Even though the “Interisland Air War” between airlines has given us unrealistic $29, $19, even $1 airfares, there is an incredible amount of interest in the new Hawaii Superferry.
The Alakai — a massive 800-ton, 1,000-foot long double-hulled vessel — was built in Alabama and arrived in Hawaii to much fanfare at the end of June. Until it earns various certifications and passes various sea trials, however, it has quietly loomed over Pier 19 in Honolulu Harbor, taunting would-be passengers with its promise of comfortable, practical, car-and-cargo friendly interisland travel.
Demand for a day-long public tour a couple of weeks ago was so great, the company decided to hold a second day of tours this weekend. And thanks to the generosity of a geeky grandfather (who snared a reservation but couldn’t attend), my wife and daughter and I were able to check it out.
It was great. And crowded. Even with the controlled guest list, the whole place was abuzz. And with good reason: it is indeed an impressive, attractive vessel. A well-appointed hotel lobby on the sea.
Every amenity made me compare the creature comforts of the Hawaii Superferry with the pain of sitting in an airplane seat, crammed in and fiercely controlled, being drained of my energy and patience. The Alakai’s wide aisles, tables, snack bar and children’s play area made me cringe at the thought of taking kids on another interisland flight. Even sitting still, the Superferry was a pleasure to be on.
Can you imagine getting to your destination and, for once, not jostling to get off your transport as quickly as possible?
As to the cost (roundtrip fare for an adult and a car between O’ahu and Kauai is about $300), it’s clear at every level that the Superferry isn’t out to compete on price. They’re focusing on everything else! There’ll be food… real food, from pasta dishes to spam musubi and saimin. There are airplane-style seats, small coffee tables, and large booths. (The largest booths, six on each side of the center cabin, were the only place I saw prominently placed power outlets.)
And for $20 extra you get to ride in the Hāhālua Lounge. Sure, you get a free drink and pupus, you have comfier chairs, and a complimentary copy of The Honolulu Advertiser. But you’re really paying for the view out those front windows. It really is something.
An interesting side-effect of all that gorgeous glass, though? The Hāhālua Lounge is actually kinda hot!
The car bay will hold over a hundred cars and several larger vehicles. They had a UPS truck parked inside to illustrate! Despite all the creature comforts, it looks like the business market is a big part of their strategy. Farmers moving produce, contractors taking their tools, crafters bringing their wares interisland.
The Hawaii Superferry is slated to begin service in just a few weeks. The Alakai will serve O’ahu, Maui, and Kauai, but a second vessel is under construction that will reach the Big Island. Scheduled to arrive next year, that’s the Superferry I can’t wait to ride.
Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to document the dickens out of the Hawaii Superferry. I brought my HawaiiGeek.TV lifecasting rig, and broadcast the entire walkthrough. Of course I took a heap of photos, both moblogged from my iPhone and with my digital camera. I caught a moment with Terry O’Halloran, director of business development for Hawaii Superferry, and interviewed him for the next episode of my podcast. And I put together a short video.