Princess Cruises has reached out to guests booked aboard Discovery Princess for the ship’s March 16, 2024 sailing with the news that the planned visit to Lahaina has been cancelled, and another port destination extended as an alternative.
While this will be disappointing to many travelers, the community of Lahaina remains devastated by the August 2023 wildfires and may not be accepting ship visits for many months to come.
Itinerary Change for Discovery Princess
The 145,000-gross ton, Royal class Discovery Princess will not be calling on Lahaina, Maui as planned during the ship’s 15-night Hawaiian Islands cruise departing Los Angeles on Saturday, March 16, 2024. The cruise line has reached out to guests about the itinerary change, six months before the ship sets sail.
“Due to the devastating wildfires in Maui the port of Lahaina has suspended cruise operations indefinitely, and Discovery Princess will no longer call to Maui (Lahaina), Hawaii on Saturday, March 23, 2024,” the notification explained.
All pre-booked Princess Cruises shore excursions for Lahaina will be fully refunded to the original form of payment. This itinerary change is the same as one announced just days ago for Crown Princess, though that impacted sailing has a January 7, 2024 departure date, while Discovery Princess is visiting Hawaii more than two months later.
Extending Another Port Visit
To compensate for the loss of Lahaina as a port of call, Discovery Princess will instead extend the time spent in Kona on the Big Island for an overnight visit, arriving at 8 a.m. on Saturday, March 23 and remaining in port until 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 24. Originally, the ship was scheduled to visit Kona from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. only on Sunday.
This will give guests abundant extra time to enjoy more of what Kona offers, such as visiting local historic sites, snorkeling adventures, coastal whale watching, visiting a local coffee farm, or exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
It must be noted, however, that Kona is a tender port that requires guests to transfer from their cruise ship to the dock via smaller craft, which does present some limitations to the time ashore.
“Due to local port restrictions, our water shuttle operations for Kona will be available from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Saturday and from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Sunday,” the email said.
In addition to the call on Kona, Discovery Princess will also be visiting Honolulu – the first port of call when the ship reaches Hawaii on March 21. Those two port visits, albeit the extended one in Kona, are the only Hawaiian destinations on this “Hawaiian Islands” cruise.
After leaving Hawaii, Discovery Princess will make a call to Ensenada, Mexico on March 30 before returning to Los Angeles on March 31.
Why Not Another Maui Port?
While it is certainly understandable that Lahaina will not be ready to receive visitors even six months from now – more than 80% of the port community was destroyed in the wildfires last month – the island of Maui is open to tourist visits and the port of Kahului is able to welcome ships.
In fact, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, which offers 7-night Hawaiian sailings year-round, resumed weekly calls to Kahului at the beginning of September, bringing essential tourist income to the economy which has been so hard hit by the natural disaster.
It is possible that Kahului simply cannot adequately accommodate the much larger Discovery Princess for the March 2024 sailing, or the port schedule does not have suitable availability at that time. Discovery Princess can welcome 3,660 guests per sailing, compared to 2,186 for each cruise aboard Pride of America.
Discovery Princess is currently finishing her Alaska season from Seattle and at the beginning of October will reposition to Los Angeles to offer a variety of California Coast and Mexican Riviera itineraries, as well as special Hawaii sailings. In April 2024, the ship will reposition back to Seattle for another season sailing in the Last Frontier.