A Norwegian Cruise Line ship will begin offloading its 2,000 passengers at Honolulu Harbor today after initially being denied permission to do so because of the coronavirus outbreak.
On Sunday the state Department of Transportation said the Norwegian Jewel was experiencing “propulsion problems” that require repairs at its next port, which turns out to be Honolulu Harbor. The repairs must be made without passengers on board, prompting the change to allow passengers to disembark, the DOT said.
On Sunday afternoon the Norwegian Jewel slowly pulled into Honolulu Harbor, but no passengers were allowed to get off.
The Transportation Department said there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 associated with the ship’s guests or its 1,000 crew members.
The disembarking passengers will not be affected by an order that Gov. David Ige issued Saturday requiring all visitors and residents arriving in Hawaii be self-quarantined for 14 days, because the order begins Thursday.
A Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman said charter flights have been arranged for all passengers today and Tuesday to Los Angeles; Sydney; London; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Frankfurt, Germany.
“All guests will remain on board until three hours prior to their scheduled flight,” the spokeswoman said. “Our business remains operational, and our team is available to offer reassurance to our guests as well as assist them with future travel arrangements.”
The ship began its journey Feb. 28 in Sydney, and passengers were last able to get off in Fiji on March 11. Originally, the itinerary was for 23 days without any plans to travel to the U.S., but the cruise line had to modify its plans after multiple port closures in the area.
The Norwegian Jewel later received approval to stop in Honolulu for refueling and restocking before moving on to the mainland. Before this weekend its request to offload passengers was denied because the state is under a 30-day pause in cruise ship operations that began March 14 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Jade Butay, director of the state Department of Transportation, said detailed plans were being made to keep the Norwegian Jewel passengers isolated from the public at large and to transport them directly from the ship to their planes. He said in a statement that the plan will also address “the well-being of the cruise line passengers who have been at sea for a very long time.”
“Because of the additional precautions we are taking in response to the COVID-19 crisis, it will take some time to transport these passengers safely to their chartered planes, and we thank the public for its cooperation and understanding,” Butay said.
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