The recent wildfires that have ravaged parts of Maui have forced some cruise lines to alter their itineraries and skip the island for the time being. Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Princess Cruises have announced that they will replace their scheduled stop in Maui with an overnight stay in Hilo, Hawaii, on the Big Island. The change will affect the upcoming cruises in August 2023, as the island’s infrastructure and resources are strained by the disaster.
The wildfires, fueled by hurricane-force winds, have caused catastrophic damage and are the deadliest in the U.S. in several years. The worst fires occurred in West Maui, as the historic area of Lahaina has been completely devastated by flames that have not yet been fully extinguished. Local officials issued a proclamation declaring essential travel only to the island of Maui and declaring a disaster emergency relief period at least through Aug. 15, 2023. President Joe Biden has signed an emergency disaster declaration for the state of Hawaii, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will coordinate recovery operations.
Cruise lines offer refunds or credits to affected passengers
Both NCL and Princess Cruises have notified their guests of the itinerary changes and offered them options to either cancel their cruise for a full refund or receive a future cruise credit. NCL said in a statement, “In an effort to alleviate the pressure on local resources, we have made the decision to replace our scheduled stop in Maui with an overnight stay in Hilo, Hawaii.” The interim itinerary will also include more time on Kauai, according to NCL, that will “provide an optimal opportunity to immerse in the splendor and natural allure of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Princess Cruises also said that it will eliminate its scheduled call on Maui on Monday and will replace that with a stop on the Big Island at Kona. The cruise line said that it is “working closely with local authorities and monitoring the situation” and that it will “provide updates as they become available.”
Maui tourism industry suffers major blow
The wildfires have dealt a major blow to Maui’s tourism industry, which is one of the main sources of income for the island. According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui welcomed 3.1 million visitors in 2022, generating $5.1 billion in visitor spending. The island is known for its scenic beauty, cultural heritage, and diverse attractions, such as Haleakala National Park, Iao Valley State Park, Kaanapali Beach, and Lahaina Town.
However, with the fires destroying homes, businesses, and natural resources, many visitors are advised to postpone or cancel their trips to Maui until the situation improves. The Hawaii Tourism Authority recommends the following: “Visitors who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time.” The authority also urges travelers to check with their airlines, hotels, and tour operators for any updates or changes to their bookings.