It seems like there are more tourists coming to Hawai‘i than ever before, but when I check the local papers I see nothing but bad news for Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL). Last night the Honolulu Advertiser posted this little headline on its website: “Weak Hawai‘i cruise prices cited in NCL’s $61M loss.” That’s $61 million lost in just the first three months of 2007—in the same period last year, the cruise line lost just $28.8 million. And it’s apparently all our faults—the Advertiser says we’ve “dragged down” NCL with our weak dollar and our “significant decrease” in ticket prices—so much so that NCL not only yanked its vaunted, beloved Pride of Hawaii out of Hawaiian waters, but it’s in the process of renaming it Norwegian Jade and it plans to send it to Europe in 2008. I hope you people are happy.
THURSDAY, May 17
In other news, The Maui News is reporting today that super-developer Charlie Jencks has gotten what passes for the official nod from the Native Hawaiian community that he can call his 1,400-unit Wailea 670 project “Honua`ula.” I’m being glib here, but not much: according to the paper, Clifford Naeole, the Native Hawaiian cultural specialist who works for the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, says Honua‘ula—which translates as “Red Earth”—has “always” been “the name of the area,” and thus it’s completely legitimate for Jencks to use as a name for his project. And he’s right, since it’s long been standard practice for developers, both here and on the mainland, to name their big residential developments after whatever natural or cultural features used to exist in the area before they brought in their bulldozers and asphalt pavers.
FRIDAY, May 18
Three people email me the same thing this morning, which tells me something: I really need to stop giving out my email address to every nutcase, yahoo and esteemed member of the public I meet on the street. Anyway, their point was to direct me to a four-page statement dated Mar. 15 from federal Department of Transportation Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces—like I wouldn’t have eventually read it myself. The statement, which is every bit as fascinating as it sounds, contains a couple sentences that have special significance to us Hawai‘i residents: “The most recent project we approved was two passenger and vehicle fast ferries for Hawaii SuperFerry,” Connaughton told the subcommittee. After giving some static about how high-tech the ferries were, Connaughton described some of their alternate uses. “The ferries are also militarily useful and TRANSCOM [United States Transportation Command] has expressed interest in them,” Connaughton said. Now isn’t that interesting—the Superferry as a fast inter-island transport for the military. Where have I heard that before? But that’s not all—Connaughton also said Hawai‘i Superferry “will be offered for enrollment” in the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA), which is a program that makes it possible for the military to take over civilian transport during a special “contingency” like war, natural disaster or zombie attack. According to civilian defense analyst John Pike’s GlobalSecurity.org, VISA is super popular these days—in fact, all the major air carriers are part of it. Doesn’t that make you feel safer?
SATURDAY, May 19
SUNDAY, May 20
Great news for anyone on the island who thinks the Westside doesn’t have nearly enough traffic: more than $100 million in condominiums just sold this weekend at the still-under-construction Honua Kai condo towers at Airport Beach, according to a press release sent out today from Playground Destination Properties, which sells the Honua Kai properties. When it’s done—and it’s nearly done—Honua Kai will comprise 627 condos and another 73 townhomes. For those at home keeping track, Honua Kai “occupies the last stretch of undeveloped beachfront on Maui’s famed Ka`anapali Beach”—a fact Playground Destination Properties advertises without irony. But hey, if I sold beachfront condominiums, I’d probably look at irony a lot like this guy: “Our success today of over $100 million in sales is the culmination of the demand for irreplaceable beachfront real estate, our unique location on Ka‘anapali Beach and the easy access for Maui Loyalists to reach their island home,” Sales Director Todd Patrick said in the news release. “With construction of the first tower moving quickly along, we are excited to see the vision for this master-planned resort come to life.”
MONDAY, May 21
Summer’s nearly here, and that means it’s time once again to bitch about the price of gas. Today’s online Pacific Business News is reporting that—according to AAA Hawai`i—the average price of gasoline in the state is about $3.40 a gallon. Of course, the average price on Maui is a tad higher—like $3.78 a gallon in Wailuku, which is a big part of why our state made fifth out of all 50 states in terms of high average prices—but as far as state averages are concerned we’re just about where we were a year ago. AAA Hawai‘i numbers for the average price of gas statewide back in the summer of 2006 ran about $3.37 a gallon. Overall, prices are about the same as they were a year ago, if not a little higher. And this is absolutely hilarious because last year at this time—April 30 to be exact—state Senator Fred Hemmings (R, 25th District) said that then-recent repeal of the hated gasoline price cap would mean nothing but good things for those of us handcuffed to petroleum-burning engines. He said dumping the cap was “a huge victory for consumers” in that it allowed the state to finally “focus on making oil obsolete by diversifying our energy consumption with renewable and other alternative energy sources.” Say, how’s that going, Fred?
TUESDAY, May 22
You know, if cruise ships could carry tanks and alternative fuel, I think all of our problems would be solved. Maybe.
Anthony Pignataro fondly remembers a time when we were more than mere consumers. MTW