The Jones Act has been in the news because of the hurricanes and the need to get supplies into hurricane ravaged US territories.  It was enacted in 1920 and was designed to protect the American Merchant Marine which would be needed in time of war.  Its basic tenant is that in order to carry goods or passengers between US ports, a ship must have the hull of the ship built in the US and at least 75% of its crew must be US citizens.  During the ongoing emergency at St Thomas, St Johns and Puerto Rico, there are too few US flagged ships available to move supplies to these territories.  Therefore the Jones Act was temporarily suspended.

How does the Jones Act affect the cruise industry and its customers?

There are a number of cruise lines whose ships ply US rivers who meet the Jones Act requirements.  The most well known is the American Queen.

However, most of the large cruise ships were built in Europe and are flagged in small countries that have low tax rates.  They cannot carry passengers between US ports without stopping at a foreign port.  There is one large cruise ship that meets the Jones act provisions.  It is NCL’s Pride of America. Its hull was built in the U.S. It’s flagged in the US and carries an American crew.   It’s based in Hawaii has weekly cruises in the Hawaiian Islands.

It is the only large cruise ship that can do this itinerary and therefore it is no competition.  NCL has the only 7 day cruise in the Hawaiian Islands.

How does the lack of competition affect price?

We compared a Balcony stateroom on a 7 day cruise around Hawaii with an NCL 7 day cruise to the Western Caribbean on the Norwegian Getaway.  Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess and others provide stiff competition on this itinerary.

The lowest priced balcony on the March 3rd 2018 sailing of the Pride of America from Honolulu is $2599 per person while the lowest priced balcony on the March 4th Norwegian Getaway is $1179, less than half the price of the Pride of America.

Itineraries are also affected by the Jones Act.  For example, for a round trip Alaska cruise from Seattle, one of the ports must be in Canada.

You can go to Hawaii on a cruise line other than Norwegian Cruise Line.  However, the ship will stop in Ensenada or Vancouver on its way to or from the West Coast of the United States and it will be an 11 or 12 night cruise with a lot of days at sea..

Are there benefits to the Jones Act?

Yes, crews receive higher wages and working conditions are better and safer.  Also, there are stricter environmental requirements for US flagged ships.

When NCL initiated Hawaii cruises on the Pride of America, they hired young Americans as waiters and room stewards and guess what happened?  Passengers complained bitterly about the quality of service.  It seems that the young Americans pictured themselves as laying out on deck during the day and partying at night with a smidgen of work here and there.

NCL had to build a facility in Maryland to train American staff in the art of service.  They are now able to weed out the party people before they board the Pride and service is now very good.

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