Lahaina: What is the Take Away?

Adam Lawrence Dyer
7 min readAug 11, 2023
Me and my friend Narelle Flett, 2004

I first experienced the island of Maui as many people in the mainland US have…through the lens of tourism. I was the First Assistant Cruise Director on the Radiance of the Seas cruise ship in 2004 and we had an overnight in Lahaina as part of our repositioning from Alaska to the Caribbean. Friends of mine convinced me to do the tour where you drive to the top of Haleakalā, witness the epic sunrise and then bike down the side of the volcano. Needless to say, I said yes and it is an experience that I took away with me and one that vividly remains with me to this day.

But this is the problem. So much of tourism, in Hawaii and beyond, is about what people take away. Experiences, goods, agriculture, culture; things that can be packed in a suitcase, a camera or an imagination. Tourism and in particular, cruising, is an entirely extractive industry. It does not produce a product, or cultivate better policy, or grow better crops. The large tourism corporations defend their business practices based on jobs and opportunities they create for “locals”. But the profit margin makes it clear that what they put into local economies is a tiny fraction of what they are able to take away.

Over a period of 19 years, I worked on cruise ships all around the world including being based in Hawaii for a time. My last ship was 13 years ago and a great deal has changed in the industry…