YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Not-So-Smooth Sailing in Hawaii

If it's paradise ashore, things are less than ideal aboard the Patriot, an all-American ship that's the newest vessel to embark on an island itinerary


HONOLULU — It spends all its time in Hawaii and is as American as apple pie. At its re-christening last December, it was renamed the Patriot, and Maggie Inouye, wife of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, broke a bottle of champagne against its side.

That's the way cruise ships are welcomed--or re-welcomed--into the world. And in Hawaii, where cruising waned around 1960 as air travel became more prevalent, the Patriot arrived as a bundle of joy, promising to bring jobs and tourist dollars.

The 1,212-passenger Patriot, built in 1983 as the Nieuw Amsterdam for Holland America Line, joins its sister, the 1,066-passenger Independence, the only big cruise ship operating in Hawaii before the Patriot came along. Both are owned by New Orleans-based American Classic Voyages, the largest operator of U.S.-flagged and -crewed cruise ships. Together, these ships offer an easy way to get to know four islands in seven nights.

The Patriot and Independence won't have Hawaii to themselves for long. In April, Celebrity Cruises' 1,950-passenger Infinity is scheduled to begin 11-night voyages from Ensenada, Mexico, to Honolulu. Later this year, Norwegian Cruise Line's 1,960-passenger Norwegian Leo will stop at four Hawaiian isles and in the tiny Micronesian nation of Kiribati.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 7, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 3 Metro Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Hawaii cruise--In a Travel section story about the cruise ship Patriot ("Not-So-Smooth Sailing in Hawaii," Feb. 4), Waihee Valley on Maui was incorrectly identified as Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is on Kauai.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday February 11, 2001 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 6 Travel Desk 1 inches; 28 words Type of Material: Correction
Hawaii cruise--In a story about the cruise ship Patriot ("Not-So-Smooth Sailing in Hawaii," Feb. 4), Waihee Valley on Maui was incorrectly identified as Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is on Kauai.

With high hopes, I booked an outside cabin on the Patriot's lowest deck. I knew I wouldn't get a balcony (there aren't any) on my mid-January cruise, the ship's sixth on this itinerary. But the Patriot has all the other cruise ship bells and whistles: two restaurants (the formal Manhattan dining room and the casual Outrigger Cafe), two pools, shops, workout facilities, showrooms, bars and lounge areas aplenty and a Hawaiian culture center. So I packed my Hawaiian shirt and threw in a notebook so I could keep a log.

Day 1: Oahu

I've cruised before and am hard to impress. Even so, my expectations soared when I saw the ship, gleaming white against the blue water. I envisioned unforgettable ports-of-call and exciting excursions. A luxurious stateroom and genie-in-a-bottle service. Fireworks and streamers.

Moored close to the Art Deco Aloha Tower in Honolulu Harbor, the Patriot looked like a great expectation, with nine decks and the American eagle on its navy-blue stack. It was stirring to see it, the first of the new fleet headed for the islands. One well might wonder what has taken the cruise ships so long to come to Hawaii. The reasons include small harbors and antiquated passenger terminals, the attractiveness of land-based Hawaiian vacations and the state's gaming prohibition. The chief impediment for foreign ships has been a century-old law that prevents them from picking up and dropping off passengers at a U.S. port without first cruising to a foreign country, which explains the Norwegian Leo's detour to Kiribati.

None of these problems deterred the Patriot, even though it flew a foreign flag when American Classic bought it for $114.5 million. But under legislation passed by Congress in 1997 to promote cruise ship construction in the U.S., the company was allowed to fly the Stars and Stripes on the Patriot in return for having two new 1,900 passenger ships built in Pascagoula, Miss., scheduled to be sailing in the islands by 2004.

Porters were waiting as I stepped on board, providing my first impression of the 400-member crew. They were mostly in their 20s and 30s, joking with one another, having a good time and doing a little work while they were at it, all very familiar and casual.

Frequent cruisers know that ships exhibit the personality of their countries of origin in sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious ways. The Patriot is all-American, with an unreservedly friendly, even rambunctious crew.

Cruisers who look for a high level of luxury, service and decorum would probably be appalled by waitresses who call you "love," the undistinguished cuisine of the ship's dining rooms and the plastic patio furniture on the decks.

The passengers didn't strike me as sticklers for service, though many I talked to had cruised before. Many were Midwesterners who were fleeing winter and wanted an uncomplicated vacation. The Patriot was a good fit for them: The crew spoke English, the ports-of-call were American, and hamburgers and scrambled eggs were served every day.

The Patriot's Hawaiian storyteller, or kumu, Huanani Kaui, who often regaled us with tales from the islands, summed it up nicely in a welcome lecture. She said we were all one big ohana, or family, because we had a relative in common: Uncle Sam.

Before I boarded the ship, I visited the Hawaii Maritime Center, where I saw a re-creation of a white-walled stateroom from the old Matson lines, which used to provide passenger ship service to Hawaii. The room was cozy and commodious--far more attractive than my cabin on the lowest deck of the Patriot.

Los Angeles Times Articles