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Pride of Hawaii headed for Europe

Norwegian Cruise Lines seems to live in the shadow of its mainstream line competitors, Carnival and Royal Caribbean. To make a name for itself, Norwegian invented the Freestyle Cruising concept and launched the first U.S.-flagged cruise ships in years, the only vessels allowed to sail all-Hawaii itineraries. The hope was that Hawaii would become as popular for cruises as it is for land-based vacations and that cruisers would flock to NCL’s seven-night voyages rather than sail to Hawaii via Mexico, Canada, or the Fanning Islands.

Apparently, the Hawaii cruise concept wasn’t as immediately successful as the executives at Norwegian hoped. The cruise line announced today that as of February 2008, it will pull the Pride of Hawaii from the Hawaiian market and send it to Europe for the summer season.

Norwegian blames its large 2006 financial losses for the decision, citing weak pricing due to the increased number of NCL America and foreign-flagged ships in Hawaii. But the cruise line remains optimistic. “Clearly we are victims of our own success,” says Colin Veitch, Norwegian’s president and CEO. “We have demonstrated that Hawaii is a highly attractive cruise destination and Hawaii now has four times as much capacity serving it in 2007 as it did in 2004 when we started NCL America.”

Veitch also asserted that Norwegian remains committed to building a strong product in the Hawaii market. Once the other ships are more profitable, the cruise line will bring the Pride of Hawaii back to its namesake islands.

Guests already booked on the Pride of Hawaii for cruises in February 2008 and beyond will receive $50 in shipboard credit if they rebook their cruise by May 1, 2007. Travelers who wish to cancel their cruise will receive a full refund.

No word has been said about when the Pride of Hawaii’s Europe season will go on sale. Personally, I would love to see a ship painted with a giant man in a grass headdress calmly cruising the waters of the Mediterranean, Baltic, or English Channel.

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