Some 21 lucky Hawaii residents are being allowed to get off two cruise ships that are stopping in Honolulu for food and fuel but are not disembarking any other passengers due to the spread of the new coronavirus.
The state Department of Transportation Harbors Division said six Hawaii residents and an injured passenger and her spouse were allowed to leave the cruise ship Maasdam docked at Pier 2 on Friday after some uncertainty whether they would be permitted to get off — and have to sail elsewhere. The ship has 850 passengers aboard.
Another 15 Hawaii residents are expected to disembark the Norwegian Jewel, with 1,700 passengers, when it arrives Sunday.
DOT Harbors previously said no passengers would be allowed to leave the ships, but Hawaii residents made a plea to disembark.
All cruise ships to Hawaii are on a 30-day pause in operations that took effect March 14. The Maasdam and Norwegian Jewel were turned away by other ports. A port call to Hilo was canceled for the Maasdam.
Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final destination for passengers, according to state officials.
The eight passengers from the Maasdam were processed by Customs and Border Protection agents, DOT Harbors said in a release.
In addition, they underwent an enhanced medical screening which included a temperature reading, medical questionnaire review and travel history verification, officials said.
“No passengers in this group of eight had a fever or displayed any symptoms,” DOT Harbors said. “The asymptomatic Hawaii passengers have been directed to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arriving at their residence.”
The injured passenger from Colorado, with a fractured leg, will see a medical specialist. She and her husband were screened as they left the ship, state officials said. They also were directed to self-quarantine for 14 days or the duration of their stay here, whichever is shorter.
All other passengers and crew were not able to leave the vessel.
“I am authorizing the Hawaii residents and the injured passenger to disembark,” Gov. David Ige said of the Maasdam. “Allowing the Hawaii residents off the ship means they will avoid unnecessary air travel and reduces their risk of exposure to COVID-19. The woman with a fractured leg needs medical attention and therefore must be allowed off the boat.”
“These are extraordinary times, and I believe this is the appropriate course of action given that all state resources are currently directed at containing the spread of the disease on our islands,” added DOT Director Jade Butay. “HDOT is working to prevent the spread of the disease and is acutely aware that our state’s medical and other resources are at high risk of becoming overburdened during this crisis.”
DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said there “are approximately 15 Hawaii residents on the Norwegian Jewel. They will follow the same procedure as the Maasdam.”