S. waters.

Our antiquated maritime laws impose such ridiculous restrictions on the modern cruise industry that NCL could get into this market only with an extraordinary dispensation from the U.S. Congress. That tells us that a thorough overhaul of our maritime laws and policy is long overdue.

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Registered travelers

t long last, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the airlines and a few big airports are beginning to test a "registered traveler" program whereby certain lucky travelers are promised a shorter, hassle-free trip through the security lines.

It makes great sense for the security system to offer passengers the option of signing up, sharing some personal background information and jumping through a few hoops in return for a sort of "speed pass," and we hope the tests now beginning in Minneapolis will help everyone work the bugs out of the system.

The airlines are keenly interested in making this work for a variety of reasons, but the one we hear most often is that it would mean fewer security hassles for their frequent business travelers. That's an understandable concern, but we would hope that everybody involved in this enterprise -- and that includes the airlines, the passengers and the TSA -- remembers the difference between passenger service and security.

During the test phase, only certain members of the frequent flyer programs of the participating airlines will be eligible. That's OK for the test phase, but if the end result is a permanent program, it should be a program with no elitist overtones. Any traveler should be eligible to enroll, regardless of whether he or she is a frequent traveler, a business traveler or a big spender.

Airlines can pamper their best customers in any way they see fit, but we believe the obligation of our federal security screeners is to treat all taxpayers with equal respect and equal care.

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