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Cruise line drops Hawaii call after protests

A small cruise ship scheduled to visit the Hawaiian island of Molokai today will skip the call in the wake of protests by islanders worried about its impact.

American Safari Cruises’ 36-passenger Safari Explorer also skipped a scheduled stop at Molokai on Saturday after encountering protesters on boats and surfboards while approaching the island’s Kaunakakai Harbor. The vessel instead spent the day off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Lanai but returned to Molokai on Sunday and was able to dock without incident.

The Honolulu Civil Beat today quotes American Safari CEO Dan Blanchard as saying he heard enough Molokai residents voicing concerns about the ship at a community meeting on Wednesday that he decided to postpone more visits until an agreement with community members could be reached.

“We are committed to further dialogue and will respectfully work with leaders in the community,” Blanchard told the news outlet.

RELATED:  Protestors block cruise ship from visiting Molokai
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Known for its intimate, nature-focused sailings in Alaska, American Safari launched its first voyages in Hawaii in October, touting an off-the-beaten-path itinerary that included stops in little-visited Molokai as well as Lanai and Molokini — islands not normally on the schedule for cruise ships. The Safari Explorer is slated to operate 24 sailings in the region through May 2012 before returning to Alaska for the summer.

Protesters in Molokai had met the Safari Explorer several times since it began visiting in October but until last weekend the ship hasn’t had any trouble docking at the island.

Relatively unpopulated and undeveloped as compared to Hawaiian tourist meccas Maui and Oahu, Molokai has a long history in resisting the development of tourism, including cruise ship visits. In 2003, Holland America and Princess abandoned plans to send ships to the island after widespread protests. Still, the number of vacationers American Safari is bringing to the island — just a few dozen a week — is small even by Molokaiian standards.

“We are not against this cruise ship,” the Civil Beat quotes the leader of the Molokai protests as saying. “(Thirty-six people is) not a big deal. So why are we protesting? Nobody asked us what are our concerns … We demand participation and control.”

Cruise Loggers, share your thoughts below.

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