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Cruise Line Reps Explore Molokai

The past 20-plus years have seen repeated protests, and even blockades, aimed at cruise lines wanting to visit Molokai. Now, a new cruise company contemplates testing the waters.

Representatives from American Cruise Lines journeyed to Molokai in early December at the behest of the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and Sen. Lynn DeCoite, according to company President and CEO Charlie Robertson.

“We didn’t want to catch anyone off guard,” said Robertson. “This was very much an exploratory trip, and we were honored to be invited to come out to Molokai…It was really just a trip to ask questions and hear what Molokai and other communities in Hawaii would expect from a ship like ours.”

The ship in question is a 200-person, inter-island cruise intended specifically for Hawaii. It would dock for 24 to 36 hours, with visitors sleeping aboard. American Cruise Lines is the largest domestic small-ship cruise line, currently visiting 30 U.S. states. The ship for Hawaii has yet to be even designed though, with Robertson describing the project as about three to five years away from completion.

At that size, the ship would be less than ten percent the size of a standard cruise, according to Robertson.

“Big enough to run a consistent inter-island schedule, but it’s small enough to get into places that no [standard] cruise ships are able to visit,” he explained.

When Robertson and other representatives came to Molokai, they met with residents, including County Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, and made their way to the Christmas Craft Fair at Lanikeha Center.

“We heard both perspectives on Molokai very clearly,” said Robertson, acknowledging that there are “real concerns about bringing tourism in, and we’re very respectful and sensitive to that.”

Rawlins-Fernandez took a firm stance on Molokai’s relationship with tourism.

“Our community has always taken pride in not being overly reliant on the tourism industry, whose benefits have not outweighed the social and environmental impacts on our sister islands,” she explained. “While I personally do not support a second cruise ship coming to Molokai, regardless of its size, as our council member I will support our community’s decision on this matter.”

Currently, UnCruise Adventures’ Safari Explorer is the only cruise to visit Molokai. The Safari Explorer has a passenger size of 36, with 13 scheduled visits for 2023-24.

American Cruise Lines has not decided how many times a ship would visit the island if they were to create a proposal for Molokai.

“If the Molokai community wanted only a handful of visits, we could offer an itinerary,” said Robertson. “It could also be zero times a year if that was the sentiment we got from the community.”

How the Molokai community would be able to express consensus desires on the cruise line, however, was less clear.

Shannon McKee, president of Access Cruise and the cruise contractor for the HTA, explained that American Cruise Lines has worked in smaller, indigenous communities before, along the Snake and Mississippi Rivers.

“We would not go into a destination in which we were not welcome. We wouldn’t want that kind of experience for our guests,” said McKee.

McKee also explained that one possibility is that American Cruise Lines comes to Hawaii, but not Molokai.

For now though, the possibility of a cruise remains just that – a possibility.

“There is no ship, there is nothing at this point of time but an idea and a desire to understand and know more,” said McKee.

Molokai residents with cruise-related questions can reach McKee at shannon@accesscruiseinc.com or (305) 582-2095.


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