(3:55 p.m. EDT) -- Hawaii has had no shortage of natural disasters this summer, but following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island and visits by Hurricane Lane and Tropical Storm Olivia, the destination is as operational -- and as breathtaking -- as ever.
As Cruise Critic reported in July, cruise calls on the Big Island, which was hit hardest by the events, were quickly reinstated and since then much of Volcanoes National Park has also reopened. Additionally, the island is now about 500 acres larger than it was before, and several new black-sand beaches have been created.
The area has also recovered from the storms that flooded parts of Hilo and caused ships to skip calls.
Norwegian Cruise Line, whose Pride of America sails the industry's only Hawaii-exclusive cruises, hosted a press conference on October 2 to reinforce the idea that it's safe to return to the Aloha State.
Hawaii state representative Richard Onishi addressed a crowd of journalists and travel agents at the event: "We all understand that safety is number one, and we support that, but for the [Norwegian] team to be able to quickly assess the danger levels and make the decision to come back, it's had a tremendous impact."
The cruise line brings more than 100,000 passengers to Hawaii annually and adds an estimated $436 million in tourism revenue to the state's economy.
To drive home that point and entice intrepid travelers to give it a try, the line is offering free airfare to Honolulu from many locations in the continental U.S. for passengers who book a Hawaii cruise on Pride of America.
The offer starts October 4 and will run for a limited time only.
"Whenever there's been uncertainty, we've had a little slowdown," said Andy Stuart, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, which has had a consistent presence in Hawaii for the past 14 years.
"The variety between these four islands that are so close together is really quite striking," Stuart said. "It's a domestic destination that doesn't feel like a domestic destination. We're really committed to Hawaii and to this itinerary. We love [Hawaii] and hope we'll be a partner long into the future."
By Ashley Kosciolek, Editor